After sending out a bunch of query letters to literary agents about my middle-grade novel, Rain on the Water, I received a response from a literary agency in New York City asking for the first three chapters.
That’s always good news.
I sent out the three chapters and, after about a month, I received a message from the agency saying they enjoyed the first three chapters and would like to read the rest of the novel.
That’s very good news.
I sent them the rest of the novel and waited for a response. I received the following message just a few weeks later:
Our agency has now read your manuscript, Rain on the Water, which we enjoyed immensely. [Agent name] has asked me to let you know that the agency is considering taking it on.
We do not seem to have received a comprehensive bio from you and would greatly appreciate if you would attach one in a reply to this email.
We look forward to hearing from you.
That’s extraordinarily good news. Amazing news. That’s like THE NEWS. It was..almost….THE PHONE CALL or THE EMAIL that means you’ve gotten your big break. However, as Dr. Phil is fond of saying, “This ain’t my first rodeo.” I had no intention of counting any pre-hatched poultry. I’ve been a Wannabe for a long time and I am no stranger to close calls. The ALMOST big break has happened to me several times. Still, I am very much a the-glass-is-half-full-of-delicious-Sweet Tea-flavored-vodka. No matter how you slice it, this was good news. They said they were considering taking it on. They obviously thought my novel was good enough to get published. I knew this was a victory, so I downed my celebratory shot of Peach Schnapps and told just a handful of friends and family what was going on. I also told them that this could fall through at any moment and nothing was written in stone.
I responded to their request for a bio of my writing background. I was sure to include the fact that the screenplay version of this very same novel was optioned twice by production companies in Los Angeles. My bio is still not super-impressive; after all I’m unpublished, but I’m pretty sure they knew that already.
I waited a week, and then followed up to make sure they got the bio. No response.
Not a good sign.
I waited another MONTH, and then followed up again. No response.
Really, really not a good sign.
I was sad about it, but really I knew better than to get my hopes up so I really hadn’t counted on officially getting an agent this time around. Still, I was kind of angry at them. I kept thinking WHY would you say something like “we’re considering taking it on” and then just walk away? I’m a big girl and I’m no stranger to rejection. I was fully expecting one of the usual brushoffs “We decided your work does not meet our development needs at this time” or “We’re not sure we can sell your novel” or “Our bad. We meant to send you the ‘we hated it’ letter instead of the ‘enjoyed it immensely’ one.” To say nothing at all just seemed cruel.
Finally, after two months of radio silence, I received this message:
We are very sorry for the delay in responding to your email. We have been working with a number of other projects which are likely to go through to the new year. Unfortunately this means that we will not be able to look at your book, Rain on the Water, for at least another six months. We still feel that your book is a very strong candidate for publication and therefore suggest that you do not give up hope and instead look for another agent with time to represent you currently.
Once again, we apologize for the delayed response and wish you success in your literary endeavors.
“In other words, FU,” was my husband’s response when I read him the letter. He wasn’t being mean, but was instead sympathizing with me. However, I didn’t see the situation that way at all. I believe this was the agency telling me – honestly – that while they really did like my novel and were interested in representing it, they knew they would not have time to deal with it for at least six months. I couldn’t help but cling to the part that read “We still feel that your book is a very strong candidate for publication and therefore suggest that you do not give up hope and instead look for another agent with time to represent you currently.” I don’t wanna brag, but I’m seasoned veteran when it comes to rejection. I know it when I see it and this didn’t feel like a rejection. I thought it was actually quite kind. They could easily have asked for an exclusive for six months to a year, thus tying my hands and preventing me from shopping it elsewhere while I waited for them to have the time to work with me. Instead, they were telling me that they thought the book was good enough for publication and I should look for an agent who had time to work with me NOW instead of waiting for them to have time.
Seems like a win to me, especially when I had pretty much given up on ever hearing from them again.
Believe me, it’s not every day that a writer is told that her book is a “very strong candidate for publication”. Some people never get to hear those words about their work. So I say it’s time to swig a nice half-full glass of Peach Schnapps and/or Sweet Tea vodka and start sending out some more queries.
I’ve got a book that’s ready to go.