Tag Archives: Kristin Nelson

the rejection book

hey, sorry to be stuck on a kind of depressing subject, but I got another rejection letter yesterday (right after that last post. Honestly!) and it had to be dealt with.

And besides, this post is all about positivity!

See, getting the letter was really quite depressing, so of course I found myself in my favourite bookshop trying to make it all better by buying books, lovely books. And then I thought:

This is going to keep happening over and over throughout my career, and I can’t just fall apart each time! I need some effective way to deal with it.

So I bought myself a notebook and started a Rejection Journal! And it immediately made me feel better. This is what it looks like:

It may sound a bit defeatist, but the whole point is to acknowledge rejection. (And it makes rejection look fun!) (Sort of.)

My feedback for Kristin Nelson Agency. (I printed the email and put it in an envelope, so that it’s really like a letter.)

Feedback for Suzie Townsend of Fine Print Literary Management. (This one was fresher, so there was more to say/rant.)

And these two are still possibilities/disappointments in the making.

I love my rejection book, because it puts each attempt in context, and it makes it feel more professional – like getting rejected is part of a process that I document.

rejection is hard

So. I started this blog by recounting a certain mini-life/writing-breakdown I had. The instigator of said breakdown was a lovely, encouraging letter I got from Kristin Nelson saying she didn’t think my manuscript was right for their agency. My reactions were:

a) brilliant! I have a real life rejection letter, ergo I am a real life writer!!!; and

b) it’s quite disappointing I suppose, but they were very positive, and if I’m not for them, then they’re probably not for me either.

Then there was the reaction that worked on my subconscious like a deep, sucking tide, which was:

c) here lie the dark pits of abject despair (or: Oh dear, I’m never going to be published).

I have since dragged myself back up, and recognised that although it’s important to be positive about rejection, it’s also important to acknowledge disappointment.

So I’m back on the horse, working my way through words and structures and plot and characters. Then today I get back 2,000 words that my lovely tutor Sonia Orchard had marked up.

If you’ve ever had a piece marked up by a pro, you know how confronting that is. All the “I don’t know what you mean”, “the gap between his eyes, or her lips?” and “I’m completely confused about the seating arrangement”s.

It’s not that she was harsh or unfair – and that’s kinda the problem. It’s that most of what she said makes sense to me, and it’s so incredibly exhausting looking at this writing I’ve already spent hours on, knowing that it’s only just an outline really, considering all the rewriting I have to do.

(Look at that long, convoluted sentence! No wonder she accused me of overwriting!)

So. What I’m saying is this:

We all know writing and becoming a writer is really, really hard. But that is a completely different thing to it actually being hard – to this feeling right now that everything I’m working for just might be impossible. And maybe I should make my way to the closest bank branch and fill out an application form.

Like any act of faith, perseverance is most difficult right when it’s most necessary.


how to write a query letter

First: what is a query letter?

It’s the short letter/email you send to either agents or editors to see whether they would be interested in seeing your manuscript. Some agents/editors will ask for a certain amount of chapters with the query, but they will outline this very clearly on their website.

Which leads me to the first piece of advice: Read every agent/editor’s guidelines carefully and make sure you follow them exactly. These are busy people, and they ask for things a certain way for a reason.

Now you may be wondering why you should listen to advice from a random blogger like me – good question!

I spent months researching query letters before sending a whole lot of them out. Every agent I’ve heard back from so far has requested pages, which means that, totally separate to my manuscript, my query letters are doing exactly what they’re meant to. So take it or leave it, this is what i’ve learnt:

A query letter should be no more than a page long (they sometimes say 1-2 pages, but trust me, they mean 1 page) and should roughly follow this format:

intro – begin by telling them why you’re querying them specifically. They like to know you’ve done your research and that you haven’t just randomly picked them. (And hey, a little flattery never goes amiss!) Also state the title of your book, its genre and word-count (to the nearest thousand). Ask for representation. You can briefly go into why you think your book would work well on their list etc, but definitely be straight-forward here about what you want. Like I said, these people are busy.

hook line – this is where you need to sum up your book in one line…I know, easy peasy! This will probably take you a while, but it’s very important to have this one line that intrigues them. Mine was: “The most awkward possible place for a duke to meet the love of his life is in her bed…when he’s in hiding dressed as a woman.” It doesn’t tell you any plot specifics but it gives a good idea of what drives it.

blurb – don’t give a synopsis of your novel here. You want to write a one paragraph blurb of your novel, just like what you’d find on the back of a book. If the blurb would make you want to read that novel, it’ll make the agent/editor feel the same. I had a lot of trouble with this part and what I found really helpful was to read lots of romance novel blurbs until I had a good feeling for the tone/construction of them. Do the same with whatever genre your book falls into. Keep rewriting/reading aloud/showing to friends until you’re happy with it.

bio – introduce yourself here, but don’t waffle on. They want to know anything that relates to writing, eg. any previous works published, degrees in writing, other experience. If you’ve never been published just be up front without making a big deal about it or in any way belittling yourself. This is very important. They’re looking for a professional, positive attitude. Show that you know a bit about the market, eg. which books are similar to yours, which publishers you’re interested in. (Not necessarily essential, but shows you’ve done your research.)

sign off – make sure you thank them for taking the time to read your submission!

I was very glad in the end that I worked on my query for a couple of months, because I knew I had made it as good as I was able. Having said that, it’s so important to actually send your queries off! Agents/publishers are looking for potential, not a perfectly polished letter.

And this sounds a bit obvious, but I think we sometimes forget that good writing sells itself. Motivation and perseverance are a huge part of becoming successful as a writer, as is the ability to manoeuvre bureaucracy (such as writing a perfect query!). But if good writing lands on an agent/editor’s desk, they are going to be interested. It’s what their work is all about.

So go for it! Get your work out there, get people looking at it and giving you feedback on it. For me, finding out about query letters was a revelation – it was the leg-up into the murky world of publishing. I could never imagine, before, how I could possibly go from little old me writing away at home, to published-author me. Well, this is how.

Literary agent Kristin Nelson has an excellent section on her website about writing query letters, with a link to her blog discussion looking at specific query letters she was impressed by. I highly recommend visiting it!

the Soulless review

it’s harder to write a gushy review than a sceptical one, so let’s see how I go with it…

First: I read this book because so many people had told me to read it and Gail Carriger‘s agent is Kristin Nelson, who I wanted for an agent (more on that later). Then once I saw the book covers, there was no way I wasn’t going to read them. So brill!

(On that note, here’s a cool video that design geeks will enjoy, that will also give you a snippet of an idea of the world of The Parasol Protectorate. (Come on! Just the name is enough to make you wanna read it, right?)


Second: “Alexia tried to explain that the vampire’s supposed inability to enter private residences uninvited was a myth based upon their collective obsession with proper social etiquette, but her mother refused to believe her.”

I think the book speaks for itself.

The world is Victorian England. But also steampunk. And it also has vampires and werewolves.

Alexia is vulnerable and headstrong and impeccably polite in all the right ways and the very best thing about her is that she’s a force to be reckoned with without also being incredibly annoying – which so many strong-willed heroines are, I find. Which is sad, because then I end up almost siding with the society that’s trying to put them back in their place. Not Alexia, though! She doesn’t waste time on people who disapprove of her.

There are mad scientists, a delicious werewolf-Scot, a ditsy best friend and an airhead family. I particularly loved Lord Akeldama, who’s her übercamp vampire friend. His outfits are ridiculous and brilliant, he knows absolutely everything, surrounds himself with lovely, pretty boys and I don’t think he ever calls her by the same endearment twice.

In the extras at the back of the book, Carriger sites P.G. Wodehouse and Jane Austen as two of her literary influences. The mixture of these two styles gives a pretty accurate idea of her writing. Not to suggests it’s not unique, because I think she has a very strong voice all of her own.

But it’s definitely got a lighter, more satirical touch than any other romance novel I’ve read, showing the influence of Wodehouse, “The performing flea of the English language.”

At first I found myself slightly excluded as a reader by the style, but overall I think it serves her universe. The approach is so no-nonsense, that you end up taking it all as a given.

Erm…oh yes! I promised gushing.

I loved it! It is so much fun to read, very page-turny (which reminds me – it’s chockers with brilliant, invented words) and the characters are a riot to hang out with. (Did I just use the word riot?)

And the hero has very pretty eyes indeed.

I recommend you do yourselves a favour and get your hands on a copy.

read my review of Blameless here