Rejection Farther Up the Publishing Food Chain

Over the years I have been an author, I have tried finding an agent to represent my books to large publishers on three different occasions. The first two were mildly successful in that several responded to my queries and asked for the manuscripts.

On the first attempts, some read them and decided for a variety or reasons mostly because the industry was going through a major upheaval caused by the advent of the e-book, self-publishing, print on demand and the explosion in social media. At the time, agents and publishers were not looking to invest in new authors. That led me to approaching small, independent publishers and voila, six of my books are in print and a seventh will be out by the end of the year, I hope or worst case, early next.

Undaunted, in late 2017, I decided to joust at the agent windmill for a new series of novels base on a new character and more contemporary settings. This quest led me to an agent who asked in her query form what other books I had in work and I listed a non-fiction book called Gold & Silver Wings – Tales from Three Generations of Military Pilots. One thing led to another and suddenly back in June, I was creating a book proposal that would be sent out in August 2018 to a list of publishers she thought might be interested.

Call me naïve, but I thought that agents had the inside track to the publishers and they do. Major publisher websites and they say they do not want “un-agented” queries. She said it would take months to find a publisher.

That statement should have been interpreted as “I get rejected as much as you do.” Agents, as I am learning, face the same hurdles as the authors. Publishers use agents to screen manuscripts and authors. And, the process is just as fickle and quirky for them as it is when an author is trying to find an agent.

Some publishers send nice notes saying “they like the story and content, but it is just not for them.” Others have rejected it with no reason. The one that got me was “I didn’t have a big enough social media presence.” Huh? Let’s see, I am on LinkedIn, Facebook, have a large website… Oh, I don’t tweet. A following can be with a little help from the publisher built. My agent and I had a laugh about that because she said it is harder to find quality manuscripts, than build a social media following.

So the takeaway from this process is that agents get rejected just as often as the authors. They’re just closer to the holy grail of getting on with a major publisher. Patience, in this case, is a virtue, but the waiting and rejection is hard. A bastardization of Kevin Costner’s line in the movie Field of Dreams applies, “write it and a publisher will buy…” Maybe, the word “eventually” should be added.

Marc Liebman

October 2015

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