2 May

Voting and protest concept

I had no idea how hard this was going to be. Don’t get me wrong—I knew there would be rejection. I just didn’t realize how much rejection.

It’s been a year since I began searching to find representation for my novel, Lost in Oaxaca. The very first week I began the process of querying agents, I got a response from a well-known literary house in New York City. The woman who owned the agency emailed me back within a day. “I like this,” she wrote after reading the first chapter. “Send me the full manuscript as soon as possible.”

Well, that was easy, I gloated, expecting her to call me within a few weeks with an offer of representation. LOL. Or TTJTRWJ which means Time to join the real world, Jess. Eight months later, she finally emailed me back.

Dear Jessica,

I have had this for so long that it’s time for me to face up to the reality, which is that I like this but I don’t love it, and that’s why I keep putting it down and picking it up again.

I’m sorry to disappoint you, but I can’t represent something for which I have only moderate enthusiasm, and that is not something you should want either.

I feel it’s a little too romancey for my taste. The writing is good, but not spectacular. It’s a near miss, but one that I have to take seriously.

Good luck with this. Someone else might be interested, but I have concluded that I am not the right person for this.

Good, but not spectacular. A near miss. Ouch. Okay, so she didn’t love it. We all have different tastes. That’s to be expected. Someone else out there is bound to love it.

I keep a yellow legal notebook pad where I write down whom I’ve queried and the date I sent the email. When I receive a rejection, I write a big “NO” across the name. I have written “NO” forty-eight times. Really. Forty-eight times. I just counted.

I can tell that most of the rejections are form letters. I get it—sincerely, I do. Every day, these people are inundated with thousands of emails from hopeful authors like me—how can they possibly take time to respond with a personal note?

This is not to say I haven’t had some positive response. In the course of one year, I’ve had five agents request the full manuscript. After reading my novel they all graciously declined, but at least they asked to read it. I guess that’s something. Recently, I received the one and only rejection email where the agent (from another well-known New York literary agency) actually took the time to offer suggestions.

Dear Jessica,

Thank you for the opportunity to read Lost in Oaxaca. I enjoyed the detailed portraits of musical subcultures, family life, and travel experiences, and found your imagery quite engaging. I also appreciated the story’s diverse cast of characters and emphasis on inter-cultural engagement. However, this aspect of the story often felt forced and didactic. Characters like Camille’s mother felt too much like caricatures of xenophobia to be convincing, and Camille was often frustratingly naïve, in spite of her intelligence. In order to challenge readers, the story’s political aspects must be more challenging and complex. This manuscript was well-crafted, and I wish you the best of luck with it in the future.

Now, that’s concrete advice I can use. I took her suggestions to heart and have already re-worked parts of my manuscript. What I really appreciate is that she actually took the time to offer her expertise to someone she doesn’t know. That’s true professional courtesy. I think that when I do publish this damn book, I’m going to acknowledge this particular agent for being so thoughtful.

I have many good qualities but my best one is patience. Therefore, I AM NOT GIVING UP. I have sent out eighty-six queries and more than half have said NO. Some never responded. But I AM NOT GIVING UP. Some agent out there is bound to read my query and be intrigued enough to ask for the manuscript. Hopefully, that person will fall in love with my characters just as I have—and then I’ll get the phone call I’ve been waiting for.

And the rest will be herstory.




17 Responses to “Rejection”

  1. MladenR May 2, 2017 at 2:49 pm #

    Hi, I love how you opened up and shared this story. You are very inspiring person and I thank you for this.
    Did you consider self-publishing? Probably yes, but I wanted to mention it anyways, just in case.

    • Allegro non tanto May 2, 2017 at 3:43 pm #

      Thank you for your kind comments! Yes, I have considered self-publishing and will most likely go that route if nothing pans out.

      • MladenR May 2, 2017 at 11:40 pm #

        I wish you all the luck with it 🙂

  2. Three May 2, 2017 at 2:52 pm #

    Don’t give up! Being one of the lucky few to have read it, and a pathological bibliophile, I feel I can comment. Times have certainly changed since you started writing this (and since I read it). Who could have known? Given the political climate now, it makes sense to make some changes. I think it could be an exceptionally timely book with a just a little tweaking. You can do it!

    • Theresa May 2, 2017 at 2:53 pm #

      That was supposeed to be Theresa not Three, love that spell check.

    • Allegro non tanto May 2, 2017 at 3:44 pm #

      Thanks so much for your support, Three (that’s my new nickname for you!) I truly value your input!

  3. Rossandra White May 2, 2017 at 3:29 pm #

    Wow! FIVE requests for full manuscripts in a year. That’s fantastic. And how many rejections? Try 150. And one suggestion for my characters, Elizabeth and Turu (in Monkey’s Wedding) to have sex to make it a more viable book. But mostly, what I got was no response, or form letters. You’re doing extremely well, lady, especially with that one jewel of a response giving you feedback. You’ll get there.

    • Allegro non tanto May 2, 2017 at 3:45 pm #

      Thanks, Rossandra! I feel better already! What a process, right?

    • brittonswingler May 3, 2017 at 6:46 pm #

      OMGosh, that would have so ruined it, Rossandra!

  4. Bonnie Forman Gerstenfeld May 2, 2017 at 4:57 pm #

    ugh. but this will all add to the story and give you something to share when you are on the talk show circuit!

    From: Allegro non tanto To: Sent: Tuesday, May 2, 2017 2:40 PM Subject: [New post] Rejection #yiv5187559450 a:hover {color:red;}#yiv5187559450 a {text-decoration:none;color:#0088cc;}#yiv5187559450 a.yiv5187559450primaryactionlink:link, #yiv5187559450 a.yiv5187559450primaryactionlink:visited {background-color:#2585B2;color:#fff;}#yiv5187559450 a.yiv5187559450primaryactionlink:hover, #yiv5187559450 a.yiv5187559450primaryactionlink:active {background-color:#11729E;color:#fff;}#yiv5187559450 | Allegro non tanto posted: “I had no idea how hard this was going to be. Don’t get me wrong—I knew there would be rejection. I just didn’t realize how much rejection.It’s been a year since I began searching to find representation for my novel, Lost in Oaxaca. The very first week” | |

  5. Liz May 2, 2017 at 5:12 pm #

    Jessica, you inspire me! I know you’re going to succeed with your book. I feel it. I can well imagine how disheartening the NOs and the lack of replies must be, and I’m really glad that you had one agent who gave you concrete advice. You’ll get there! xo

    • Allegro non tanto May 3, 2017 at 12:28 pm #

      Thank you so much for your continued enthusiasm and support for my efforts, Liz! It means so much to me.

  6. Elisabeth May 2, 2017 at 5:33 pm #

    You are so very sanguine about this experience that I can’t help but think this is part of your journey to being published, my gifted, insightful friend.

  7. Deborah May 2, 2017 at 8:22 pm #

    Dear Jessica,
    I met a woman who submitted a children’s book. For years she received good and useless rejects. Once she had one published she had contracts to write one after another!
    You are right to
    Not give up. Best of luck.

  8. brittonswingler May 4, 2017 at 12:54 pm #

    Stephen King, whose writing memoir I finally read recently, experienced lots of it too, rejection. He kept writing out of sheer passion (and determination of course), and has continued to do so despite vehement, repetitious voices who claim he doesn’t write well. I guess what I’m trying to say is, please don’t stop writing and submitting and gathering up all the rejections so that one day they will merely be part of your story; your journey along the way to being published.

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