Thursday, January 12, 2012


Anybody out there ever been frustrated?  Yeah, me too.

Those who read this blog - both of you - know that I've started submitting Akeldama to literary agents.  Literary agents are the gatekeepers of the publishing world.  Yes, you could try to submit your work to a publishing house cold, with no solicitation from them, and your work will probably end up in the slush pile.  If your submission is extremely lucky, some overworked junior editor's assistant might look at it.  Nicholas Sparks was discovered this way, and it gives hope to everyone who just prints off their work and mails it off to a publishing house, but the usual course of action is for things in the slush pile to end up in the trash, unread.

But a literary agent has connections within the publishing world that could lead to your novel being read by someone with the authority to get it on a shelf at Barnes & Noble.  It's exceptionally hard to get published without one, so these are the folks who must first approve of your work.

Literary agents only get paid when the author they're representing gets paid, so they're very picky about selecting new clients.  Since they're overwhelmed with everyone who thinks they're the next Ernest Hemingway - or Stephanie Meyer, if that suits you - they can't pay a lot of attention to unknowns who have no track record of success.  An unknown has to show them something so mind blowing that it grabs their attention immediately, or that person's work gets shunted aside instantly.

I've discussed the frustrations of the query letter before, and it plays in double here.  The query letter is your knock, and sometimes you get to submit a few pages with it, but you never send a full manuscript unless it's asked for.  And that's the most frustrating part.  Most writers, myself included, feel that folks would enjoy their books if they could just get someone to read them.

When an agent, or several in the past week in my case, tell me they aren't interested, based on the query letter and a couple of pages that don't allow a book room to breathe, it's both annoying and very hard not to take personally.  Even though this is never the intent, it feels like they're slapping a sticker on your forehead:
Objectively, writers know this isn't the case.  Your work just didn't strike that agent at that moment, or maybe it wasn't to their tastes.  However, like with any baby, it's difficult to be objective with something you've poured so much sweat into.  It always feels personal, and you want to bang your head against a wall because you know your work was rejected based on less than the whole.

I will continue to query and do my level best to know that these gatekeepers aren't intentionally stomping on me.  When I can start attending conferences - the next available one for me is at the Hawaiian Hilton next September - maybe I can make better contacts and get someone to give me more than a cursory glance.  Until then, I keep slogging through.

Next time - a sample chapter from Salvation Day.


  1. This is exactly the frustration I feel. I've only been accepted by one publisher, and that was a very small one with a small budget and small following. I recently found my old writing files on my computer. In one folder, there is a letter from a publisher that said, based on the query I sent, they would like to see my book. That book was honestly a little horrible, and they were right to reject it when it was in its whole, but I'll never forget the feeling of seeing that letter! Ah, the life of a writer!

  2. WE love you-you are not allowed to tear the jugular out of any rejecting agents. Maybe that's why my vampire male is a chef. He gets to play with knives from time to time.

    Stop by the cafe sometime you are in Cape Cod and get a cup of spice tea to warm you up, maybe something chocolate.

    Its in the imaginary town of Sothwold.

    If you let your vampires eat the agents no one will get published. :)

  3. Thanks guys. I know their rejection is never personal - that will happen later once they get to know me :-P - but it always stings. I think that any writer who doesn't get at least a little annoyed by a rejection hasn't put enough effort into their work.