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Viewing Blog: The Rejecter, Most Recent at Top
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I am an assistant at a literary agency. I am the first line of defense for my boss. On average, I reject 95% of the letters immediately and put the other 5% in the "maybe" pile. Here, I'll talk about my work. Do not email me your submissions. I do that at work, not in my spare time.
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1. Checking In

The Rejecter, I've been reading up on your blog all the advice you've dispensed about self-published authors seeking representation- and i'm assuming by the beginning of this sentence you can tell that I am one of them. Why did I self publish when I want now to be published by a big house? Simply because I wanted to, i've always been a go-getting 'do it yourself'er. Now I see the potential my book really has with the right marketing, so here I am. The issue isn't just in that i'm self published, but in how in the world to even query it. My book is a non-fiction parenting humor book (I don't want to go as far as to say memoir, but it is about my life). What concerns me is that I don't have thousands upon thousands of sales to tout to agents as a strong selling point, but I have received amazing reviews and have a decent platform. That to me speaks volumes, but what about to an agent? Will the sales really hurt me that much? Am I really not to even mention that I have self-published my book without being able to say that i'm a "success"? 

We're getting a lot of self-published pieces at work, and now that self-publishing has some legitimacy to it (I started self-publishing a fiction series when my publisher decided to shut down its fiction unit after the 4th book) this is a question a lot of people are probably wondering about - if you should bring your successful self-published book to an agent, and when should you do it?

A lot of people go into self-publishing first now, either because they didn't succeed in getting their book published or because they didn't see a reason, and then they become successful and think, "But what about outside the Kindle/Smashwords market?"

When I see a query pitching a self-publishing book, there's two things I consider:

(1) How "successful" has it been, really?
(2) How much of its audience has this book already eaten?

Despite how much money Amazon will give you for your self-published book (which is an awesome policy of Amazon's, as is paying on time), you have to be talking thousands to be talking success, because publishers rarely do print runs under several thousand, and they do runs of books they want to sell.  So if you're under a thousand, count yourself out. Most agents will say 3000, but this is a magic number the industry came up with years ago and I don't know how much it applies anymore.

The second problem is a larger concern. If your book was going to be lower mid-list and sell 3000 copies, and you've already done it, what's it going to do now? Back when it was nearly impossible for consumers to get self-published books, this wasn't an issue. Now even PODs are reasonably-priced and people can give away their eBook for free, or at the .99c range where people will indiscriminately click "buy." If you've been self-published for a while, you've definitely used up your relatives, friends, livejournal pals, and people you could talk into doing you a favor and reviewing it because you helped them move their couch. This issue is going to ma

1 Comments on Checking In, last added: 7/19/2012
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2. BEA 2011 Post

(I'm only "semi" retired)

My trip to the BEA is over. I generally do everything I need to do in one day, the first day of the floor exhibitions. The BEA is really too exhausting to me to go back. Observations this year:

(1) The digital printing booths were slightly more centralized and slightly less deserted, but they were still pretty deserted because they didn't have cool books to look at and most people don't need to talk to them. Also exactly what each company does is confusing, because their posters just have a bunch of buzz words on them, so you have to ask, "Do you publicity?" or whatever you want and they tell you yes or no. They are very polite, though.

(2) Google Books had a funny sign, like "Check us out!" or "Come and join us!" or something like that, as if we're all afraid of them rather than mad at them for massive copyright infringement. Then I could not actually find the Google Books booth.

(3) I still have no idea why self-published authors buy booths to promote their book. It's got to be a ridiculous amount of money (a badge to get in was something like $400 for authors - my publisher paid my way), like thousands of dollars, and it's not as if publishers are wandering around, looking at booths and saying, "I want that. That thing that no publisher picked up if the author even tried." Seriously, if you are a self-published author and you want to promote your book, save your money and buy a publicity package from Lulu or CreateSpace.

(4) As usual, the only Jewish presses had titles I had never heard of or only heard of via Amazon recommendations, and their books had no Hebrew in them. Serious Judaica (not general Jewish books that are published by imprints) is a specialized market sold to Jews by Jews in Judaica stores, syangogue gift shops, or online. Artscroll has no reason to be at the BEA. Either I'm going to buy the new English translation of the Talmud Yerushalmi or not; no serious promotion is needed there, or needs to be done within the general industry.

(5) That guy who likes burning Qur'ans? He has a publisher, and they had an abandoned booth with a manniquin wearing a burqa. The sign on her chest said, "Hello, my name is Zahra. I have to live in this cage in Afghanistan. Can you ban it in America?" Which, you know, has part of a good cause (international women's rights) mixed with a healthy dose of racism.

(6) Chinese presses are always a little creepy because they're government controlled unless they're outside the mainland, and their material basically says, "Everything is awesome in China. There are definitely no problems you've been reading about in other sources." The Beijing Review magazine was especially bad - nothing but positive articles about how amazingly cool everyone is doing, especially those victims of the Sichuan earthquake who are now totally over it and they love their new housing. Also, definitely nobody was arrested for trying to publish the names of child victims, especially not an important artist. I am not really exaggerating here, just using different language than the magazine used. It's a shame, because there are a lot of good books released by these presses in English, but you have to wade through disquieting stuff. I mean, there are definitely a lot of countries with major human rights problems, but very few of them are at the BEA, on a full-scale offensive of promoting how there are no human rights problems in their countries.

(7) I picked up 2 books. One was actually not a giveaway - it was one of th

3 Comments on BEA 2011 Post, last added: 5/26/2011
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3. Retirement Post

A number of people have emailed me to ask me where I've been, which I think is really sweet, especially when they implied something might have happened to me. The truth is the more obvious: I've been really busy. I have two novels coming out over the next 4 months, both of which had major revisions recently, and I'm working on a proposal for a non-fiction book. I also got another job (two wasn't enough) with another agent, and now have two part-time bosses on top of my writing career. I am proud to say that in the years since founding this blog, I've gone from unpublished writer to someone who supports herself mostly by her writing, albeit not very well. There are only so many words in me a day, and since most of the questions I've gotten are repeats, I don't feel the desperate need to post constantly, or at all. So I'm going into a state of semi-retirement. I'll keep this blog open, as your question has probably been answered already, and I may post from time to time, but otherwise, don't expect a lot from me.

I will answer a final question which I get constantly: "How do publishers feel about eBooks?"

I may not be a publisher except for a small press I ran for two years, but I also work for two agents, have an agent, have worked with three different publishers, and attend conferences on eBooks, so I think I can safely answer the question.

Ready? The answer is: We don't know.

The eBook market (and thanks to adjacency, the self-publishing market) is a constantly-evolving new market based on technology and social media which did not previous exist. It's one where the store, not the publisher, determines the retail price that's listed on the back of a real book. Stores are experimenting with how to price and promote books, publishers are demanding higher prices and percentages and getting ignored, and authors and agents are depending the same from their publishers and similarly getting ignored, because no one knows how it's going to pan out, just that at the moment money is being made and it is going disproportionately to the retailer. Except when the retailer sells at a loss, of course, to undercut other retailers, which Amazon constantly does to make sure people buy the Kindle and not the Nook or the Sony eReader. This is why I have about 200 books on my Kindle and have paid for two of them, and one of them was .99c.

What we do know is it does not spell the end of print publishing. I have a Kindle, but I do most of my reading on Shabbos, when I can't use electronics, so it's not as helpful as it could be. I also buy a lot of academic books (which are usually not tremendously marked down in their Kindle version if it's even available) on the used market, where things are tremendously cheaper, or at Salvation Army and other shrift shops, where books are like a dollar. So my buying habits have not changed tremendously as a result of owning a Kindle, but this is not true for a lot of Kindle readers.

What does the future hold for publishing? Self-published authors insist they are the future, and that the big houses will be crushed under the weight of the awesomeness that is their 400,000 word fantasy novel that's the 1st in a trilogy that was rejected last year. I can't imagine this is so. The publishing industry provides an essential service to the book industry: it separates the wheat from the trough, finds good material, pays authors for it, then edits it and produces it in a neat little package for the consumer. Doing this without the help of the publishing industry is actually tremendously time consuming

10 Comments on Retirement Post, last added: 4/1/2011
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4. So You Want to Write a Novel

I can't believe I didn't write this myself.

"How many editors do you think Random House will assign to my novel?"
"Minus 13."

16 Comments on So You Want to Write a Novel, last added: 12/2/2010
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5. The Wait

Hello Rejecter,

On average how long does it take for a publishing house to determine a book is to be published or rejected? I have one out to a publisher over a year and no response. I sent a follow up with an additional submission two months ago and still haven’t heard back. Any idea of an average time frame allotted?

Let me give a more complete answer than just answering your question about publishers.

(1) Unsolicited manuscript to publisher - This is a long wait. Sometimes a year or more at the worst places. Publishers will post times on their website and then not keep to them, and may not respond at all. Check with the publisher - you can even call and ask how long the response time is, but don't bother them by pitching your novel on the phone.

(2) Unsolicited query to agent - If you're going to hear back at all, the time is 1-2 weeks, maybe 3 if it's by mail. Sometime it can be instantaneous with an e-query, if the agent's assistant is just sitting in front of the computer when it comes in. I only am in the office about once a week (thanks, economy!) so most of the queries get done whatever day I'm in, so some people get instant replies and some people have to wait a few days for e-queries.

(3) Unsolicited manuscript to an agent - Don't do this.

(4) Agent sends the manuscript to a publisher - One to two months. A good agent will pitch the book to a bunch of editors they know, see who's interested, then send the book in and give a "closing date." Then, knowing the industry, they'll bug the editor politely a bunch of times until the closing date, then continuing bugging and the replies will float in over the next few weeks. You're not involved in this part of the process, though a good agent will keep you posted.

8 Comments on The Wait, last added: 11/18/2010
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6. Audio Books Follow-up

Why do publisher buy audio rights if they find it too expensive to actually have one produced? Wouldn't it be better to not buy the rights and leave it to someone who actually wants to create it, so they can also drive more people to buy the paper version?

At the contract stage, the publisher might have a decent idea of how much they're going to put into the book (money and time-wise) and how it's going to do, but also they're secretly hoping they're wrong, and the book might become wildly successful - in which case, they're going to want those seemingly-irrelevant rights because they'll be worth a lot of money. This is why it's the publisher's job to hold on to as many rights as possible, and the agent's job to argue the same on your behalf.

0 Comments on Audio Books Follow-up as of 11/1/2010 11:20:00 AM
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7. Audio Books and Audio Rights

Dear Rejecter,

I found your blog via Nathan Bransford's and Eric of Pimp My Novel fame.

As a yet un-published writer and an entrepeneur considering a small press venture, I found your blogs on money and royalties extremely useful.

Something I did not see addressed, however, was audio books. I have several friends who cannot or have difficulty reading - I myself prefer to listen to a book in the car on a long drive. Unfortunately, not every book published becomes an audio book so I have to assume that there exists audio book making companies and the rights to do produce these are sold separately.

Is this correct or am I making things up? Any information you could share about audio books 'from the inside' would be very much appreciated. I am just beginning my own research now, but your insight would be invaluable.

When a book and a CD player love each other very much...

Seriously, this is how audio books happen: When you sell a book to a publisher, they will specify what rights they're buying, and the overwhelming majority of the time that will include audio rights, followed by a royalty percentage that's generally higher than royalties on book format. I'm sure they exist, but I've never seen a contract that didn't include audio rights.

This means it's the publisher's responsibility to find a company that will produce the audio book, if they feel that it would be worth their investment - and for most mid-list authors, it won't be. For those that it will be, major publishers generally have an in-house production group responsible for it, while others might hire out. Someone will be in charge of setting it all up, especially if a celebrity needs to be hired to read it.

The author actually can't make the audio book themselves because they've sold off the right to do it to the publishing company, so if the publishing company decides, "Hey, not worth it," then they're probably right, and also no audio book for that particular book. If the small press didn't buy audio rights (which is weird, but OK), the author can hire a company to do it and distribute it, but it will be wicked expensive.

When the Kindle first came out, it had a text-to-speech option, which was quickly disabled because it violated the copyright on audio rights held by publishers (Amazon was doing it without permission). Or maybe it was another e-Reader, but I'm pretty sure it was the Kindle.

6 Comments on Audio Books and Audio Rights, last added: 10/27/2010
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8. We're On To You

(Not posting much recently has been largely due to the Jewish holidays. Longtime readers probably guessed that)

In your query letter, if you describe a novel with an obvious sci-fi premise, and then write, "But it's not science fiction!" you either don't know what science fiction is or you are deluded into thinking we're really, really dumb.

And having "Book 1" in the title of your book - not the subtitle but the actual title - is pretty much an instant reject. Or, I've never seen a case where I didn't finish the query and immediately reject it.

4 Comments on We're On To You, last added: 9/29/2010
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9. Follow-Up on Writers Earning Money

I didn't think to include this in the last post, which is OK because it's needlessly complicated, but another way writers make money - sometimes, how they make most of their money - is in foreign rights.

Remember that when a publisher buys your book, they don't buy the physical book. They buy the right to copy the material in the book and then resell it. Different companies will ask for different rights, and it's a good agent's job to negotiate what rights you give away in the initial offering and what rights you hold on to.

For example, a publisher will ask for world rights. These are, obviously, the rights to publish anywhere in the world in any language. The publisher has total control over your book. Agents don't like to give this away, or not unless the publisher actually has the ability to publish the book all over the world and is willing to pay a lot of money.

The stage below that is generally considered to be English-language rights. This means everything but translations, so you can still sell to foreign companies that intend to produce your book in another language. It's still a major rights grab, though.

What an American agent would probably prefer you to sell is North America & UK rights. In other words, the English-speaking and easily-shippable world (Australia and India, two big English markets, are far away). So they get the US, Mexico, Canada, and the UK, and possibly Ireland depending on some fine-tuning of the language.

Why would you want to keep as many rights as you can? Because if you have a good agent,t hat agent will have contacts with foreign agents around the globe. If the book even moderately successful, the agent will then take the books to the other agents and say, "Shop this in your country." Hopefully, the foreign agent will succeed in selling it to a local press, and there will be another contract for you with another advance (meaning $$$). Then rinse, repeat.

It is common practice in the publishing industry for agents to take a higher commission on foreign rights sold, say 25% instead of 15%, because they did more work and the foreign agent also has to get their cut. My boss, who does a lot of work in foreign rights, has probably 30 agencies she works with. I'm just guessing about that based on the amount of addresses I've had to write out on customs forms, some of which had characters I've otherwise never had to write (Thai is really hard). Some she hasn't spoken to in years, some she's in constant contact with, but they're all there, and if my boss is lucky she will sell the book an additional 5 times after the initial sale to a US publisher. And that means more money for her - and a lot more money for you.

12 Comments on Follow-Up on Writers Earning Money, last added: 9/3/2010
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10. How Much Does a Writer Make?

I have read through several years of your back posts and I have a quick question for you as an assistant agent with inside knowledge and also for you as a published author in your own right.

You mentioned in a couple of your posts that it is common to see advances for new authors in the 5000-7000 range but I can't find any information about royalties. You do mention in an almost off handed way that each time you sell a book you receive about $1.12. What sort of annual income is typical for a author that publishes one book every other year. I think I could write a book a year if not more but I know the editing and everything else can drag out the process. I have no idea what typical sales for a book are. I understand that it is completely dependent on how well the book is received, I'm just looking for averages here.

Making money is complicated. Let me explain as best I can.

(1) Advance. This is an advance on future royalties. It is usually lower than it should be. It used to be new authors would make at least $5000-$7000, now it could be lower than that. Publishers don't like to spend. Repeat authors in the same company will make more and more on each advance. Ten years ago, if you were an established fiction author, you would be making around 30K a book in advances, so if you produced a book a year, you were doing well. This numbers are generally not maintained for mid-list or anyone below mid-list.

Non-fiction is an entirely different story. There is a huge range in advances. Most I've seen are above $20K.

(2) Royalties. The royalty rate for fiction is, at bottom level, 7.5% off LIST price, meaning the price they print on the back of the book, regardless of what the store sells it for. 7.5% is considered the bottom; more reputable places will give 8 or 10%. Then there's something called "escalation" where if your book has sold a certain number of copies (say, 20,000) the royalty rate will rise because at that point the publishers have earned back all the money they spent on producing the book and are willing to give you a little more. A nice escalation is to 20%, or in the case of a ton of books, 30%. Escalation rates vary hugely from company to company and also based on expectations of how much the book will sell.

From what I've seen, e-book sales have their own rate (which should be higher, like 20%, but publishers are working to keep that down), or they're a higher rate off NET prices, which is a percentage of what the book is actually sold for and what the publisher gets back from the bookstore. Net royalties are usually in the 20-30% range, but I've seen them higher. We expect e-Books to move up and down in terms of royalties as publishers and e-Book sellers figure out what the hell is going on.

(3) Payment of advance. Payment of advance occurs before the book sells any copies, though sometimes it's split up so the publisher can hold on to their money longer (publishers have a lot of tricks to do this). For a smaller press with a small advance, full payment can be upon signing, meaning a month after you sign the contract and it goes back to the publisher and it goes through accounting, then to your agent, then gets back to you. Some publishers split it to two dates: (1) Signing of the contract and (2) delivery of the completed manuscript to the publisher. Additionally, it can be split up as (1) signing, (2) delivery, and (3) publishing date. If you get a $500,000 advance, your publisher is going to pretty eager to split up payments, because it could be a year to a year and a half between signing the contract and publishing the book.

12 Comments on How Much Does a Writer Make?, last added: 8/23/2010

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11. Inside Agenting

One reason it's a good idea to belong to the AAR if you're an agent, aside from it being the ultimate stamp of legitimacy, is you get to go to AAR meetings. They're hit-or-miss, but there's usually drinks.

The last couple have been either about e-Books or social media outlets for authors like Facebook, Foursquare, etc. They basically boil down to this:

Social Media Presenter: This program is totally awesome and unless your author is a complete shut-in, incapable of communicating with the outside world, they have to have it YESTERDAY. Let's look at some totally cool statistics about user traffic!

Agent: ... How does this translate into sales?

Social Media Presenter: Funny you should ask that! I have no idea! But if your author doesn't do it it's definitely lost sales, right? So they should do it. They should spend way too much time on it, if anything. By the way, as an employee of this company or someone who's hired by authors to do this sort of thing for them, I have no stake whatsover in what I'm talking about!

Man, I have so many authors as friends on my author account on Facebook. They all make irrelevant posts and I tune them out. That's why I rarely post; I don't want to be tuned out. I don't really want to know about their cats or that they like the group "Reading" or that they just got out of a mental institution, which might be why they post "I AM THE SECOND COMING OF CHRIST THE SAVIOR" roughly once every ten minutes, in caps, and sometimes with a long exposition. Dude, I am starting to not believe you are a legitimately published poet who has won many awards.

Authors: If you make a page specifically for your writing and author information, please stop posting meaningless crap I will instinctively tune out. Post about, I don't know, your writing. I must have some interest in it - I friended you. That or we're both on Farmville.

7 Comments on Inside Agenting, last added: 8/14/2010
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12. MA Degree Questions

Dear Rejecter,
I have been writing novels since I was about seven. I literally think about it all the time. However, try as I might I have never been able to get beyond the 40,000 word mark before losing the plot and momentum of my story and deciding to start something else entirely. I'm a journalist on a big women's glossy in the UK so it's not getting the words down on paper that's the problem, it's rather getting my plot from A to B that stumps me.

I'm currently looking into doing a part time MA in creative writing in the hope that following a structured course might help me complete a first draft, but it's a lot of money - over £6,000 for two years of study. The course I have in mind gives you the opportunity to showcase your work with literary agents towards the end of the two years. Which sounds great, but I'm unsure as to how much value the course itself would be.

My first question is aimed at you as a published author yourself, the last two as an assistant to a Literary Agent:
a) Do you believe there is any value in doing a qualification such as an MA in Creative Writing if you can already write but are struggling with plot?
b) In your experience, how many published authors have completed these kinds of courses?
c) How valuable would the contact with literary agents through the course be? Ie would they take you more seriously/ more likely to consider your novel?

Things may be different in the UK, but here are my answers for the US:

a) You get what you put into any creative writing course. Meaning, if you write a lot you'll probably get better. You could also do that without the course, but some people need structure and some people are convinced they need feedback. I got little to no useful feedback in my MFA prgram.

b) Very few. Very to none, really. Unless they went on to teach. Then they needed the degree to do that, but preferably an MFA over an MA.

c) Little to no value.

Also, $11000 (by my guesstimate of the exchange rate) for a two-year degree is insanely cheap by most American standards.

Note: I should clarify that if taking a course makes you go from a bad writer to an insanely good writer, it has tremendous value. I've never seen that happen, but that doesn't mean it hasn't.

7 Comments on MA Degree Questions, last added: 8/5/2010
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13. Rejections!

Hello Rejecter,

I just came across your blog today and found your honesty refreshing.

Speaking of honesty, I'm trying to decipher some agent rejection letters. They say many positive things about the story and writing followed by:

Agent 1: "After long consideration, though, I have to say I am just not enthusiastic enough to offer representation."
Agent 2: "I'm afraid, however, that I simply didn't fall in love with the work as I would have to, to take on a new project. "
Agent 3: "Unfortunately, however, I am being extremely careful about taking on new projects, and while I admired this a lot, I fear I didn't feel as enthusiastically about the manuscript as I need to in such a challenging marketplace.

Author friends tell me I should continue to contact agents but I'm wondering if the above replies are code for: "Give up now, you'll never get this book published."


Flattered but Confused

Unless the agent mentions specifics about your novel, there is no reason to believe it's anything but a form letter. If you get a reply letter that looks like it might have been photocopied 100 times, it's definitely a form letter.

Rejections are really frustrating. I get them now, but mostly from publishing companies, and sometimes they are personalized (depending on how well the agent knows the editor) and sometimes they are not.

A form letter means the following things:
(1) Your book is bad.
(2) Your book is good, but not really good enough.
(3) You submitted the book to an agency that doesn't handle that genre.
(4) Your book is too long or too short.
(5) Your book is thinly disguised Twilight fanfic. Hell, some people don't disguise it at all. They understand nothing of copyrights and we don't amazingly compelled to try to explain it to them.
(6) The agent you queried is not taking new clients.

For the most part, you're not going to know what it is (unless it's that Twilight fanfic thing). So send to every possible agent, and if they all reject you, take it as a sign that it's time to write a different book.

3 Comments on Rejections!, last added: 7/28/2010
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14. The Sky Is Falling (No It Isn't)

No doubt you're hearing about this from all quarters.


Does that bring on any changes to your thoughts about ebooks? I'm sure hard covers haven't been a big seller for a long time now. This must be some kind of sign of sea change tho :)

Have you read a novel on an iphone yet? (I quite enjoy reading in bed w/iphone - great after my wife is asleep. Easy to hold, and no light required :)

I'm wondering if Agents will become Reviewers - if writers all become self publishers, Agents might be better at playing curator. And Amazon just rakes in the bucks.

(tho' they've recently become more generous if I hear that right - reduced their cut to 30%)

I'll answer your questions in order.

(1) Taking into account that Amazon is an internet (technology-based) bookstore with the largest share in the e-Book market, it's still slightly surprising. Not that surprising, though. Remember to take into account that most people who bothered to buy an expensive Kindle did so because they read a lot - more than the average person, and almost everyone with a Kindle I've spoken to has said the amount of books they buy has gone up considerably since buying the Kindle because it's so easy and cheap to buy. So that's skewing the statistics a little. But yeah, e-Books is a market growing by leaps and bounds while books ... are pretty much still books.

(2) I don't have an iPhone. I'm a writer. I'm poor. I have a much cheaper phone with a much smaller screen and I only read my email on it, and I totally hate reading my email on it. I also have a Sony e-Reader that I never use because I find the screen irritating.

(3) E-Book selling really well to everyone self-publishing is a huge leap. Huge. I'm going to guess that most e-Books sold are still published by traditional companies, even if they're small companies. Yes, a lot more people are self-publishing, but it's not necessarily good. Traditional publishing works hard to only publish good books, and if they're not good, to at least edit them well. With very, very few exceptions, almost all of the self-published books we receive as submissions at work or I buy online are terrible in some fashion. It's actually getting frustrating with Amazon, which makes it so easy to not only self-publish but also to hide that you're self-publishing, because I'm running into more and more books that have poor layouts and copy-editing and then I look the company up, find out it's owned by the author, and say, "Oh, it was self-published. That explains it."

(4) Amazon is probably trying to keep competitive with the other places to buy e-Books.

6 Comments on The Sky Is Falling (No It Isn't), last added: 7/23/2010
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15. If You Have An Offer...

I'm in process of sending queries out both to agents and publishers (the few that still take unrepresented queries).

Let's say there is an offer on the table from a publisher, but I want an agent to handle it. I would imagine there would be some urgency about getting a deal sealed (of course, I have no idea, this is just how I dream it). I have heard that an author with a deal already in the works has a much better chance of getting an agent's attention. If that were to happen, would I still go through the regular query process? Just change my hook to "I have an offer from Insertnamehere publishing house"? Even so, would it be so sure of a thing (of course, provided that the agent represented similar work -- I do do my homework and don't just spam queries)?

If you answer this question, great. If you don't, it's all good. It's sort of a random question and really, just me procrastinating from editing for a contest.

I got my agent this way. I had partials and fulls out when I got the offer from the publisher. Two situations here:

(1) If you don't have anything currently sitting at an agency, including a query, query them by email or mail but put that offer information at the top. Include your phone number and email.

(2) If you have things at agencies, even queries, email or call (seriously, call) the agencies and tell them, "Hey, you're looking at something. There's an offer on the table. Here's my number." Then wait for the calls. Most of them will not have read your query/partial/full and beg for 24-48 hours to read it before getting back to you. Enjoy the attention while you can, because it's rare in publishing.

4 Comments on If You Have An Offer..., last added: 7/18/2010
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16. For Your Information, Again

If you've self-published several terrible books in what's probably a mystery/adventure/YA series, complete with your self-drawn cover, it's really only necessary to send one unsolicited book with your query, not all 3 plus some soundtracks you've composed. Be assured that if our socks were knocked off by the first poorly-edited book with its hilariously bad cover art, we would request the rest. Until then, save on postage.

I'm always in favor of people saving on postage, and yet ...

6 Comments on For Your Information, Again, last added: 7/2/2010
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17. Money for Reviews

Dear Rejecter,

Having recently completed my YA novel and believing it to be original, inventive, yadda yadda, I'll be sending my query letters out to potential agents soon. My question to you is: We Book's Page to Fame, good idea or not?


The premise: for $9.95 a writer puts up the first page of their novel. It's then anonymously rated by other writers participating in the program. If the page is rated highly enough, it passes to the next level where the next few pages are put up and rated, and so on. At each level, the novel page or pages will be rated by at least one literary agent, and, if the novel "wins," the writer will receive exposure, potential offers of representation and whatever other good things may follow.

Good idea or not?

In general, I am against authors spending money. Aside from that whole "money flows to the author" principle, we live in an age where pretty much everything that a potential author could possibly want is online and free. Sure, if you want to develop your craft, it might not be a bad idea to take a course or buy a book on craft that's well-reviewed, and a grammar book wouldn't hurt, but really, save your money. Even if you get published, the money won't be rolling in anyway. $9.95 will probably cover all of the stamps for your queries and SASEs and partials if the agencies don't accept email queries, but especially when you send a requested manuscript.

As to the program itself, I've never heard of it, so that may say something about the exposure you'll be getting. Agents don't regularly kill time on the web looking at the work of unpublished authors. As for feedback, is it from other unpublished authors? How good is that, anyway?

If anyone knows more about the program, post it in the comments.

10 Comments on Money for Reviews, last added: 6/29/2010
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18. Revising Your Word Count

What if you rejected for no other reason than a too-low 50k word count?(though -oops-the author-doesn't know for sure it was this, God forbid an agent give feedback) would a revised 70k get the auto-dump as well?

There's a short answer to this, but I felt it deserved some discussion anyway.

At my agency, 50K will make me suspicious but I will not immediately throw it out, even though maybe I should. It depends on the genre; my boss is a little looser about word count. I know of at least two other agencies that absolutely would throw out a 50K novel, so maybe it's not a great thing to be pitching.

On the other hand, padding your novel doesn't make it good. It probably makes it bad (or worse).

There was a case a few weeks ago where someone sent in a query saying she had revised her novel to our specifications and now would we please look at it? As best as we can figure, she had originally sent a query (a partial or full we would have remembered) that one of us rejected, but written "too short" on the side or as a PS. Some agencies do this sometimes, if the writer needs a leg up, but in this case it came to bite us in the tuchus, which it usually does. She assumed this wasn't the only problem with the novel and spent a ton of time revising it, then resent the query. Rejected again - it was still a bad novel idea. I guess our (I don't know if my boss or I did it) helpfulness was misleading, making her think she had a chance if she added 20K of blather, or simply lied about the word count and hoped we really, really loved the partial.

I really hope, as a person, that she hadn't pinned her hopes on us. As I writer, I know she probably did.

7 Comments on Revising Your Word Count, last added: 6/29/2010
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19. For Your Information

My boss requested I make the following post:

If you send a query, don't send the same (or similar) one three months later. We will totally know you did it and just reject you again. My boss is sick of them.

Thank you.

11 Comments on For Your Information, last added: 6/21/2010
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20. Web Content

Hello Rejecter,

I just found your blog today and am hoping you can answer a question that I have been trying to find an answer to for a while. I've heard many writers mention recently that they have been asked by agents and publishers to have a blog and an established web presence before submitting for publication. I assume this is because you then have a pool of people who are already interested in your book.

My question is where does the line fall between developing a web presence and self publishing? Could having a blog and posting some of your work end up hurting a writer's chances of publishing their first book?

Harlan Ellison is very against this, but publishing today involves giving away a lot of things for free. He went on about this for five minutes or so in the documentary on him, Dreams with Sharp Teeth, but Harlan lives in a world of his own - specifically, the world of a well-published, extremely well-established and respected sci-fi writer who can demand money for things the rest of us give away for free.

Aside from Harlan's rant, I've never heard anything bad about publishing online first. I did it, and even kept the stuff up when it was published. I have heard a lot of great things about web presence, so that's something you should get behind. Web presence. Media presence. Facebook. Other words that sound important and justify blowing an afternoon on Facebook instead of getting work done. Hopefully my Farmville friends will start buying my books soon.

The only problem that comes along is when you sell the book to a publisher. The publisher then has the right, if they've bought digital rights, to ask you to take down you content. See, they own it. That's what you sold them - the right to copy and distribute your own work - and that's why they gave you money. Until the contract lapses, it has to stay down so that they can distribute it for a profit instead. My experience with publishers, though, is that they're not necessarily strict on enforcing this, depending on the publisher and the nature of the content. And the fact that some people plain old don't like to read books on computers.

12 Comments on Web Content, last added: 6/13/2010
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21. Obligatory BEA Post

My feet are screaming even while I'm sitting down, so I must have spent the day at the BEA, picking up too many free books I'll never read and going back and forth between the same 5 stands trying to find the editor I wanted to talk with. This time, at least, I had enough water, or could have bummed some bottles of at least one of the two publishers who I have books with.

In summary:

- No drummers this time. Yay!

- Free champagne, beer, and in one case, popcorn, comes out about 4 pm, and not a moment too soon at that. The best way to get it is the same way you get in anywhere - you just act like you belong there.

- The daily PW gigantor edition for the BEA had article on Sylvia Browne called "helped by angels." Apparently she's written that despite her angel spirit guides, she's been through three disastrous marriages where she was beaten, stolen from, and cheated on. Sylvia, first of all, WE ALL KNOW YOU'RE FAKING IT. Second, if you have deluded yourself into thinking a spirit guide is telling you what to do in life, you might consider the idea that he has given you some terrible advice over the years. I mean, if I was marrying a guy, and I had an angel spirit guide helping me out, I would at some point ask him, "Hey angel guy, should I marry this guy?" and if he said, "Yes, it's totally cool" and then the guy beat me and stole from me, I would question the integrity of my spirit guide's judgment.

- If you are a Jewish Press and I've never heard of you, you are probably run by crazy people and that's why legitimate Jewish booksellers won't stock you in their stores. Hell, you probably shouldn't even be at the BEA. The major Jewish publishers who aren't trying to branch out into other markets pretty much don't waste their time with the BEA. They don't need networking and social media. Either I'm going to buy their English edition of the Talmud Bavli with the Rashi script converted into normal block print or I'm not. No amount of press changes that.

- United Arab Emirates, you cannot buy my love with an outrageously fancy stand. Same thing to you, Saudi Arabia and the CCP Press. (To be fair, Xinhua's stand was not very extravagant).

- Scientology booth, I am not fooled by you. Hubbard was a terrible sci-fi author and you push his stuff as a front for the giant corporation we call a cult and you call a religion. Considering how many people regularly buy and read Hubbard's fiction (the numbers have to be dismal), you stole a ridiculous amount of floor space from publishers who needed it. Also, what was with the African-American guys in pirate costumes? Because there were like 3 of them and that's bucking the odds in colorblind casting.

- Wow, there sure were a ton of content-less booths for various e-publishing companies, weren't there? I should be less surprised, really, but they were like, a whole SECTION. A section that was pretty empty. We need shiny books to attract us, even if we know they're not galleys and we can't take free copies.

- A bunch of people asked me what I did for a living. I thought the "EXHIBITION AUTHOR" tag on my badge would have given that away.

- If you are looking for an editor you've never met in real life in a gigantic corporation's booth, all of the name badges will inevitably be turned around so you can't scope out people's names from afar and have to interrupt their conversations to ask them. It's like, a thing.

- One of my publishers claimed they didn't have any copies of

11 Comments on Obligatory BEA Post, last added: 5/28/2010
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22. Update from the Rejector

I haven't been posting a lot, mostly due to a slow pace of questions, a lot of which I've answered just by replying via email, since the question was already asked at some point on the blog. I've still got a few in my inbox, including one mythical one I thought was awesome but read at some time where I couldn't respond, and then it disappeared. Seriously. I have no idea where it is, but it was so wonderfully smug.

I'll be offline for the next week (combination of Shavuot/camping), but back for the BEA, provided my publisher finally coughs up that author badge. I won't be live tweeting from it or anything, mostly because those posts would be along the lines of, "It's really hot and loud in here" and "Four dollars for a water!? Damn you, Javitz Center!" If those drummers come back, I may renew my vow to find acid and throw it in their faces, and then not do it, not entirely because of the non-availability of acid in the Javitz Center.

You can leave a comment, but it probably will not be approved until Sunday. Until then, enjoy!

0 Comments on Update from the Rejector as of 1/1/1900
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23. Self-Publishing Credits

I teach a writing class at my local community college and got a question from a student -- would an agent consider representing someone based on a self-published novel? Should the student mention that what they're submitting has been self-published? My immediate answer to the student was no, but then they said that it's sold pretty well. Does that make a difference?

The unwritten "rule" (though some have written it) is that a self-published book should have earned at least 3000 copies on its own steam to be considered a "success." I don't know where the number came from, but I've heard it many, many times and read it on agents' websites. So no, if it's below that, don't count it as a publishing credit and don't mention it.

However, we're seeing more and more people who self-published their novel first, then were shocked to find out how little they sell and how costly the process is (usually for the readers, because the books are a little more pricey than mass-produced books), decide they want to get published traditionally. If you're pitching a manuscript to us, and for some reason you want to send it book form ("I had it printed by Authorhouse), we're not going to be doing a lot of complaining. It's one of those things that doesn't help and doesn't hurt.

7 Comments on Self-Publishing Credits, last added: 5/7/2010
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24. Trade Shows

First, I wanted to say that I love your blog. Thank you for all you do to help out everyone in the blogsphere. Second, I had a question about trade shows, namely BEA. If an agent goes to the show, is it appropriate for a writer to approach them and introduce themselves? Maybe talk to them about their novel? Or is this considered rude and annoying?

The answer is complicated.

There are trade shows where unpublished authors are allowed in - and trade shows where they are not, the BEA being one of those. Three years ago, when I attended my first BEA, this was not being well enforced. If you paid the money to register as a publishing company - whether that company existed or not - you could get a badge and access to the floor. Since it was an internet registration, you didn't have to show your credentials, be it a small town rag or Simon & Schuster. Agents, however, had their own tables in a segregated area to meet with clients so they wouldn't be bothered, and the guy at the door was pretty strict about who he let in (I had to argue to go in to speak with my boss because I was not registered as her assistant).

According to my boss, they're trying to crack down on that at the BEA because editors and agents are sick of dealing with unpublished authors pitching to them. It's not that they don't want new authors, it's that it's hard to say "No, go away, I seriously have a meeting with buyers right now" to someone looking desperate. The BEA is, primarily, a show for publishers, agents, and industry people to do business with one another, in a limited space and a limited time, especially if they have to man a booth for the next 6 hours, then be on a panel, then attend a wine-n-cheese, then spend $4.00 for a friggin' bottle of water (THANKS, Javitz Center), then stumble around from author event to keynote speaker in the haze of someone who has been awake way, way too long.

There's that motorcycle Zen guy who tells the story of pitching his book at a trade show and getting a million dollar deal (I'm sketchy on the specifics here) and that started the whole business, but really, please don't do it. If you happen to be at the trade show for trade show reasons and you happen to be talking to an editor whom you know is currently buying the type of book you are trying to sell, "Can I pitch my book to you?" is not a bad question to ask. In all fairness, that's how I got my first book deal, so I can't totally write it off. That said, don't crash the BEA and chat up every agent who happens to be in the bathroom line with you. That's tacky.

2 Comments on Trade Shows, last added: 4/26/2010
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25. The 4 Questions

I have spent too many unhealthy hours reading blogs and websites filled with advice on queries for far too long. From what I have learned, everyone wants something different but they wont all tell you what it is that they want. So I have a few general questions. 1) If you have a website for your book or work is it appropriate to give them the address in the query?

Put it in, but there's almost no chance we'll look at it. Still, it doesn't hurt.

2) On some sites I read queries where it looks like the first half of the query is sucking up to the agent and has nothing about the book. If I am querying an agent they should know what I am after. Their approval. Is it necessary for me to try to tell them why I want to work with them and list all of the books they have published that I have read?

Throwing in a reference to a book the agent represents isn't considered bad. It shows you did research on the agent and are not just mass-querying. In some agencies it gives you points. Honestly, I see it so much I just ignore it and focus on the book that's being pitched, but again, it doesn't hurt your query, so you should do it.

3) Early on I was over excited and sent out a query to an agency I quite desperately wanted to work with. They rejected me because they didn't feel a connection, but said it was a great concept. This prompted me to reevaluate the query and the book which turned out for the best. Is it ever appropriate for me to resubmit to them? If so, how long must I wait?

A couple months, but don't expect anything. It will probably be rejected again. There was a reason the first time and it may have been unrelated to the format of the query letter. Like "Ugh, I've seen too much of this lately" or "I'm not taking on new clients now unless it's specific genre."

4) I have no credentials that relate to my writing. I don't feel I should have to tell them anything about my self if my writing conveys that I am the best person to write this story. It takes up more of their time and they don't care who I am, I don't mind that. I'm arrogant but not egotistical. However most agents websites say "tell us about your self" in their criteria. Do I have to if they request it?

When they say "tell us about yourself" it means "tell us what writing credentials you have, and if you've written non-fiction, what credentials you have to write this specific book." You don't need to put in any other biographical information. By the way, I can't stress that last part enough. If you have written non-fiction (other than memoir), you should have some credentials proving why you're qualified to write a book about your subject. You know, degrees you might have, research you might have done. That sort of thing. We don't see enough of that in non-fiction proposals.

2 Comments on The 4 Questions, last added: 4/22/2010
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