i recently received rejection letters from an old and respected literary agency in california. i had queried a two-person team i met at a writer's conference about my novel, and the first person wrote me a personalized letter that seemed to speak for both people in the team, saying they enjoyed meeting me very much, but that my current manuscript was not right for them at this time.
later i got a letter from the other member of the team, and this one was handwritten. it was very warm, and complimented my writing, my pacing, style, etc. etc. etc. the agent said she had thought about my manuscript long and hard, but in the end had decided she couldn't represent it with the enthusiasm it deserved. she also said she wanted to make a point of telling me not to give up and that she thought my manuscript would find representation.
i have gotten several rejections from other agents, and i am beginning to wonder if it might not be because of my story rather than my writing.
i have become aware that my manuscript will be difficult to place (it treats subjects that, for example, you have listed in a recent post as ones that would receive automatic rejections from you no matter how stellar the writing, and would also likely receive rejections from other agents), but i wonder, miss snark: should i keep plugging at agents with this manuscript, or do you think perhaps i should focus my efforts on completing my new novel, which is also fiction but doesn't treat controversial or difficult subjects? do you think i should shelve the first manuscript and figure that it might be easier to get it published once i've got at least one other novel publication, especially if the second novel, once published, finds a reading public?
i am trying very hard to feel encouraged rather than discouraged, but the mixed reactions i am getting to this first novel has me a bit confused about what is the problem and also seems to be interfering with my progress on this next novel. i would greatly appreciate your perspective about my situation.
Generally I'm the one saying "don't stop till you get 100 rejections" but you may be better served by shelving this one and working on something less difficult to place. Anyone getting handwritten notes, let alone letters from BOTH agents at an agency isn't getting rejected cause the writing sux.
It's much easier to publish a difficult novel when you've got a good track record. And even if you get something published by a large house that wouldn't do this book, it's easier to get a smaller less risk averse publisher to do this if you can show them good sales from book #1.
And for sure you want to query agents who handle edgier stuff.
I really never like to say give up though so make sure you read this as "change direction" not "stop".