Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Rejection Game

I have a new agent. The who and the what and the how and the why are issues for another blog. For today, what matters is that my new agent asked for copies of my most recent contracts.

"That way," she said, "when you get a new contract, I can compare them."

The contract for the button mystery series that will premier in September? I had it at my fingertips. My last contract for books in the Pepper Martin series? Not so much. That contract is a few years old and obviously, I’d kept it.

If only I knew where!

What resulted was a search through my filing cabinet (tucked away in a closet, which tells you how often I use it), and while I was doing that, I figured I might as well clean things out and get rid of the paper that’s been piling up around here for the almost twenty years since my first book was published.

Get rid of papers, I did. All those letters from editorial assistants that said things like, "Enclosed are your page proofs." All those little hand-written notes I’d jotted down at libraries and museums. Things like "Bustles first worn in 1869." Not only am I not writing historicals at the moment, but these days if I need that kind of research, there’s always the Internet.

I found plenty of rejection letters, too. But one in particular stood out. It’s addressed to a former agent and dated 1997. It’s from an editor at a major publishing house, and since I don’t know if she’s still there/still editing/still alive, I won’t name names. I will tell you that the letter starts off like this:

Dear insert name of agent here:

Thanks so much for submitting the proposal for insert the name of my proposal here–and forgive my taking almost a year to respond.

Almost a year! Really? One look at that old letter brought what is sometimes the madness of publishing crashing down on me. Almost a year. And I want to ask that maybe-long-gone editor, "Do you think this is a hobby? That I don’t have bills to pay and (at the time, anyway) kids to put through college? Do you really think it’s polite–not to mention good business–to sit on a published writer’s proposal for almost a year?"

Of course, me complaining about what’s long since happened isn’t going to change anything. Publishing is publishing and sometimes, the wheels grind slowly. I can say I got a chuckle out of the rest of the rejection, though. At that point, I’d already published 7 YA horror books and this was a proposal for another trilogy. The editor’s reason for rejecting it?

"I’m not interested in acquiring original YA horror, because I feel the market is pretty much saturated."

Maybe next time, this particular editor should wait more than just a year to respond. Then she could have seen Harry Potter and Twilight take over the industry by a storm–and I might have sold that proposal after all!


Sharon said...

wow, I bet it was kind of fun to go through all that stuff. Reminds you of where you've been and where you are now :)

I hope congrats are in order for the agent switch.

Casey said...

Thanks for the congrats on the new agent, Sharon. Yes, it is a very good thing!