On Rejections while looking for an Agent

I’m a woman of my word, and am therefore following through on a request from one of my WordPress friends to share a little something about the rejections I received, on the path that ultimately aligned me with my literary agent, concerning my third novel. I’m going to leave specific names out here, and know you’ll understand why.

The rejections I received were by and large voiceless, in that these days, most literary agents leave a qualifier on their submission page that simply says, “If I am interested in your query and want to request more, I will be in touch.” From this, one can safely assume if they don’t hear back from an agent, then the agent is not interested, for what could be many reasons ranging from the genre of the book, to its subject matter, to the possibility that the agency’s guidelines were not followed, or it could be the simple fact that the agent’s hands are full. And because my third novel is a Southern Family Saga set in 1970’s and 1980’s Memphis, the task, for me, became all about ferreting out exactly who is representing authors with books set in the South. But one has to cast wide, when looking for an agent. They have to get creative on where their book will fit. In the case of my third novel, I wrote to literary agents that represent Women’s Fiction, Literary Fiction, and commercial fiction, yet my focus was on those interested in or connected to the South. In reading the bio of each agent I queried, I read the fine print to ascertain which authors they represent, what their reading preference is, and paid close attention to those who revealed where they are from. Every time I discovered an agent either from the South or currently living in the South I took a chance; followed the submission guidelines to the letter; and e-mailed my query. If one keeps in mind that a query letter is basically a letter of introduction; that you are writing to say who you are, what your book is about, and where you have been published, then it is less daunting. Remember you, as the author, are also looking for a good fit!

And speaking of daunting, I’ll digress here to say that when I made the rounds with one of my first two books, I received a response from one agent, who wrote only this above my submission: “Show, don’t tell.” Ouch. At least that’s what I thought at the time. You should understand that I write in the first person, and am big on establishing the narrator’s voice, so after I got over the sting, I went to my bookshelf and revisited Anne Rivers Siddons “Peachtree Road,” which is roughly seventy-five percent of the most flawless narration ever written. I pressed on, and the book was published in 2015 as “Dancing to an Irish Reel.” This goes to show to each, their own, and again, you as the author are looking for a good fit.

And speaking of “Dancing to an Irish Reel,” all 59 of its reviews on Amazon are good ones, and I will always be proud of the book. It didn’t make an earth-shattering splash, but I am satisfied that it represents who I am as a writer, and remember, “A writer’s career is a marathon, not a sprint.” I’m mentioning this here because it ties in with another rejection I received for my third book, which is to report that an agent actually took the time to write me to say “You should have hired a publicist; your sales are anemic!” Ouch, again, but I pressed on, and I’ll tell you why: I think writers have a sense of the simple fact that they should be writing. I think this is the salient truth that spurs us on. And whatever one’s belief system is, regarding faith and luck and timing, to possess something of this, in whatever amount, is enough to foster the spirit of pressing on.

All told, I had three literary agents interested in the manuscript of my third book. Two of these agents were in the process of reading it, when joy of all joys, the agent, Julie Gwinn, of The Seymour Literary Agency, called me and offered me representation. Julie felt so right to me for many reasons. I’d done my homework on her, was awed by her background, learned that she lives in the South, and I happen to have a friend who is currently her happy client. The last agent called me after I signed with Julie Gwinn, and I am thrilled to report that I strongly believe the stars aligned with Julie, in the manner they should have all along.

In summation, if you embark upon the road to finding a literary agent, it helps to keep in mind that you are seeking a good fit. What you want to find is an agent who wants to work with you just as much as you want to work with them, for finding the right publisher is essentially a team effort.

To answer my WordPress friend’s request that I write about rejection, I will say it isn’t always easy to weather, but if you press on and keep the faith that the stars will align when and as they should, then one day you’ll come to see rejection as part of the process.

 

Rejection Before Your Open Door

I’m a woman of my word, and am therefore following through on a request from one of my WordPress friends to share a little something about the rejections I received, on the path that ultimately aligned me with my literary agent, concerning my third novel. I’m going to leave specific names out here, and know you’ll understand why.

The rejections I received were by and large voiceless, in that these days, most literary agents leave a qualifier on their submission page that simply says, “If I am interested in your query and want to request more, I will be in touch.” From this, one can safely assume if they don’t hear back from an agent, then the agent is not interested, for what could be many reasons ranging from the genre of the book, to its subject matter, to the possibility that the agency’s guidelines were not followed, or it could be the simple fact that the agent’s hands are full. And because my third novel is a Southern Family Saga set in 1970’s and 1980’s Memphis, the task, for me, became all about ferreting out exactly who is representing authors with books set in the South. But one has to cast wide, when looking for an agent. They have to get creative on where their book will fit. In the case of my third novel, I wrote to literary agents that represent Women’s Fiction, Literary Fiction, and commercial fiction, yet my focus was on those interested in or connected to the South. In reading the bio of each agent I queried, I read the fine print to ascertain which authors they represent, what their reading preference is, and paid close attention to those who revealed where they are from. Every time I discovered an agent either from the South or currently living in the South I took a chance; followed the submission guidelines to the letter; and e-mailed my query. If one keeps in mind that a query letter is basically a letter of introduction; that you are writing to say who you are, what your book is about, and where you have been published, then it is less daunting. Remember you, as the author, are also looking for a good fit!

And speaking of daunting, I’ll digress here to say that when I made the rounds with one of my first two books, I received a response from one agent, who wrote only this above my submission: “Show, don’t tell.” Ouch. At least that’s what I thought at the time. You should understand that I write in the first person, and am big on establishing the narrator’s voice, so after I got over the sting, I went to my bookshelf and revisited Anne Rivers Siddons “Peachtree Road,” which is roughly seventy-five percent of the most flawless narration ever written. I pressed on, and the book was published in 2015 as “Dancing to an Irish Reel.” This goes to show to each, their own, and again, you as the author are looking for a good fit.

And speaking of “Dancing to an Irish Reel,” all 54 of its reviews on Amazon are good ones, and I will always be proud of the book. It didn’t make an earth-shattering splash, but I am satisfied that it represents who I am as a writer, and remember, “A writer’s career is a marathon, not a sprint.” I’m mentioning this here because it ties in with another rejection I received for my third book, which is to report that an agent actually took the time to write me to say “You should have hired a publicist; your sales are anemic!” Ouch, again, but I pressed on, and I’ll tell you why: I think writers have a sense of the simple fact that they should be writing. I think this is the salient truth that spurs us on. And whatever one’s belief system is, regarding faith and luck and timing, to possess something of this, in whatever amount, is enough to foster the spirit of pressing on.

All told, I had three literary agents interested in the manuscript of my third book. Two of these agents were in the process of reading it, when joy of all joys, the agent, Julie Gwinn, of The Seymour Literary Agency, called me and offered me representation. Julie felt so right to me for many reasons. I’d done my homework on her, was awed by her background, learned that she lives in the South, and I happen to have a friend who is currently her happy client. The last agent called me after I signed with Julie Gwinn, and I am thrilled to report that I strongly believe the stars aligned with Julie, in the manner they should have all along.

In summation, if you embark upon the road to finding a literary agent, it helps to keep in mind that you are seeking a good fit. What you want to find is an agent who wants to work with you just as much as you want to work with them, for finding the right publisher is essentially a team effort.

To answer my WordPress friend’s request that I write about rejection, I will say it isn’t always easy to weather, but if you press on and keep the faith that the stars will align when and as they should, then one day you’ll come to see rejection as part of the process.

 

 

 

 

 

The Query that Got me my Agent

Dear Readers,

I recently signed a contract for representation with The Seymour Literary Agency, and am thrilled to be working with the agent, Julie Gwinn. Already she has altered the dynamic of my days; once the contract was signed we accepted an offer from Firefly Southern Fiction for the June, 2018 publication of my third novel, Mourning Dove. I like to keep my posts here streamlined and to a helpful point. In the spirit of this, I will get right to it and share the query letter I sent to Julie Gwinn last November. This query letter went through many revisions, in my attempt at succinctly portraying the arc of the story. I queried many  agencies, in spaced rounds of eight at a time, and adjusted as responses came to me. I found that the most difficult task in writing my query was to get to the crux of the story as clearly and briefly as possible. One does not have the luxury of rambling in a query letter, and I’ve heard it said that the first paragraph is crucial; that one needs to open with title, word count, and genre then segue to a hook, followed by an author bio.

Below is the query from which I received multiple requests for my manuscript. Each agency has its own requirements of what they’d like to see: synopsis; first ten pages; first twenty five; first three chapters, whathaveyou. It is imperative to follow each agency’s guidelines to the letter.

For those of you seeking representation, I hope you find my query letter informative. There are many ways to construct an effective query; this was mine!

 

 

 

Dear

I am seeking representation for my third novel, MOURNING DOVE, which is an 83,000 word, literary fiction story set in the opulent South, where everything glitters, but is not gold. MOURNING DOVE is told in the voice of younger sister Millie Crossan, as she reminisces about growing up in the Deep South with her charismatic brother, Finley, in post-civil rights Memphis, where society inexorably clings to its deep-seated nuances, while times are changing around them. Millie’s sanguine mother, Posey, is the queen of denial. She is of the era many view as the last of the Southern belles, and her devotion to upper class appearances keeps a tight lid on the cauldron of family turmoil as it seethes and suppresses expression through the events that lead to Finley’s death. Millie leads the reader through the ways of the South: its private schools, debuts, and relationship with the domestic help. It portrays a bond between siblings and a common family dynamic that is experienced individually by characters with admirable intent, but who are subject to their own culturally influenced hubris.

I know well of which I write, for I grew up in Memphis and have maintained a life-long love affair with its complexities, which I brought to the commitment of writing MOURNING DOVE. I am the author of two books: A Portal in Time, and Dancing to an Irish Reel, which is a 2016 Readers’ Favorite and a 2016 finalist in the Kindle Book Awards. Both books were published by Vinspire Publishing. I have invested joyously and heavily in my author platform via book signing appearances, public speaking engagements, and social media. I am a consistent contributor to magazines, including The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, Southern Writers Magazine and Celtic Life International, and my first person narratives are published regularly on the online Irish community, The Wild Geese. Five times, I have contributed to the Chicken Soup for the Soul book series. In 2013, my short story entry won the runner-up position in the San Francisco Writers Conference’s contest, and it is this piece that I turned into MOURNING DOVE. I was a finalist in the conferences’ 2014 contest, and the epilogue of MOURNING DOVE was published as a short story in Southern Writers Magazine’s Best Short Fiction 2015 edition. Currently, I am writing my fourth novel, which is contemporary fiction set in the South. As for my future goals, I intend to write contemporary and literary fiction as best as I can, for as long as I can. It is my hope that you will be interested in reviewing the full manuscript of MOURNING DOVE, and I thank you so much for your time.

Respectfully yours,

 

 

Claire Fullerton

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