“Thanks so much for your query.” The response came one hour after I sent it. This agent was a backup. I queried ten. Five who publish gay and lesbian fiction and five who publish new authors. “Unfortunately, though, I don’t believe I’d be the right agent for your work.” Polite. To the point. Unemotional. Still painful. It’s my third rejection for my novel. My first novel titled the Taste of Scars.
The day I finished my novel I created a vision board in my head. It’s not really a vision board if it’s in your head. I didn’t have time or the resources to go out and buy an actual board. In The Secret, the author suggests that the key to getting anything that you want is to imagine it, write it down, and have a visual representation of it. I thought if I imagined securing a literary agent I’d have a literary agent within a month.
The query process wasn’t what I expected it to be.
I queried a literary agent at Writer’s House a year ago. My best friend who is a writer and actor suggested I get a literary agent. I had planned to submit my book to a publisher. I didn’t know literary agents existed. I didn’t know how to go about getting a literary agent. I googled literary agent and found an article on how to write a query letter.
I absorbed and wrote a catchy attention grabber. Hardcore rapper 50 Cent meets Zane and realizes he’s gay.
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My full query letter:
Hardcore rapper 50 Cent meets Zane and realizes he’s gay
Xitonce (pronounced existence), my novel, is an urban story about a young African American male caught in a love triangle with a man who suffers from panic attacks and a politician on the down low running for public office. From their story, a gripping story unfolds from a love letter that catapults the reader through an unforgettable tale of Detroit’s Black upper class community, homophobia in Peru, faking a marriage to gain citizenship, and two detectives trying to find a sadistic killer.
Like all urban novels Xitonce includes personal reflection, sex, crime, and revenge. However it veers from other works such that five very different characters reveal through their own stories how there are no coincidences in life but a single line of events that connect people.
Xitonce is one of few down low fiction works that is literary first, where many down low books falter and written to appeal to the mainstream literary audience. The result is a roller coaster showing how emotions can lead people to the lower depths of society.
As a young writer, I am looking for an experienced agent and I am thoroughly impressed with your agency.
The novel is 48,338 and fully complete. I am sending you the first five pages of Xitonce as stated in your submission guidelines
I thank you for your time and consideration.
P.S. Xitonce is marketable to today’s gay African American audience, the African American audience that craves information on the down low (since the success of On the Down Low and Coming Up from the Down Low by J.L. King and Beyond the Down Low by Keith Boykin), and the non-African American gay audience.
Writing it I felt like an excellent query letter. Like whoever read it would sign me immediately. I know see its faults now. The attention grabber wasn’t an attention grabber. The first sentence has “novel,” “urban story,” “young male,” and “caught in a love triangle.” Those words lack detail and the punch needed to get an agent’s attention. I wasn’t selling my product. And if I can’t sell my product how can an agent sell it.
I stared at my computer for about ten minutes. “Thanks. But I’m afraid this isn’t right for me. By the way, the manuscript looks too short. Most novels should be closer to 70,000 words at least.” The by the way was what killed me. It felt like he was telling me to rethink my novel and sign up for creative writing 101. It was the best advice. Honestly, I can say when I started writing my book I knew nothing about writing. The sample chapter that I sent him was not well written or thought out. It took me a week to figure that out. At the time, I had about fifteen chapters and 40,000 words. A year later I have forty chapters and close to 90,000 words.
This time around. My query was a lot more polished. With this rejection I feel more confident. I’m four more rejection letters from getting an agent.