PDA

View Full Version : My self-pitying rejection slip rant



DeadlyAccurate
03-14-2005, 08:21 PM
If you would permit me a moment or two of self-pity, I think I'll feel better getting this off my chest.

Every time someone mentions reading slush piles, they always talk about how 90% or more of the stuff in there is barely coherent and that if you can form decent sentences that you're one step ahead. Well, I can form decent sentences. I can even form enough of them get get people to pay me money for them. But I can't convince anyone to read my novels. <whiny mode on> Why won't they give me a chance? </whiny>

Sorry. I was just updating my spreadsheet with my most recent rejections, and it's just so frustrating to see so many "R's" under the Sent column. It's not a lot, only fourteen rejections on my current manuscript with seven outstanding, but that's not counting the rejection slips of my other two novels.

OK, I feel better now. I just need to remind myself that I am making steps. I'm being published twice by one of the largest d20 publishers in the world, I write a couple dozen game reviews a year for one of the top game sites on the Net, and I do d20 PDF products that get very positive reviews. <whiny again>But I wanna get my novels published.</whiny>

Eussie
03-14-2005, 08:57 PM
[QUOTE=DeadlyAccurate]If you would permit me a moment or two of self-pity, I think I'll feel better getting this off my chest.

Every time someone mentions reading slush piles, they always talk about how 90% or more of the stuff in there is barely coherent and that if you can form decent sentences that you're one step ahead. Well, I can form decent sentences. I can even form enough of them get get people to pay me money for them. But I can't convince anyone to read my novels. <whiny mode on> Why won't they give me a chance? </whiny>

QUOTE]

Post your query and let us take a look:roll:

DeadlyAccurate
03-14-2005, 09:11 PM
Post your query and let us take a look:roll:

OK. I will definitely appreciate any help anyone can offer. Query letters are not my strongest point. Ignore the odd formatting. That happened when I copied from Word.

Dear Agent:
What would happen if corporations became so powerful they could abolish the government? In the near future, three mega-corporations known as The Big Three do just that. In the chaos a new breed of mercenary—the troubleshooter—rises to the surface. Private investigator, bodyguard—even assassin—a troubleshooter takes on the problems no one else wants. The Troubleshooter, complete at 67,000 words, is the first novel in a thriller/mystery series set in the near future and stars Phaidra Johnson, a twenty-six-year old single woman from Marblecreek, Texas. Her family life is hell, her love life non-existent, and sometimes her employers try to kill her instead of paying her, but she takes it all with a good attitude—or at least a good dose of sarcasm. Phaidra is Kinsey Millhone with an edge; Stephanie Plum without the fashion sense. She shoots first; she smarts off; and she couldn't coordinate an outfit to save her life.

The Troubleshooter takes Phaidra to Western Australia, to a top-secret weapons research facility in the Australian outback. An employee has stolen plans for a prototype ammunition that could change warfare on a global scale, and Phaidra has only a few days to find the thief and return the plans, hopefully without being shot, blown up, or fired.

<list of publication credits and mention of any synopses/samples they ask for in their sub guidelines>

<thanks/sincerely/name/contact info>

This query has gotten me two requests for partials, both of which were rejected (obviously). Mostly it's just form rejections. So any way of spicing it up would be great.

paprikapink
03-14-2005, 11:07 PM
Sounds fun! The description of Phaidra reminds me of the part Sandra Bullock played in Miss Congeniality. I'm just chiming in because I like the sound of your story. I have no basis for making synopsis comments. Of course, I'll make one anyway. Isn't there a more modern way of saying "top-secret"? That sounds so "Get Smart." (Maybe you mean it to. I loved Get Smart. You're probably too young to even know what I'm talking about.) But maybe "classified" or... something?

Keep up the good work!

-pkpk

Eussie
03-14-2005, 11:24 PM
Just a couple of minor suggestions (because I think it sounds interesting):

I wouldn't mention it's you first novel.

Is it a thriller (legal etc.) or a mystery? Be specific. I've found that a lot of agents prefer specific types.

Make this a paragraph on its own: "What would happen if corporations became so powerful they could abolish the government? In the near future, three mega-corporations known as The Big Three do just that."

Apart from that I think it sounds great...maybe someone a little more experience will be able to give you some more advice.

zeprosnepsid
03-14-2005, 11:54 PM
maybe someone with more experience can answer this -- but is mentioning it's part of a series a good idea?

Otherwise, I really think it sounds great. It's one of the better queries I've read around here.

Wandering Sensei
03-15-2005, 03:37 AM
I took a stab at editing/critiqueing this. I'm going to try to paste it with track changes on. If that doesn't work, I'll do an "accept all changes" and repost that way. I think this could be a winner, but IMO it needs a little tweaking to really shine.

Here goes.

Okay, track changes thing didn't work, so I'll just post it as I edited it. Hope this helps.

Dear Agent:


What would happen if corporations became so powerful they could abolish the government?



In the near future, “The Big Three” mega-corporations do just that. The ensuing chaos breeds a new type of mercenary—the troubleshooter. Private investigator, bodyguard—even assassin—a troubleshooter takes on the problems no one else wants. The Troubleshooter, complete at 67,000 words, is the first in a thriller/mystery series featuring Phaidra Johnson, a twenty-six-year-old single woman from Marblecreek, Texas. Her family life is hell, her love life nonexistent, and sometimes her employers try to kill her instead of paying her, but she takes it all—if not with a good attitude, at least a good dose of sarcasm. Phaidra is Kinsey Millhone with an edge; Stephanie Plum without the fashion sense. She shoots first; she smarts off; and she couldn't coordinate an outfit to save her life.

The Troubleshooter takes Phaidra to Western Australia, to a top-secret weapons research facility in the Australian outback. An employee has stolen plans for a prototype ammunition that could change warfare on a global scale, and Phaidra has only a few days to find the thief and return the plans, hopefully without being shot, blown up, or fired.



My comments. You’ve repeated “near future” twice. You’ve also mentioned twice that it’s three corporations. To say it “stars” Phaidra makes it sound more like a movie than a book. You don’t need to mention that it’s a first novel, just first in this particular series. I’d say that mentioning she’s 26 is unnecessary, but I’d give brief specifics as to how her “family life is hell” and “her love life nonexistent.” Btw, no hyphen after “non.”



There’s some good stuff here. I’d just trim it and spice it up a little bit. I’d also both tighten the second paragraph and get more specific. How would it change warfare on a global scale? Also, this fact does not put enough on the line. So what if it would change warfare? So did the horse, the longbow, gunpowder, and the Gatling gun. Something absolutely vital and irretrievable has got to be at risk, to the world and to Phaidra, otherwise the reader (agent/editor) may not be spurred on to want to read the rest.



I like the last line.

DeadlyAccurate
03-15-2005, 04:20 AM
Thank you, so much everyone, for both the critique and the compliments. I plan on working on my query letter tonight. I'll post an updated query later.

One thing I didn't realize was that "the first novel" came across as my first novel. Wandering Sensei had it right that it was the first in the series (it's actually my third completed novel manuscript).

DeadlyAccurate
03-15-2005, 06:01 AM
Dear Agent:

What if corporations became so powerful that a government by the people and for the people was but a fading memory?

In the near future, three super corporations gain so much control over the economy they abolish Congress and eliminate many branches of government. Corporate police forces protect only what their employers want, and civil police forces fill with the dregs of society. The ensuing chaos breeds a new type of mercenary—the troubleshooter. Private investigator, bodyguard—even assassin—a troubleshooter takes on the problems no one else wants. The Troubleshooter, complete at 68,000 words, is the first in a thriller/mystery series featuring Phaidra Johnson, a single woman from Marblecreek, Texas. Her family life is hell, her love life nonexistent, and sometimes her employers try to kill her instead of paying her, but she takes it all—if not with a good attitude, at least a good dose of sarcasm. Phaidra is Kinsey Millhone with an edge; Stephanie Plum without the fashion sense. She shoots first; she smarts off; and she couldn't coordinate an outfit to save her life.

The Troubleshooter takes Phaidra to Western Australia, to a weapons research facility in the Australian outback. In a world where everything and everyone has an identity chip implanted, ammunition targeted to specific people or groups could cause untold devastation. An employee of the research facility has stolen plans for a new type of targeted biological ammunition, and Phaidra has only a few days to find the thief and return the plans, hopefully without being shot, blown up, or fired.




but I’d give brief specifics as to how her “family life is hell” and “her love life nonexistent.”

This part I'm struggling over. Maybe if I explain how her family life is hell, someone will have an idea. Her mother is an alcoholic in a series of codependent abusive relationships; her older brother is a pimp who is in jail for hitting one of his girls; her older sister is a druggie. Her dad left when she was a kid, and her stepdad is in prison for robbing a jewelry store.

Love life nonexistent: she tends to find herself attracted to nice guys who don't want anything to do with her when they find out what she does for a living.

Oh, and I keep going back and forth on whether troubleshooter should be capitalized and therefore a title, or not. Is she a troubleshooter, or is she a Troubleshooter?

-------------
Edited with changes based on feedback. You guys are terrific!

three seven
03-15-2005, 06:50 AM
I'm not qualified to comment on query protocol, but you might want to rephrase the references to the Big Three buying out the government or you'll be in a dungeon in Detroit before you can say "Corporate average fuel economy."

Andrew Jameson
03-15-2005, 09:02 PM
I'm not an agent, nor am I published, so please take this with the requisite grain of salt.

Something bugs me about your intro line: "What would happen if corporations became so powerful they could abolish the government?"

First of all, "abolish" to me implies something along the lines of "eliminate by fiat." I would think that, in a realistic scenario, corporations would gradually grow more powerful that the government, either shouldering it aside or simply slowly taking control. In the end, the government might have been abolished, but you wouldn't necessarily describe what the corporations are doing as abolishing. If you see the distinction.

Second, "the government" sounds... parochial, for lack of a better word. "The government?" Is that the US federal government only? What about state governments? Other countries? The UN?

So that line leaves me thinking, "hey, this woman hasn't thought through the background of the world she's writing about. Her novel's probably a hodgepodge of survivalist cliches." (No offense. Just trying to think like a person who's looking for an excuse to reject your query.)

It seems rather unfair to criticize your letter without offering an alternative. So how about: "What would society be like if corporations became ultimately powerful -- more powerful than any government, more powerful than any religion?"

Or, if you want to completely rework it, how about, "Phaidra Johnson lives in a Texas where corporations are king and government by the people and for the people is only a memory.

DeadlyAccurate
03-15-2005, 11:13 PM
I'm not an agent, nor am I published, so please take this with the requisite grain of salt.

Something bugs me about your intro line: "What would happen if corporations became so powerful they could abolish the government?"

First of all, "abolish" to me implies something along the lines of "eliminate by fiat." I would think that, in a realistic scenario, corporations would gradually grow more powerful that the government, either shouldering it aside or simply slowly taking control. In the end, the government might have been abolished, but you wouldn't necessarily describe what the corporations are doing as abolishing. If you see the distinction.

Second, "the government" sounds... parochial, for lack of a better word. "The government?" Is that the US federal government only? What about state governments? Other countries? The UN?

So that line leaves me thinking, "hey, this woman hasn't thought through the background of the world she's writing about. Her novel's probably a hodgepodge of survivalist cliches." (No offense. Just trying to think like a person who's looking for an excuse to reject your query.)

It seems rather unfair to criticize your letter without offering an alternative. So how about: "What would society be like if corporations became ultimately powerful -- more powerful than any government, more powerful than any religion?"

Or, if you want to completely rework it, how about, "Phaidra Johnson lives in a Texas where corporations are king and government by the people and for the people is only a memory.

I like your first suggested revision.

I'm definitely not at all offended by you pointing out possible flaws in the query. Anything you or anyone else here thinks of is something an agent or editor might think of. Better to have them pointed out so they can be eliminated.

Wandering Sensei
03-16-2005, 01:13 AM
Ooh. I like Andrew's last paragraph. Better than my offering. (I just hate it when that happens!)

Julie Worth
03-20-2005, 01:07 AM
There's something about the title that bothers me--perhaps because it's so similiar to a book by Louis L'Amour. And the name Phaidra bothers me too, although that's because I'm not sure how to pronounce it.

DeadlyAccurate
03-20-2005, 01:14 AM
What L'Amour book? I've never read his work, so I'm unfamiliar with any of the titles.



Phaedra
Gender: Girl
Pronunciation: FAY-drah
Origin: Greek
Meaning: "Bright."
Notes: Greek mythology: the daughter of King Minos, who was married to the hero Theseus and fell in love with her stepson Hippolytus. When he spurned her advances, she committed suicide.
Variants: Faydra, Fedra, Phadra, Phaedre, Phaidra, Phedra, Phèdre
Keywords: greek, bright, mythology, daughter, king, minos, married, hero, theseus, fell, love, committed, suicide.

http://www.thinkbabynames.com/babyname.php?g=0&n=Phaedra

Julie Worth
03-20-2005, 01:29 AM
The line that strikes me is, "The name Phaedra was not ranked among 4275 first names for females of all ages in the 1990 U.S. Census."

Weird names seem more appropriate for farcical characters, eg, Ignatius J. Reilly.

(The L'Amour book is "Trouble Shooters")

About your query--I like it very much. I would close thanking the agent for her time and asking permission to send the entire MS.

Nicholas Sparks did well with this one: http://www.nicholassparks.com/WritersCorner/Query.html

I haven't had much luck with straight queries, so I almost always send the first few chapters. The response rate has been MUCH better.

brinkett
03-20-2005, 04:31 AM
I haven't had much luck with straight queries, so I almost always send the first few chapters. The response rate has been MUCH better.
That's interesting. I've read similar advice on another board. Do you do this with agents whose guidelines state that they want only a query letter or a query letter and synopsis on first contact?

Julie Worth
03-20-2005, 04:46 AM
There are a few agents who are very anal about procedure. Everything has to be done a certain way. I'm the opposite, so I avoid them.

I send a one page query, a three page synopsis, and the first 50-60 pages of manuscript. For the SASE, I use a self-sealing envelope with the agency’s return address. The query and synopsis I print on a cream-colored paper so that it stands out from the MS, and I send it all as flat-rate priority, as that looks more professional.


I figure, if it looks professional, they won’t take offence.

DeadlyAccurate
03-20-2005, 05:04 AM
Thank you for the compliment and critique on my query.

How did you find which ones care and which ones don't? Just trial and error?

P.S. Oh, and on the positive news front, my publisher complimented me and asked if I wanted to collaborate on a third d20 adventure. And a small supplement I recently wrote is now for sale and I received my free copy.

Julie Worth
03-20-2005, 05:15 AM
If they care, they’ll post it on their submissions page. If they don’t have a submissions page, or if they don’t have a website at all, then they can hardly complain.

Richard
03-20-2005, 05:17 AM
Any variant on Phaedra is probably a bad idea, simply because it has specific meanings to people who know it, but just sounds weird otherwise.

DeadlyAccurate
03-20-2005, 05:19 AM
Any variant on Phaedra is probably a bad idea, simply because it has specific meanings to people who know it, but just sounds weird otherwise.

Can you explain? Other than the Greek mythology and the meaning of "bright" or "bright one," I'm not sure I understand.

brinkett
03-20-2005, 05:21 AM
I send a one page query, a three page synopsis, and the first 50-60 pages of manuscript.

Someone on another board said that they regularly send the first chapter along with their query letter and nobody has ever complained. Apparently they attended a seminar with an agent who said that it's best to put as much as you can in front of an agent as soon as you can. Seems to fly in the face of conventional wisdom which states that queries will be instantly rejected if they don't follow guidelines, or that large envelopes will be placed at the bottom of the pile.

Another question that may be dense but I just want to be sure: when you say the response rate was much better, do you mean the rate of positive responses you received, or the rate of responses vs. no response at all?

Julie Worth
03-20-2005, 05:23 AM
Both.

(Oooooooh! I just became one of the locals!)

brinkett
03-20-2005, 05:25 AM
Thanks. :)

Richard
03-20-2005, 05:33 AM
Can you explain? Other than the Greek mythology and the meaning of "bright" or "bright one," I'm not sure I understand.

That's what I mean. If you know your mythology, you know Phaedra (if not from her own story, then from all the unfair mocking she took later on - hence Aristophanes with lines like 'They're Phaedra to a woman'). If not, it just sounds like a silly name - I can't imagine that many Texan parents naming their kid after a pretty obscure myth.

Still, at least it's not Jack ;-)

Julie Worth
03-20-2005, 05:43 AM
On the other hand, someone I met recently sent out queries, nothing else. He was in marketing, so his query letter was terrific (actually much better than his book). Of his first batch of 30-40 queries, 15% wanted the entire MS, another 15% wanted sample chapters, and 20% said no thanks. The rest he was waiting on.



Now, if he had sent out 50 pages, I’ll bet he wouldn’t have gotten that response, because there were a lot of problems with the MS. It didn’t deliver what the query promised.

DeadlyAccurate
03-20-2005, 05:49 AM
That's what I mean. If you know your mythology, you know Phaedra (if not from her own story, then from all the unfair mocking she took later on - hence Aristophanes with lines like 'They're Phaedra to a woman'). If not, it just sounds like a silly name - I can't imagine that many Texan parents naming their kid after a pretty obscure myth.

Believe it or not, it genuinely fits that the character's mother would name her that. See, her siblings are Alistair, Morgaine, Abercrombie and Rhiannon. As Phaidra herself put it, she has delusions of grandeur (though why she stuck a Greek name in between 4 Celtic names is unclear.)

Richard
03-20-2005, 05:50 AM
Heh. Funny, I was just thinking 'Wait a moment...' while reading through the list ;-)

triceretops
03-20-2005, 08:20 PM
Deadly--this plot is sooooo like mine it's almost haunting. I have the FCC as the all powerful authority, and it's their job to make sure the written word is abolished for major security reasons--a Faranheit 451 out of control.

The title and protag's designation bother me. She's more than just a troubleshooter, what with investigative and even assassin skills. Even a cop who was responsible for retiring replicants was called a "blade runner." Since it's set in the future, is there any other kind of conotation that you could give her? A troubleshooter is rather mild for what your heroine is capable of.

How far into the future are you?

Triceratops

DeadlyAccurate
03-20-2005, 09:38 PM
Deadly--this plot is sooooo like mine it's almost haunting. I have the FCC as the all powerful authority, and it's their job to make sure the written word is abolished for major security reasons--a Faranheit 451 out of control.

I played an adventure game recently called The Moment of Silence where the written word wasn't abolished, but everything had to be electronically available. Children weren't even taught handwriting any more and writing things non-electronically was illegal.


The title and protag's designation bother me. She's more than just a troubleshooter, what with investigative and even assassin skills. Even a cop who was responsible for retiring replicants was called a "blade runner." Since it's set in the future, is there any other kind of conotation that you could give her? A troubleshooter is rather mild for what your heroine is capable of.

How far into the future are you?

Triceratops

Fifty years, more or less. I don't state it, though, because when I did, people would get these strange ideas of what the future was like and tell me I need all kinds of weird technology that serves no purpose. Technology doesn't advance that quickly within the populace without a reason, and even with a good reason, some people are still resistant (or don't have the money) to change (think of the people you know, possibly even yourselves, with old computers, no DVD player and even no CD player.)

I think I went off on a tangent. :)

Wandering Sensei
03-21-2005, 06:24 AM
I bought my first DVD player two months ago. And I'm working on a 5+ year old computer. (For me it was lack of money.)

Jamesaritchie
03-21-2005, 08:43 PM
Thank you, so much everyone, for both the critique and the compliments. I plan on working on my query letter tonight. I'll post an updated query later.

One thing I didn't realize was that "the first novel" came across as my first novel. Wandering Sensei had it right that it was the first in the series (it's actually my third completed novel manuscript).

Generally speaking, it is NOT a good idea to mention anything about a series in a query.

A novel will only be part of a series if the first one sells enough copies to make the publisher ask for a second novel. There is no series unless the first published novel sells pretty well. This means the first novel needs to be a stand alone novel, and it means saying the novel is part of a series shows some indication that you don't know how the publishing world works.

Pretty much any novel can be the first in a series, but whether or not there's a series is a decision the publisher makes, not the writer. It's best to just sell the first novel without mentioning anything about a series.

As for getting as much in front of an agent or editor as possible, yes, this is a Good Thing. No one aline can tell how well you write fiction from a query letter. The only way they can tell how well you write is to read whatever it is you've written.

Agents do usually ahve strict guidelines, but these aren't always as severe as you might think from reading the guidelines. "Query only" can mean anything from a one page query letter, to a five page synopsis, to three chapters and an outline. All are queries.

And it almost never hurts to include at least three or four pages of your manuscript along with a query letter. Very few agents will object to this, and the ones who do are likely not agents you want, anyway.

DeadlyAccurate
03-22-2005, 07:29 PM
Generally speaking, it is NOT a good idea to mention anything about a series in a query.

What's weird is, I'm pretty sure I got the idea of adding that part from somewhere that explained how to write query letters. Thanks to you and zepronepsid for mentioning this.

Perhaps you could answer this. When I finish the next book and start shopping it around, assuming of course that I haven't sold the first one, do I mention that I also have the first one available?

DeadlyAccurate
04-01-2005, 10:50 PM
Another rejection, this time with the new query letter (from above). At least they were quick. I just emailed it a few days ago. This time it was "we are probably not the right agents for this work."