The Purgatory of Submission

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Paul Whybrow

Full Member
Jun 20, 2015
Cornwall, UK
This heartfelt article describes what many of us know is involved in querying literary agents:

Is Anybody Out There? One Writer on the Purgatory of Submission - The Millions

If you're just starting out as a writer, yet to jump through an agent's submission hoop, then what Glen Cadigan describes will give you a good idea of what to expect when you've completed your precious story.

I just received my 40th 'No' from 88 queries made in February, which brings my total of rejections up to 677 since 2013. I'm not upset by this, forging ahead with my plans to return to self-publishing, which, at the moment means adding posts to my Paul Pens blog in anticipation of it going live next week. To me, rejections are like flies splattering themselves on my windscreen as I drive onwards.

I found Glen Cadigan's article on the excellent Writers' Services newsletter, that also featured an article from Jane Friedman who does a question and answer session with two literary agents, that's worth reading and contrasting with the reality that Glen Cadigan describes.

Beyond Good Writing: Two Literary Agents Discuss What Matters Most | Jane Friedman

Before I started reading it, I predicted that both agents would stress the importance of good quality writing, which is what they always say, and that I've described here in an old post as the biggest fallacy about publishing.

The idea that your manuscript will rise to the top of the slush pile, glowing like an irresistible gold ingot because it's well-written is nonsense. It certainly helps, for writing has to be coherent, at the very least, but from seeing what does get published to become best-selling, I reckon that it's the concept of a story, something unusual, intriguing and exciting that can be marketed, which motivates agents and publishers to get behind a book.

I just got a rejection that said "[agent x] and her team really enjoyed reading your work but it fell a bit outside of what she's looking to take on at the moment, and she doesn't feel best-placed to sell your work to publishers in the way it deserves".

...but I'm now so jaded by the whole process that I can't even take this as a positive message. Indeed, I've started to fear this is probably just a particularly 'soft' form rejection.

Why are we all doing this to ourselves?!?
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