Thursday, September 22, 2011

Agent 99 Bites


People, people, people: You are going to hate this almost as much as I do. First, I ask you to recall that it's been a year of my working with said Agent 99 from the large fancy literary agency. Back and forth we went with changes and revisions and her idea about how to "fix" my novel. Together here at LROD we have discussed the merits of working on edits with an agent, of compromising one's art, but we have seen nothing like this so far. Are you ready for it? I am going to leave the picking apart of this amazing rejection to beat all rejections to you and your witty, wonderful ways.  You may also feel free to berate me about being naive enough to believe I was finally on my way; all I had to do was fix "a little structural problem" without "muddling" everything up, and that would be that. Have at it! I am taking to my bed today. As for our recent discussions about whether or not it is a good idea to respond to rejection letters, I thought of writing the following: Dear Agent 99: I'm not sure what's worse this week, the fact that after stringing me along for an entire calendar year, you are now rejecting me because my novel now seems muddled and always seemed to dark, or the fact that I have to face a painful biopsy for some suspected cancer.  You really stink.  Best, W,R. Of course, I will let my silence speak instead. Sadly, friends, the part about suspected cancer is true. I'm sure it's going to turn out perfectly fine and not be anything malignant, but then again, for a cynic, I am eternally optimistic.  I have a biopsy tomorrow, so may not get online to post until next week. Send some good thoughts my way if you are able. Man...life can be a kick in the teeth, right? What a week!

Here's what Agent 99 had to say:

Dear _________:   
     This is a difficult email for me to write, but after a lot of time and careful reads from me and a few trusted colleagues here, I’m afraid I’m going to have to walk away from [slightly incorrect Title of Book...really? You couldn't get it right?]. I really do admire you personally and as a writer, and I’m sorry it took so long for me to make this decision, but I don’t think we’re seeing eye-to-eye editorially in the way I would like. 
     I think you’re such a talented writer, and I love your style and your unique sense of prose and voice. That said, ultimately the book still isn’t working in the way I would need it to in order be its very best advocate. I have too many hesitations remaining, and indeed, even though we decided it was best to tie the two parts together (which I do think is crucial to the book) I’m still not seeing the execution I would like.
      The redraft has also confused the original intent of the book and muddled some of the elements I loved earlier on. In this incarnation, it seems so obvious to me that [name of character] is the culprit, and the adding in of [detail] and the [different detail] from the start creates so many plot lines, so many characters to focus on, that I lost [main character's name] a bit. I also still find the darkness of the book overbearing, an issue I’ve had throughout the times I’ve read, and worry that you haven’t found a way to alleviate this. 
     It’s very unusual that I take someone on editorially unless I truly believe in them, and I do believe in you, absolutely. But I also think we’ve come to an impasse. I only hope that giving you my time and advice on the manuscript has helped you in your journey a bit, and I’m sorry to say that my love for the book is not enough to take it forward. You and this novel deserve the passionate representation that I can’t provide, and so I think I should step aside before we go any further. I’m certain that I’ll see your name on shelves someday, and I’ll be cheering from the sidelines. 
     Yours,
     Agent 99
p.s. As you can see, she's really not "mine". Yours is just a nice thing people say at the end of a terrible letter. Oh well. Fuck it.

28 comments:

Nick said...

Plenty of good, carcinogen-free thoughts are flowing your way.

It's really hard to read Agent 99's response without thinking how it must affect you. As for the content, Agent 99 seems to be stressing that "editorial" incompatability angle. Do you think you were accepting her suggestions, or were you conscious that maybe you were forging your own path? Did you maybe not fully understand what she originally suggested? Does anything she now writes seem true?

The greater question is, do you think this revision of the novel that she has just seen better than the previous incarnation?

Obviously, you ought to start querying other agents. Keep your head up: you're working on other projects that seem to be going well! Meanwhile, we'll keep our fingers crossed re: the "C" thing.

Mister Snuggles said...

"I only hope that giving you my time and advice on the manuscript has helped you in your journey a bit"

That is by far the most irritating, narcissistic, insensitive, and frankly laughable part of this entire absurd rejection.

For two reasons this reminds me so much of A Confederacy of Dunces. First, because even from just this blog, you're clearly quite the witty writer. Second is the more obvious - an agent stringing you along to the point that anyone would be tempted to off themselves.

So, so sorry for That Long Awaited Rejection at the End of the Bullshit ;)

As for the cancer. I myself have lupus nephritis. Went through chemo and steroid treatment and all the works. I hope you don't have anything but, if you do, the sad truth is it's probably not the worse thing you'll go through. When you're sick there's a right and wrong, you're right and the illness is wrong. Everyone suddenly totes you as brave and you get lots of free drugs and "perspective" (i.e., that life is bullshit and everyone you know is secretly an asshole but, now that I think of it, you probably know that already) The hardest parts of life in my humble experience are heartbreak and rejection and quite clearly, you've trumped those.

What I'm really trying to say is, dude, I'm really sorry. This blows. If your silence includes a flaming bag of poo poo on 99's doorstep, I think no one would blame you.

And also, not discounting whatever else you've published/gotten awards for, you've made quite a literary work of art in this blog itself.

mariegauthier said...

Oh, this makes me very sad. I had such high hopes for Agent 99. Best of luck tomorrow!

courtmerrigan said...

Shit. That sucks. No way around it.

The manuscript must have legs, though; so find someone who'll get it out there.

Maybe there's a lesson in here about just putting out what you think is your best work, and if someone disagrees on a fundamental level - not talking minor editorial improvements - find someone else who doesn't. I don't know. I could just be talking bullshit.

Good luck with the biopsy, and hopefully you won't need it.

Anonymous said...

Dear WR,

Focus on your health, agents come and go. Good luck with your medical test. Here is praying that everything works out well for you.

Your agent sucks, may she never have a successful book ever again.

Boris said...

Here's hoping cancer rejects the shit out of you too. Good luck.

Kaylea Cross said...

I'm so very sorry to hear all this, and I'm angry on your behalf that it took so long to get a definitive answer from Agent 99. I hope the work you put into the manuscript in recent months has been worthwhile, at least, and that the book is stronger for it.

Keep sending out the version of the book you believe most in. Don't quit. You've worked too long and too hard to do that to yourself.

Like Boris said, I hope the cancer rejects you too!

Anonymous said...

It makes me wonder if it is worth it to do their extensive revisions since half the time it seems to make the agents dislike the book even more. So sad. I feel for you!

Anonymous said...

Long time reader, first time commenter. I'm praying for you, our dear Writer, Rejected. Forget about Agent 99, but don't forget the loads of experience that you earned over the past year. Your trials have taught us all a great deal. Here's to your next great, agent-free rewrite! - Jimmy James

Anonymous said...

Wishing you all the best tomorrow.

Laura Maylene said...

I'm so sorry. Best of luck with your health issues. Hope you're back in the chair writing ASAP.

Linda Zinnen said...

"I only hope that giving you my time and advice on the manuscript has helped you in your journey a bit"

Breathtaking. What. a. self-serving. idiot.

Z

Anonymous said...

Damn. That sucks. Take heart though, nothing is ever a waste; although when shit like this happens I'm sure it does feel like a waste. This experience made your book stronger and your writing stronger; I guarantee that!
As far as rejection letters go, this is not that bad. She admits that you are talented, you have a good style and unique voice, and that she does believe in you. She wouldn't have written that if it wasn't true!!
I think this is just another stop on your journey, not the last stop.
Hang in there! Keep going! Strive, Seek, find, and never yield! Good luck with the biopsy. I'm sure it's going to hurt and turn out to be nothing.
Take care.

Tena Russ said...

Ouch ouch ouch! OUCH!!!

She did spend a lot of time on your ms, so it's apparent that she thought it had worth (read, saleability). I am so sorry!

Sending all best thoughts on your biopsy.

Anonymous said...

Please re-read my post from Sept 2, from Anonymous that starts:
"This is what you should ask yourself."

I wrote that in anticipation of this situation.

That said, this does suck and you have every right to lick your wounds for a few days, or a week even. Then you have to get back at it.

New questions. What did you gain?

1) I've been through this myself, more than once, and it's a terrible feeling to feel your hopes dashed. I'm in the midst of the process again and I have to keep reminding myself of a few things. First, I have to realize that unlike millions of writers, I'm getting feedback from a top literary agent. That alone is worth a lot, and if it all falls through for me, it's gonna hurt like a bitch, but I'm still better off than some who keep wondering. Plus I know even if my two rewrites fail, it's better than it was when I started. I know more now. Anyway, the second thing you gained was closure -- not on the entire thing, but closure on this particular chapter of the struggle. And you needed it to move on. So move on.

What else have you gained?
A loving support group. Man, I have been through this a few times and I don't have a blog or even a group of writer friends that can understand this process. So I have to grieve it alone. You don't. So be thankful for it.

As I think I said in my Sept 2 post, you have to believe that if you got agent 99 interested, it's good enough to send to agent 100, and agent 101, etc. If you really believe agent 99 was your one and only hope, there was no point in pursuing this. I'm not minimizing the pain that goes with this kind of experience. But you will survive it.

And re-read my Sept 2 post. Don't ever get into a situation where you're pinning all your hopes on one person or one project.

Take heart. Hang in there...

Anonymous said...

it's one agent. who cares?
good luck on the biopsy. that can be stressful, I know from recent experience.

heynonnynonymous said...

Oh, it's muddled now? No joke. Could that be because 99 had some idea in her pea-brain about what your book should be, and so she got in there and started fucking with it, and got you to feeling like you had to fuck with it? These agents should leave it alone unless they have experience with editing--and even then. Take or leave it...no matchy-matchy with their fanciful ideas. She can write her own book. It enrages moi.

Cari Hislop said...

Agent 99 was a Beeeeep! What a freaking awful letter to get the same week you have to go in and deal with the medical-Gods for a cancer biopsy. I feel sick for you!!!

I second Heynonnynonymous. Rescue your original brainchild from Agent 99's evil machinations (I recommend a ceremonial burning of her mutilated version). Work on something else until you feel ready to pour all your angst into the novel and then go over it until you feel it's right. You are the story teller; you know if the story is right or not. "Use the Force Luke!" I hope you have the very last word with a best seller!!!

I'll be thinking healthy thoughts your way!!! As the other poster said, "May the cancer reject you!"

Anonymous said...

As an editor, I know well the joys of falling in love with a writer's work and the perils of messing with its fragile ecosystem in the process of making it a "better" book (or at least the book we interlopers dream it can/should be). Agent 99 has a sacred duty to recognize the harm that can be done when pulling apart a work without taking care (and taking whatever time is necessary, however long it takes) to put it back together whole. I only hope she stops congratulating herself on how she "helped" you long enough to recognize some of the damage her input caused--and that she doesn't continue to "help" other writers in the same way.

Here's to the indefatigable W,R battling all foes, human and otherwise.

Anonymous said...

W,R, nothing, but nothing, is more important than your health. As much as we crave that our books are out there, and heralded, and respected, they mean nothing unless we have our health. Concentrate right now on your physical and mental well-being, as your strength and fortitude will serve you and your book in your future endeavors for its rightful and eager publisher down the road. Your book will find its place. Have faith in it. I have been saying prayers for you for the past few days, that cancer may pass over your home. Everyone here, who has responded to your messages, (and you have many concerned friends) wish you only the best in the area of benign results. With Warmest Regards, CSE

Radek said...

someday!......ache!
i feel your pain!
do we ever win?

anonymous said...

Stop whining. This is life: rejection and cancer. Why should you be any different?

leanne said...

Agent 99 has only herself (himself?) to blame if she finds it muddled. She was the one who demanded change after change after change to make it fit her narrow editorial vision. Who's the writer here? You. Next time, stick to your guns.

I agree with the others about focusing on your health first and finding a new agent last. Agents come and go. You will find a new one down the road and when you do, just remember this lesson. That's really all you can do. Consider it as one big giant lesson. Hopefully you did get something valuable out her input and the focus group testing.

Also, I wouldn't discount self-publishing at this point. You've got the ultimate marketing platform right here. You know how many people would buy the book simply because it was written by the infamous WR? Big things are in your future! I'm rooting for you!

capsman! said...

anon@3:46pm

BECAUSE SHE'S TALENTED AND HARDWORKING?

CONSIDERING YOU ARE TRAWLING BLOGS ON A SATURDAY TO TOSS OFF OUTRAGEOUSLY INSENSITIVE COMMENTS, I SUSPECT YOUR COMMENT MIGHT BE MORE ABOUT YOU THAN HER.

THANK YOU BUT NO THANKS.

radek said...

so old school like this fool.

Editor H.O.D. to me
show details 3:01 PM (2 hours ago)
Dear Mr. Ozog:

Thanks for submitting to H.O.D. While I am unable to accept this poem
for publication, I thank you for the read. You have a nice poem here
that is hindered by a few misspellings/word choices which distract me
from having a satisfying read. In the future, send more than just a
single poem. It can give the editor more of a sense of your writing.
These mistakes may have been Meta and meant to be odd for the sake of
oddness, but as I only have one sample, it doesn't do either of us
justice.

Thanks again for submitting. Sorry for the delayed response.

hodeditor

Anonymous said...

I'm moving into music production instead of writing. non of your petty little words can heart me. :)

ps

while your bitter I can laught my @ss off! lol

and wipe IT with money i make of my keyboard FROM music sales.


thanks for reading!



so that and only because I'm tired of little magazines.

Anonymous said...

I think I know the agent's name. She's used some of these lines before.

Writer, Rejected said...

Give me initials. We'll talk.