the last rejection letter...

Just thought I'd post about the last rejection letter I received the other day. It was last for two reasons, firstly  it was the most recent of many many rejection letters I have been collecting for my query and so it is last in the way we say "last week" or 'last year", but the celebrated reason it was last is that after I signed my contract the other day, it is the last one I will ever get.... for this book at least... 

But this post isn't about gloating (although I couldn't help myself and sent back an email (not suposed to do this btw) to the agent thanking her for her time, and informing her to keep a look out for my book in stores this christmas.) What I really wanted to write about was how everyone thinks the world of books is changing; that soon we'll all be reading everything on the latest micropod ebookupload link subscription device, self published from amaztunes or whatever. 

I think change is a commin', but what I don't believe is that we are all going to burn our books and start reading each others self published masterpieces of un-spelchecked drafts online. What will change, if the music industry can really teach us anything, is that there will be less and less need for middlemen.

Producers will always be necessary to the creative process, and as I'm finding now, an editor is to a manuscript what an education is to a child. Sure you can home school, and for a while the kids might be alright - but eventually they'll either start finding their cousins too attractive or discover the release of self harm and moonshine. 

Agents, on the other hand, really don't fit into the model. Its not that I want these fine gatekeepers of literature to be unemployed -- like everything in the new marketplace -- they will simply have to re-structure their position. Why? because I believe publishing houses need to change their lockdown approach to unsolicited manuscripts, and to deal with the flood that will follow they will need to employ all those lost agents as slush pile editors -- a job most argue they perform already.

 It seems almost like I'm just re-drawing the line in the sand, but the fact is at the moment, there is a strange guessing game that seems to take place between an agent and the marketplace. They claim to know what publishers want, and most probably do, but the big question is do publishers really know what the market wants until they try it? A strange thing happens when one group of people make assumptions about another group of people's desires... kinda like chinese whispers (racist much?) The message is both corrupted and in a strange way strengthened by the signal loss, so that a mild assumption on the part of the agent about a publisher's knowledge  gets turned into some hard and fast rule of acquisition and rejection.

If the success of self publishing teaches us anything, it is that the market can move in all kinds of directions agents and publishers can neither control or predict. Like I said, self publishing will never be the way to great literature (unless maybe some of those now out-of-job agents turn to free lance editing) but the current model of write a manuscript, hope an agent likes you, and then hope they can sell it to someone else who will then sell it to the world, doesn't seem to make much sense.

As for me, I think the true change will occur with independent labels, the smaller press who chase the long tail of the market, specializing not in mass audience crowd pleasers, but in specific genres and styles that in todays shrinking world can still keep everyone fed and in a job. These indie labels have the double benefit of being able to survive with a smaller turnover, but also in todays landscape, if they do find they have a hit on their hands through word of mouth and online marketing, then scaling up their production isn't as hard as once it was.

So sorry agents, your days are numbered. I know three other writers through friends of friends. One, like myself has no agent and is getting published this year having signed with a house directly, the other, who has had one of the best agencies representing her work for nearly 2 years, still hasn't got a deal.

The world is changing, and the good news is people still love to read, but writers don't need to live by ponds to write, and editors don't need an agent in new york filtering what is in or out this season.

Okay, that was longer than I thought it would be.

Next post: Oh shit! I now have a contractually agreed deadline.


"I have never let my schooling interfere with my education." - Mark Twain


  1. You are too funny. If change is coming, then bring it on. I'm game for the ride, and can't wait till the day when I can burn my rejection letters in a bonfire...^-^...

  2. I see what you did there... spell checking getting past the spell checker. Is that irony?


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