Monday, July 13, 2009


I'm muttering to myself this morning because the cats are out sunning themselves and Jon is still in Chicago.

I'm catching up on queries so I can then catch up on partials and finally get to manuscripts. Today's mantra in my mind is, "Sometimes it's just not fair!"

It's not fair to authors that we agents have our own little quirks, likes and dislikes and that we can dismiss a perfectly good query--maybe a great query--because of our biases. I have so many queries to go through each day that I have a standard "boiler plate no thank you." I very seldom diverge from this. But I just rejected a fine query for a police procedural and it gave me pause. The author may truly be the next big thing, but I rejected him. Why? Because the topic of the novel is the kidnapping and murder of little girls. Can't do it. Sorry. It's my own little problem. I can't deal with child abuse.

I can't deal with animal abuse either, nor most religious topics, nor angels, nor swords and dragons. It's not that those topics aren't hot stuff with some editors and publishers, it's just that I can't stomach them. Yet I continue to get scores of queries each week on these topics.

So, my words for the day are, "Take heart." When you get a rejection it may not be that you have a lousy query. It may be that the agent simply hates your topic, not your writing. It happens! Don't take it personally. Read agents' write-ups in the books; read their websites and blogs and then send to those who really like your topics. It will save us all a lot of muttering.


Glynis said...

Oh that is so reassuring, thanks.
I had never really thought about it in that way. Thanks...happy muttering :)

Rebecca Knight said...

Thank you for this, Kae :). I write sword & sorcery fantasy, and I know it's definitely not everyone's cup of tea.

It's very reassuring to hear this from the agent's mouth, though. Thank you for sharing your experiences with us! The insight is really helpful.

Alicia Walker said...

Writers have to understand that agents aren't heartless robots with a big rubber rejection stamps. I personally applaud your standards and am glad to hear that animal and child abuse isn't on your list of hot topics. Thanks for this post.

DebraLSchubert said...

Guess I'll have to find another agent for my child and pet murder series. You're missing out, though, because the killer is a schizophrenic religious fanatic who thinks he's an angel and stalks his prey with swords shaped like dragons.

Sweet dreams!

F. P. said...

...I also don't care for any of those, especially the animal and child abuse, both of which I absolutely can't stand (include misogyny in there). And I fail to see how that's entertainment as these terrible occurrences represent the very worst of humanity. As soon as I see animal cruelty in a written work, I stop reading, which is too often on the first page--the first paragraph even--for literary fiction in particular; I also consider this weak poor writing as I think contents should be included when judging quality, though I'm probably in a minority there.

People shouldn't be faulted for rejecting things they find offensive, yet they sometimes are faulted.

However, I also think some rejections really are personal; claiming all of them aren't (which some people claim) is dishonest. People are personal; they have personalities, biases, agendas. And sometimes they don't like other people's seeming personalities, biases and agendas, which typically come out in their writings.

Finally, to many writers, their writings are like their offspring; if someone doesn't like your offspring, it's hard not to take that personally. Maybe saying "Don't take it so personally" would be better, emphasizing degree rather than a probably unattainable absolute mental state.

Angie Ledbetter said...

I love agents with personal quirks who know their reading cuppa, and hope to find one when my ms is polished. Don't understand why an author would want otherwise.

Spirit said...

When send out all those query letters it's easy to forget that agents are real people, seemingly as mythical as a child seeing their teacher at the grocery store- an awakening moment that logically you know is possible but it's so easy to forget what is possible. It's good to be reminded you guys are human and all have your own reasons for rejecting letters. I think it's a very good thing for writers old and new to keep in mind. :) Nice blog by the way.