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October 21, 2009

Dear Author:

Thank you so much for sending the (Anonymous) Literary Agency your query. We’d like to apologize for the impersonal nature of this standard rejection letter. Rest assured that we do read every query letter carefully and, unfortunately, this project is not right for us.  Because this business is so subjective and opinions vary widely, we recommend that you pursue other agents. After all, it just takes one “yes” to find the right match.

Good luck with all your publishing endeavors.


(Names removed.)

It’s a strange thing, being told to write a one-page query letter to represent 110,000 words of your novel.  I get the logic: you only want to read the full works of a good writer, and someone that can’t put together a decent page of writing probably won’t be a very good novelist.

But it’s still a bit nutty.  Imagine if the NHL used this kind of system.  The tryouts would go like this:

“Okay, Dougy, take this pencil here and grab one of those Cheerios.”

“Which one?”

“Any of them.  They’re all the same.  Now I want you to flick that Cheerio down this table here and get it between the two juice glasses at the other end.”

“Okay.  Can I warm up first?”

That’s really what I’m being asked to do.  I could be the King of Correspondences, but it doesn’t really demonstrate the skills and sheer bloody-mindedness necessary to write a book.  At least the above company insists on email instead of snail (saves trees and time), and at least they got back to me promptly.  There’s nothing I hate worse than having to wait for weeks to hear that I suck.  Now I have an excuse to go drink.

And really, if the worse thing that happens to me in a day is that a complete stranger doesn’t like the way I write emails, I’m still doing pretty well.