Category: Undertow comments

Four to eight

Four to eight weeks is how long a literary agent will take to get back to you on your submission – and no, that’s not a joke. Think about it. Two months. Can you imagine if someone called you with a project, or an employer for a job interview and you replied “Y’know, I just can’t get back to you for a month or two.”

Well we all know that they wouldn’t be calling you back. But that is exactly the boat first time authors are in. And here’s the kicker – we have to pay the agents who ignore us 15%!


One of the most interesting characters in my novel UNDERTOW is named Eliot Brand, a private detective.  So I found it somewhat disconcerting that when I asked an agent who supposedly just “read” my entire manuscript what their impression of him was – they answered “Who?”

I kid you not.

I have discovered something. Everywhere a writer turns they are told how important their query letter is. Be sure to do this, and don’t do that. Ten golden rules of what NOT to say in a query, on and on it goes.

But that is supposing that queries will be read at all – especially the ones sent via email.

I have no way of proving it, but I have sneaking suspicion that as soon as the agent, or their assistant see the word “query” in the subject line – they send back a rejection.

There simply is no other way to explain it.

If life’s lessons could be reduced to single sentences, there would be no need for fiction.
Scott Turow

A rejection of a story is not a rejection of the writer. It is no crime to be rejected or even a sin. Editors do not hate a writer when they reject a manuscript and do not therefore plot the writer’s destruction. Isaac Asimov

What writer doesn’t know the scene of fetching his or her precious story from the mailbox and then brooding over the rejection slip, analyzing it with a heightened sense of meaning…. Janet Fitch

John Grisham’s first novel, A Time to Kill, was declined by fifteen publishers and some thirty agents. His novels have more than 60 million copies in print.

Oh burn – can you imagine being one of the agents who blew him off? Wow they certainly got that one wrong.

I have literally sent out 75 email queries and have gotten back exactly two addressed to me personally. All the others have been form emails like – “Dear Author” “Dear Writer” or, if you cane believe it, no salutation at all.

I know that agents assistant’s play an important role and all, but when was the last time an assistant signed a major author or best-selling title? I’m thinking — probably never. So why are they screening the submissions? I’d love to get a peek at the agents cheat list for their assistant’s. I imagine the list might read something like this:

1 is  it compelling

2 typos automatically make it dead

3 is the title interesting

4 and the best of all, do you like it

5 or even better yet – do you think I’d like it

WHAT a business.

Contacted an agent by phone in New York who loved the title and description. She asked me to send her the send the first three chapters. And what do I get for feedback?

A 4 x 4 inch slip of paper, poorly copied that said blah, blah, blah – as a reject.

Talk about no respect.

So the book I’ve written UNDERTOW is now being shipped around the country like an orphan child looking for a home. The book took three years to write, and simply put, was hardest thing I’ve ever done – and that includes graduating from RISD. The ending itself stalled the entire process for six months, until luckily it came to me in a dream.

I plan on posting the entire process of how difficult it is to get a book published. It’s not pretty, but it’s real. Not sure if I should use real names of all agents, firms, editors or not, but we’ll get back to that later.