Thank you for giving me the opportunity to review a portion of your manuscript, Reconstructing Jada Channing. I apologize for the long delay, but I’ve been simply overwhelmed with submissions all year. After careful consideration, I don’t feel this is a project I can take on at this time.
As I conduct a legal practice in addition to my work as an agent, I am forced to be very selective in both the number and kinds of literary projects that I take on to represent. Although I am eagerly looking for quality commercial fiction, I ultimately concluded that your writing was not strong enough to make this a clearly marketable project. The beginning is slow and the references to the cultural race ethnic gap became redundant. However, you should certainly not interpret my decision as the final negative assessment of your manuscript. As you know, this is a most subjective business and most agents, I believe, take on only those projects that they personally feel strongly about and most confident of selling. Other agents may well assess your manuscript differently.
[Deleted Paragraph to Protect Name of Agency]
I wish you the best in finding strong representation for your work, and thank you again for giving me the opportunity to consider this project.
My immediate thought was, "If she thought it was redundant in this one, she would've hated Being Plumville." I swear to my mama, that was my first thought. My second thought was redundant? Where? Granted, in the first chapter I can see how one would think that, but given Jada had JUST done something she'd been told ALL HER LIFE not to do, I would think you'd have the act and subsequent repercussions of it on loop, no? I actually scanned the first three chapters, and after the first one, there really isn't anything "redundant" about the racial/cultural/ethnic gap other than IT EXISTS and it is something the characters have to mitigate as they move along in the story. I would like to think it wasn't sloppily thrown in there, or that there were outside forces other than those "pesky" gaps, but seriously, that is life, and more importantly, the characters' life. If an agent can't handle that, then I'd rather him/her not represent my book, either.
My third thought was, "what does 'clearly marketable' mean?" To which the follow-up to that was, "which market is she talking about?" And then we go into the whole "black authors pigeon-holed" arena and my head starts to hurt.
Finally, I was wounded. Not gonna lie. It's a major blow to my ego, especially when my readers for the thesis at university had given it strong comments. Now, I don't expect for everyone to like my writing or my stories, but for her to say my writing wasn't strong enough . . . I'm just going to have to respectfully disagree. Do I think I'm the best writer out there? No. But I've seen books published that make me scratch my head, and I think my work can AT LEAST hold up to those.
This rejection makes me even more confident I did the right thing with Being Plumville in self-publishing that. If people can't handle RJC, then Being Plumville was really a lost cause. And what about my so very neglected The Blueprint, which is the prequel to RJC? I just . . . I don't know. I'm really at a loss. What does this mean for a black writer looking for an agent, especially for IR, or even novels that mention race in a real and honest way in 2007 and not in 1907 or some earlier time when it's more palatable. Yes, the agent to whom I submitted the story was white, but I have discussions with fellow black authors who don't like race-driven romances either. Yes, race is a factor in RJC, but it isn't THE factor, at least I don't think it is. Maybe I'm too close to it, and this is my baby. Blood, sweat, tears, mini-breakdowns, stress . . . that's all in this novel, and I'm proud of the final product. Even as I'm re-reading it yet again to proof it yet again, I just think, for me, this would be something I would buy had someone else written it.
Or maybe, the agents are on to something and I just don't want to admit it to myself. After all, I'm the newbie here. They have a better feel for the market than I do (oh, we go back to that whole "who is the market for black folk" thing). Mainstream=white, we all know that. But I don't see why mainstream wouldn't want to read the story. The professors who read my thesis was a white man and a Japanese woman, and they liked it. So . . .
"Not strong enough" that one really pisses me off. Yeah, dammit, I'm going to toot my own horn and say my writing is strong enough! Can it be stronger? Of course, but I don't think it's weak. And trust, I have folk who will GLADLY tell me I suck on the regular. And, "as the final negative assessment of your manuscript"? Does she plan on me getting more negative feedback? I mean, I'm sure I will, that left a sour taste in my mouth, even with the "disclaimer" that others may see differently.
So far they haven't. Boo to them.
I don't know. I'm upset, but more, I guess, because it seems there is little willingness to take on projects that make people uncomfortable. Both RJC and BP are not comfortable novels, and perhaps my problem is I'm trying to pub them as romances and they just aren't. Maybe they're just novels that have a love story, but how does one market that?
Eh, well, at least I finally got an answer. And she did say more about why she wasn't accepting my work than the standard rejection form, so I'm grateful for that. And she is one in an ever-growing list of agents who say "thanks, but no thanks" but I'm waiting for that agent who says, "Eh. Why not? Let's give it a go." I'm standing by my personal promise NOT to self-publish this one. Even if it takes thirty years, I'm going to try to go the traditional route with this one.
*claps hands* Onto the next would-be agent!