So back in January, I started querying for my first novel, Gryphon Legend. I started the story back when I was between the ages of eleven and thirteen. I rewrote chapter one numerous times, and had the story (and all the others I had written) destroyed by a family member once. Finally, in NaNo 2011, I finished the book.
I started querying in Jan 2013, feeling relatively decent about the book. Did I think I’d be the next Richard Adams? No. But I figured I had seen worse books that had been published, and surely, surely my book was better than those.
Apparently not. Or so I decided to believe. By summer I had slipped into a funk and had stopped writing. I mention that briefly in my post in which I discuss meeting the great William Forstchen, and he picks up on my writing funk right away.
Still, the rejection letters continue to pour in. I will post some of them here, though I’ve removed the names and any recognizable contact info. This is not in any attempt to bash agents or publishers. I want to make that perfectly clear! I’m simply sharing so that others might get an idea of what to look forward to, in their quest for publication. And to tell others see what I turned a blind eye to at first.
“Thank you so much for your query. Unfortunately, however, this project
doesn’t sound right for me. I encourage you to continue to submit
elsewhere, and I wish you every success in your writing career. Thanks
again for thinking of me.”
“Thank you for allowing me to consider your work.
Unfortunately, this particular project is just not right for me.
I wish you all the best in your literary endeavors”
These first two rejections are average. They’re about what I expected. Relatively unhelpful, but not really unkind.
“Thank you for sending me your query, and I apologize for taking such a long time to respond. I am sorry not to invite you to submit your work or to offer to represent you. The material just didn’t grab me, and you deserve an unequivocally enthusiastic agent as your advocate.”
This one tells me that I probably submitted to the wrong agent. I was having issues finding “high fantasy” agents. Most of what I could uncover wanted YA Fantasy, or Urban Fantasy.
But these next ones, these were the incredibly helpful rejections (yes, even the painful one at the end).
“Thank you for your query to XXXXXXX Publishing. Your manuscript sounds interesting and reads well, but I will have to apologize that I cannot offer anything at this time. I sincerely wish you the very best of luck with publication.”
“Thank you for querying XXXXXXXX and giving me a chance to read your work. After giving careful consideration to your query, I’m afraid that it’s not quite the right fit for our Agency.
As you know, the publishing industry is very subjective. I evaluate queries based on my own interests–and the interests of the agents I work for–and what our agency is currently looking to acquire. Just because I didn’t fall in love with your query doesn’t mean that another agent or publisher won’t. Keep writing, revising, and querying. Good luck!”
“Thank you for submitting Gryphon Legend to XXXXXXXX. I apologize for the delayed response, as you may imagine we have many queries to go through and not much time to go through them. I appreciate the opportunity to read your submission, but I’m sorry to say that in the current crowded market, this does not sound to me like a book that we can make into a success.”
Some of you may be wondering how on earth these are helpful. Others are probably laughing at me for not drawing this conclusion sooner. I swear it took a while, and when I had the epiphany today I felt like an idiot for not realizing it sooner. I’m sure I must have realized it at some point, but it didn’t sink in until now.
These agents and editors are all, in their own way, telling me what I desperately need to hear.
Agencies and Publishers are businesses, and they can’t waste resources marketing what wont sell. My book, Gryphon Legend, is different from the standard “high fantasy” novels in that the two main characters are GRYPHONS. Gryphons, not humans. This, in and of itself is alarming to most agents and publishers because it’s so different, outside the norm. Not only that, but I’m sure many of them are questioning what kind of audience a book on gryphons would attract. For a first time author? The sales would be pathetic.
So I finally concluded that these agents aren’t necessarily saying my book is bad, they’re saying they can’t guarantee and audience and sales with it, so it isn’t worth the investment of resources.
They’re telling me that I’d be better off trying to publish a book that will have a broader audience, to establish a fan/reader base, and then I can try to publish a book like Gryphon Legend, because it wont be just gryphon people reading my book, it will be all my fans from other works that I’ve written. In that situation, the book will actually sell, whereas, if I were to publish it now, I may have a small group of readers, but not enough to keep me afloat or get me another contract.
I still can’t believe it took me this long to put all the puzzle pieces together.
So, for now, GL is going on the shelf. I’m going to focus all my time, energy and attention into my next two books. One is a YA Fantasy about a young girl forced to travel between parallel universes with a polecat as her only companion. The second is the stand-alone “prequel” to Gryphon Legend, and follows a young knight named Elwood as he seeks justice for his father’s murder, and threatens to overthrow the entire Kingdom of Shalarith.
What about you fellow readers? What have you uncovered from agent rejections? Did you realize your mistake instantly, or ignore it like I did?