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How many of you out there have written a query letter to an agent or publishing house only to be rejected?  I have done it more than once, and let me say this, “Queries are Hard!”

Nobody ever told me when I decided I wanted to become a writer that I’d have to be a salesperson too.  I figured that’s why you hired an agent.  The agent is your stand-in sales person.  They sell you to the publisher who then uses their marketing experts to sell you to the public.  Who would have guessed that you’d have to sell yourself.

So what, you may ask, is a writer to do?  Well, according to a favorite blog of mine by the staff at Bookends Literary Agency (http://bookendslitagency.blogspot.com/), the first step is to write a good query.  Not exactly an easy task.  I personally have written several, trashed them, and written more only to have them be rejected.  Now, the question is, is my query bad, or is my story bad.  Without feedback from an agent, how does one know?  Well, I’ll leave that to you – the reader.  Here is a query I have written for my book Jacob’s War.  Please comment and tell me what you, as the reader, think.

 

Dear [Insert Agent Here],

Jacob never truly experienced life until he graduated High School.

 

As a young boy, the untimely death of his parents left Jacob Lewis no choice but to move from his home in Los Angeles, California to live with his grandmother in a small town in northern Colorado.  His grandmother’s strict religious beliefs and hatred of the arts force Jacob to hide his passion for painting as well as his love and friendship with Jessica Stephens.  When Jessica is accepted into Art School, Jacob finds himself doing a little soul searching, that is until he discovers that his grandmother has enrolled him in Seminary School. 

 

Unwilling to waste his talents on someone else’s dream, Jacob decides he must find a way out.  He can follow in his father’s footsteps and join the US Army, or follow his heart and the love of his life into the unknown.  Jacob will discover that getting what you want isn’t always as easy as it sounds, and he will have to fight to remain true to himself.

 

Completed at approximately 68,000 words, Jacob’s War, is a contemporary women’s fiction piece that fits in with other books such as those written by Nicholas Sparks, but with a darker side that will leave the reader on the edge of their seat. 

 

Jacob’s War is a great story for anyone who is leaving home for the first time and venturing forth on their own; or anyone who remembers the hardships associated with finding your place in the world.  As a former student of the arts, and a native to the state of Colorado, I have had the privilege of seeing first hand the struggles that Jacob faces.  The increased interest in the art culture as well as the current battle between religion and society makes Jacob’s War a surefire hit.

 

If you are interested in reading Jacob’s War, I will be happy to forward it to you.  Thank you for your time, and I look forward to your response.

 

Sincerely,
Jennifer Harrison

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After writing Remembering Jane, I wanted to get it published.  After all, isn’t that the point of writing – to get published so others can read your amazing work?  I didn’t know what the best route was, so I contacted Random House.  Within a day or two, they had replied to my inquiries with a simple suggestion.  Check out the Writers Market. 

I had absolutely no idea what they were talking about, so I did the obvious thing.  I googled it.  A long drive downtown and fourty five dollars later, I had myself a shiny new copy of The Writers Market – an awesome book.  I flipped through it, not even sure where to begin.  This single book contained everything I needed in order to get myself published (or so I thought).  I went first to the lists of publishers out there and immediately began jotting down their requirements.

I bought a roll of stamps and some of those giant yellow envelopes and began sending off queries and sample chapters.  I marked my calendar with the dates I expected to have responses by, and sat back anxiously awaiting what I knew for sure would be success. 

A few weeks passed, and I received that first rejection letter.  Okay, that stung a little, but everyone gets rejected at least once.  Even Stephen King wasn’t immune to the “No Thanks” from a publisher or two. 

Then I received another and then another “No.”  All in the form of a standard “Form Rejection Letter.”  Clearly I had done something wrong.  Not all publishers could say “No” to a surefire success. 

I pulled up my book and read through it.  Wow, it was amazing how after only a few months, I had forgotten a lot of what I had written, and what’s worse, it wasn’t written all that well.   Sure, it was still a good story, but there were so many things that could be better.

So now what, I asked myself.  What do you do when you receive countless “No’s” from publishers regarding something you poured your heart into?  You keep on trying.  I’m not sure if that’s the right answer or not – but it was for me. 

I had moved onto another story, trying to keep my nerves from taking over me as I awaited the remaining rejections from publishers that I knew were coming.  I decided now was the time to focus on something different and I could go back and work on “Jane” again in the future.  The time away would gain me some perspective. 

After a year away from “Jane,” I think I’m ready to go back.  As I read through it now, I find it even worse than I had a year ago.  I guess that means my writing is getting better.  It’s true what they say, practice makes perfect, and with each new story I write, I find my skills a little more sharp, a little more intact. 

I saved each of the rejection letters I received in my attempt to publish Remembering Jane.  They serve as a reminder that even though my friends and family may tell me my story belongs on a shelf in the book store, there are many out there – the many who hold all the cards – and they have a very different opinion.  One much more critical and hard to stomach.

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