A look at the differences between Fantasy and Dark Fantasy and why one author found themselves getting rejected by every agent they encountered. | Rejected by Agents? Could Be You Don't Know Your Genre | Writing Dark Fantasy
>>I've been writing for over ten years, I've written five novels, have a Creative Writing degree, and now work freelance making a stable income as a copy editor. Getting glowing rejections from agents on my latest book, but no bites. Don't know what I'm doing wrong. I feel like quitting. Also, I live in a country that doesn't have hundreds of literary agents like the US (more like 50-60). I've started querying overseas though.
Random question, but why are you not trying to get your first 5 novels published?
Focusing only on 1 book, when you've got 5 more on the back burner seems a bit unproductive to me. You should be querying all of your books (different query for each book, not all 5 books in 1 query.)
Most writers struggle to get one book at a time out on the market, and here you are with five more sitting around collecting dust? Get all of your novels out there doing the rounds. You never know which one it'll be that agents snap up. Could be the one you least expect.
Finding an agent is never an easy road.
>>My fourth book was the first one I felt was decent enough to approach agents with (I'd been writing for ten years at that point, and learning how to submit), but I didn't expect much, obviously, especially because it was fantasy. I got 45 rejections, and none of them were personal. All form. I'd pretty much exhausted all the agents in my country with an interest in my genre.
Can I point out a line here...
A few things.
One the attitude.
Why are you so passive aggressive AGAINST the Fantasy genre?
That was my first thought when I read this line...
This sentance stood out because it clearly tells me you have an additutde against Fantasy.
Yet you are writing Fantasy?
Wait... you are writing a genre, that you clearly have bitter venom of hatred for? Why?
Why do I see this line as you not liking Fantasy?
Let's dissect what you said..
Can you see it yet?
Wait... why is it obvious?
Why did you not expect much? I thought you said your book was good. Why are you not bubbling over, giddy with excitement. You should be bouncing around like a golden retriever puppy, doing the yippy skippy of: "Oh boy I wrote a book! Isn't it wonderful? Yay!"
And instead you are: "Oh, ho hum. So what. I wrote a book. Big fucking deal. I don't expect much to come of it."
Well, with THAT attitude about it, nothing will ever come of your book, no.
Wait... why is it obvious?
Is your book that shitty a peice of crap? If so, why bother sending it out at all? You KNOW it's obviously not good enough to be published... so why did you bother sending it out?
Think about it.
You OBVIOUSLY, don't think your book is worth publishing, other wise you would not have pointed out that it was OBVIOUS.
Meaning what exactly?
It's so obvious that you think Fantasy is a crappy genre that is obviously not worth publishing, especially, because, you know, it's just Fantasy and all, not like it was anything important or nothing, so obviously I can't expect much of a stupid, dumb, junk genre like Fantasy.
If it is so obvious to you that a genre like Fantasy is not worth publishing, then why did you bother forcing yourself to degrade yourself by writing a genre that is so especially obviously not worth expecting much from?
YOU are a writer. Someone who makes a career out of choosing their words cxarefully to convey meaning.
Perhaps you should spend some time, dissecting the meaning of the words you use while referencing Fantasy? It rather illuminating really, the amount of bitter words and sarcastic belittling you use every time you say the word Fantasy in a sentance.
I'm wondering why someone who does this, has choosen to write Fantasy?
Please tell me you didn't have this same chip on your shoulder, attitude in your query letters as well, because if you did, that would explain the trouble you are having.
Even if an agent loves your book and thinks they can sell it, she's gonna reject an author who acts unprofessional.
Acting like a professional businessperson when dealing with other professional business people, will sell you far more books, then the best polished manuscript well.
Agents are pretty good at reading a person's personality, just by reading a few lines in a cover letter. They can tell your level of maturity, your level of snark and bitchiness, and whether or not you have the right personality o work with them, just from reading the 4 or 5 sentences you write in the cover letter. They don't have to read your manuscript to know whether or not they want to work with a person like you.
Your post here is coming off as very immature, snarky, and unprofessional. Maybe it's just your frustration showing through your words, but, you definitely are pitching a very emo "I hate everything therefore I must be a writer, because only emos write books" type of vibe... and in my experience that kind of a personality is always going to result in agents rejecting you no matter how good the book is.
So, first bit of advice I have for you is: try getting a positive attitude about the genre you write. No agent wants to work with an author who is not excited about their own genre.
An agent who works in the Fantasy genre is bubbling over with excitement, for the Fantasy genre. No one loves Fantasy more then she does. And nothing will offend her quicker then the author who writes Fantasy while saying:
"Obviously, this isn't worth publishing, because it's only Fantasy, but I wrote it anyways, so here it is."
Think about it.
Your attitude matters. It matters A LOT.
>>Anyway, I got 2 requests for the full manuscript as well. One of them was a friend referral, and this agent was very enthusiastic; she also reps a lot of big names, so I was floored. She read it, gave me some amazing comments, and asked me to revise and resubmit (!!), promising to take another look at the book when I was done. I spent 3 months revising based on her feedback and sent it back, as promised. It's been a year now. She never replied, even to polite nudges. I was crushed. The second agent who asked for the full has also never replied. I queried some more agents, but ultimately was too crushed to continue.
What do you call polite nudges?
At minimum don't "nudge" sooner then 3 months, thought 6 months is prefered, and NEVER more then 3 times TOTAL, and never less then 3 months between each "nudge".
Remember what I said about being professional? It applies here too.
A pushy, bossy, whiny, needy, or nagging author, is going to get rejected no matter what the agent thinks of the book.
Remember ANY book can be sold with the right salesman pushing it, but if the author is a bitch to work with, no agent in their right mind is going to bother with the book.
A shitty book by a sweet, pleasant, joy to work with author is going to get published much faster then the perfectly written gem by the bitchy, smug, kiss my ass or fuck off type author.
Perhaps you are "nudging" too much. Perhaps you are coming off as the whinny, needy, difficult personality to work with type.
If that's the case, then there is no polite way for the agent to tell you: "I love your book, but your personality sucks, I think I could sell your book, but I just don't think I could stand working with you for another minute let alone the next 5 years."
Thus, no replies.
It's not unheard of for an agent to lose your draft, find it 2 years later and contact you with: "So sorry, I lost your draft and just found it. I'm still interested in it, has it been picked up by anyone else yet?"
It's also possible she's had a medical emergency, family issues, a divorce, a death in the family, a sick elderly parent... these things happen to everyone, even agents, and job gets pushed aside in panic situations like this. Who knows... you may hear from her a year from now, still interested, along with a note about: "That shitty husband of mine ran off with some bimbo and disrupted my life, but I'm back and I'm still interested in your book."
Also, agents and editors frequently change publishing houses. If one editor or agent from that publisher was interested, perhaps a different one from that same publisher or agency will be too. Go ahead and send your query to other agents and editors in that same agency or publisher. Who knows... maybe she left the job and tossed all her work on the desk of a different agent, and maybe your draft is already sitting on their desk, but they having gotten to looking at it yet? You contacting them, could result in they pull your draft out of the stack to look at next.
The point is there are lots of reasons why they have not replied, and most of them probably have nothing to do with your book at all.
>>During this process, I also went to a writing conference. I pitched an editor and an agent. The editor gave me some advice, and shortly after my pitching session, I was getting a glass of water, and he was standing nearby talking to another editor. I heard them bad-mouthing my book right next to me. It was dark fantasy, and I'd been matched to editors based on the genre (the idea of the conference was to match people with agents/editors with similar interests). They were criticising my book for how dark it was, shaking their heads as they did so (neither of them had read it, they'd only listened to my very nervous pitch). That editor did offer a free critique of my synopsis during the pitch session, though, so although I went home almost in tears, I thought I'd take up his offer and send my synopsis. He never replied.
Didn't you say back there you were writing Fantasy?
Wait... confusion time...
Yes, a genre can be BOTH Fantasy and dark Fantasy, but that's pretty unusual and rarely done, and if you have done it, there are no publishers publishing it, and you'll have to self publish. No way around it - Dark Fantasy with magic, dragons, wizards, and Elves is a genre that exists ONLY in the self publishing industry.
The Quaraun series I write, is Dark High Fantasy.
High Fantasy with Dark Fantasy, in Yaoi. When sold in mainstream book publishers, booksellers shelve Quaraun with Dark Fantasy, along side Stephen King and Edgar Allan Poe, because of the bloody, gory, grisly, gut churning, vomit inducing, graphic horror scenes that permeate the books.
So, what exactly are you writing here?
Both in one?
Do you even know what genre you wrote?
If you've got a Fantasy/Dark Fantasy cross over, then you are just torturing yourself looking for an agent. No publisher publishes that. It has to be self published.
But... they read it and said it was "dark"... do they mean as in disturbing? Psychological terror type of dark? If so, you have written Dark Fantasy, a type of Horror and are pitching your book to the wrong agents.
Do you read Fantasy?
Do you read Dark Fantasy?
Do you know there IS a reason everyone always says to write what you know and read what you write?
That saying means to read the genre you write, so you will know the genre in order to write it.
If you are well read in your genre, you wouldn't be making simple mistakes like confusing Horror with Fantasy.
>>I figured fantasy was just a hard sell so I moved on. I wrote the "book of my heart" about an issue that really matters to me. This is kind of where I'm at now. I'm getting glowing, personal rejections. One said they loved it but had something too similar on their list (it's about mental illness).
An issue that really matters to you.
I think I'm starting to get a clearer picture here of what the problem is.
You recall a ways back there when I said you seemed to have a very "emo attitude" and I questioned why you were belittling Fantasy when supposedly it was the genre you were writing?
And then later I questioned your use of Fantasy vs Dark Fantasy?
And NOW.... now you are suggesting that the book is about mental illness?
I'm starting to feel, more and more that your novel is NOT Fantasy on any level at all, and is full blown Dark Fantasy, which perhaps may be even darker and not even be Dark Fantasy at all.
It sounds like, based on your small bits of info here, that you have written something akin to Psychological Terror.
Your saying that it is a topic dear to your hear, an important issue in your life... that actually tells me your story may not even be Dark Fantasy, because Dark Fantasy, typically is a story about non-Human characters, in bloody magi filled situations. Typically Dark Fantasy features Vampire main characters, and a lot of blood, guts, an gore flying around in between the Necromancer's with their magic wands resurrecting zombies.
The top selling Dark Fantasy novel out there right now is Twilight and biggest seller in the graphic novel segment of Dark Fantasy is The Walking Dead.
Lord of the Rings remains the top seller in Fantasy.
Does you novel have more in common with Lord of the Rings or The Walking Dead? That there will give you a pretty good idea of which genre your book is.
If it's dealing with real issues and is close to your heart and mental illness is the theme... are you sure it's not just straight up Mainstream Drama?
I think you need to access your book.
Ask yourself these questions:
>>Another said she loved the book and my character but passed anyway. One agent said she could "understand how much interest I'm getting", but passed (this was also a referral from a friend of mine who recently got an agent after working in publishing for a year).
These types of responses tell me that you have written a good book that will likely sell well, but that you are pitching it to the wrong agents, as in, agents who DO NOT handle the genre you wrote, and no matter how much they like it, they simply can not accept it because the publishers they work with do not publish that genre.
I'm coming more and more to the conclusion that you are pitching a book that is NOT Fantasy to agents who handle ONLY Fantasy.
Somehow you are so clueless as to what genre your book is, that you are sending it to agents who don't deal with it.
>>Recently, I've been talking to an agent who keeps telling me she loves my book so far and to inform her of any other interest. Well, I've had a few more requests for the book from other agencies/competitions, so I'm keeping her updated. A while back, she said she'd reply by X date. She never did.
This tells me that, again, people like your book and WANT to sell it to publishers, but again, they do not normally work with this genre so are finding it difficult to accept it, but feel confidant enough it'll sell that they may be willing to risk a genre they don't normally pitch if you can't find an agent in a more appropriate genre.
Keep these agents on your list... but still look for a better match.
These types of responses are not rejections, but rather, they are telling you "This is good, get it in front of the right people and it'll sell, I'm just not the right person, but I'll help you if you can't find someone else."
She is suggesting to you that this book is a diamond in the rough and you really need to get it in the right hands of the right agent, but she's not the right agent.
This is a really good responce.
Yes, disappointing, but still... this tells you you are on to something and you really need to not give up. Don't quit. Keep going. You are getting closer and closer to finding your perfect match.
>>I don't know what I'm doing wrong.
I'm reading your post and something stood out to me, quite glaringly, that might possibly be part of the trouble you are having...
Throughout your post you mention Fantasy. Fantasy this, Fantasy that... and so, I assume you are writing Fantasy - you know, wizards, dragons, Elves, swords, sorcery, magic, unicorns, fairies, magic wands, kings, knights, princesses,... Medieval times, Dark Ages, Middle Ages... you know actual Fantasy, as in the Fantasy genre.
Then you get to this part where you say:
Well, now I am confused, because you spent the first half of the post telling us you write Fantasy, and it's a Fantasy novel, then BOOM you pull a switcheroo and now you are telling us it's Horror. Which is is? Fantasy or Horror? They are very dramatically different genres. If you are pitching a Horror novel to Fantasy agents, no wonder they think it's dark and are not replying back.
You do know that Horror agents are the ones you send Dark Fantasy queries to, right? Never send Dark Fantasy to a Fantasy agents. Fantasy agents work with Fantasy novels not Horror novels and they'll just toss a Horror script unread, with no reply.
Okay my question is this:
What the hell genre are you actually writing and do you even know the difference between Fantasy and Dark Fantasy?
Number one mistake made by writers when submitting queries is the fact that they have no clue what genre their novel is and send it to editors, publishers, and agents who not not work with their genre.
Dark Fantasy is a sub-genre of the Horror genre, and is NOT a sub-genre of the Fantasy genre.
Dark Fantasy is primarily a genre about vampires and zombies, sometimes werewolves and mad scientists, monsters galore, themes include death, depression, and suicide, superheroes, Necromancers and super villains abound, usually (but not always) in a fairly modern setting 1800s to current era.
Are you sending your queries to Fantasy agents or Horror agents?
I just find your post so very confusing because you don't seem to have a clear grasp on the definition of genres, so I can't tell have you written Fantasy or Dark Fantasy? You are using both interchangeably like you think they are the same types of books, and they are not. They are not even close to being the same types of books at all, and the agents dealing with Fantasy, do not deal with Dark Fantasy.
If you went to that conference and said: "My book is Fantasy" and they matched you to Fantasy agents, but then they find out your book was NOT Fantasy at all, but instead was Dark Fantasy, a type of Horror, well, it was no wonder they were saying the stuff they did.
Think of it from their perspective: They show up hoping to help some budding Fantasy author and get stuck with a Horror author instead. Why shouldn't they pissed? You would be too. I mean, really put yourself in their shoe. Here they are hoping to help a Fantasy author, and get some amature who doesn't know one genre defanition from the other, and has handed them something NOT Fantasy and called it Fantasy anyways... do you have any idea how frustrating and disappointing it is for them, to have to deal with THOUSANDS of writers who can't be bothered to do enough research to even find out the definition of a genre before calling their novel by said genre?
I mean, I know it's frustrating and disappointing for us authors, and it's easy to get on the "agents don't know shit and are all evil" bandwagon, but, if you put yourself in the agents shoes for a bit, try to see it from the agent's point of view, you'd really start to wonder why anyone bothers being an agent at all. It's a tough job sifting through a thousand manuscripts that are NOT your genre, trying to find the 1 or 2 writers who actually know what genre the agent is looking for. I'd never want to be an agent. That's for sure! I don't know how they do it.
I'm just so confused by your post here, because you are so all over the place in describing what genre your novel is and really sounds like you've got no clue what your genre is at all, which to me indicates you are likely sending your novel out to the wrong agents.
You keep describing agents who say they love your book, but pass anyways.
Okay, you got to realize, most agents are working for a publisher.
Let me repeat that... the agent works FOR THE PUBLISHER... not the author.
The agents is the publisher's talent scout. They know what the publisher wants. And it doesn't matter how much the agent is in love with your books, because if the publishers they work with don't publish your genre, then the agent loving your book, don't mean squat.
The fact that so many agents both love and reject your book, tells me a few things:
It really sounds to me, based on your description here, that you have written a Horror book, but because the genre is called Dark Fantasy, you mistakenly assumed it was a type of Fantasy and are sending it to Fantasy agents, when instead you should be sending it to Horror agents.
My advice, is I think you really need to do some heavy duty research into genres and subgenres and figure out what in the heck genre you have written, because you keep calling it Fantasy, keep saying you are sending it to Fantasy agents, and then suddenly in a burst of frustration you blurted out this:
Which tells me that it is NOT Fantasy at all, and you are simply sending it to completely the wrong agents entirely. They can love your book all they want, but if you are pitching Dark Fantasy to Fantasy agents, they simply do not publish Horror and Dark Fantasy is a subgenre of Horror not Fantasy.
Get yourself a copy of The Writer's Market, and look ONLY for agents of your ACTUAL genre your novel actually is, and send it to them no matter where on the planet they live. It doesn't matter where you live or where the agent lives.
Heck... if you are dealing with Dark Fantasy/Horror like it sounds, you might want to try looking into Japanese agents and publishers because Dark Fantasy Horror is HUGE in Japan. It's not a big genre in most places (I know - I write it) but in Japan it's just got a massive following. (80% of my sales are to Japan.) I think Japan hold most of the market for Dark Fantasy right now, so, you might want to consider getting your book published in Japan first then US and the rest of the world later.
It sounds to me like people like your book, which is a good thing. But it sounds like you are a bit confused as to what genre it is and so are just sending it out to the wrong people.
I'm thinking, if you rethink your genre and start sending out to Horror agents who publish Dark Fantasy, instead of Fantasy agents who don't publish Horror, I think, you'll find better success in the queries.
Half the job of querying is just figuring out which agents are the right ones for your book. Just because the ones you sent it to already, rejected it doesn't mean it's a bad book or that you're a bad writer, it just means it wasn't the right book for those agents in particular and you just have to keep sniffing out new agents until you do find the one that is just the perfect match.
Think about it this way: you really don't want your book represented by an agent who isn't 100% behind it. If they think they can not sell it, even though they like it, well, then they simply will not put enough effort into selling it to the publisher. And you don't want that. You want an agent who feels they can sell you book, and will be out their putting all their effort into doing so.
Remember to... not all publishers require agents.
Agents take a 30% on average. And the average income you can expect from most books is $5,000 TOTAL for the life of the book. After the agent cut, that means you'll likely only earn $3,500 from your book.
The bulk of books get published WITHOUT an agent.
The bulk of big names, including Stephen King, J.K.Rowlings, GRRMartin, published their books WITHOUT an agent, and ONLY got agents after they started getting offers from movie deals, with their agents handling the movie deals NOT the book deals.
Sure an agent can help, but you don't NEED an agent to get published, and any one who tells you, that you do, doesn't know the publishing industry.
There are tens of thousands of publishers on the planet and fewer then 50 that require agented submissions. That's really something to think about.
It's possibly in your best interest, to research publishers for your book, and by pass the middleman, going without an agent entirely.
Another possibility is self-publishing. You keep 70% royalties as opposed to the 4% industry standard of trade published. Your book is in print forever, as opposed to going out of print just 6 months after publishing, as is industry standard in trade print. You control the cover art, as opposed to having no say in trade publishing. And either way - self published or trade publishing, you are the one who has to market your own book (no, trade published books don't get the marketing advantage - that's an urban myth - the author markets the book no matter how big or small the publisher is. The only time a publisher markets a book, is if the author was able to market it enough on their own to get the first 1 million sales.)
There are really no advantages to trade publishing these days. Only thing it does is boost the author's ego. With the exception of the dozen or so big names in trade publishing, self-pubbers are making way more income, have a much longer shelf life, and don't have to deal with the stress of years of rejections between each book. Might be worth looking into.
Whatever you do, don't give up. It sounds like people enjoy reading your book and you just need to find the right person to represent it.
>>I have friends with industry connections/who live near the publishing hub who have found more success than me
Where you live has nothing to do with it.
>>I'm starting to feel like it's because I'm a nobody. I go to conferences, I make connections, and then look what happens—I get my work dragged through the dirt behind my back.
If you can't handle 2 editors saying your book is too dark and think that's being bad mouthed... honey, you don't want to get published.
Google me. See what you find.
There's a NaNoWriMo ML running around forums all over the internet saying she wants to blow my brains out, threatening to kill me... she DID build a bomb and blew up my house with it.
Hey, let me give you a list ...
Yes... I've survived FIVE (5) bombings now.
You don't see me bitching and boo hooing about agents now do you?
We know why she did these things. She told me... in 21,000 emails.
Do you know why she does these things? Because she had brilliant idea for a book, and then discovered another author had written the same idea 10 years previous to her thinking of the idea. She claims, I'm a time traveling vampire who went forward in time, sucked the idea out of her head, then went back in time to publish it.
In case you hadn't noticed, Kendra Silvermander is insane.
The publishing industry is filled with psychopaths just like her... and once you get published they'll come crawling out of the woodwork. If you ain't got a thick shell, you'll never survive in this business.
If you are this upset about something so petty and insignificant.. I worry about you... you have the potential to be the next Kendra Silvermander. Shhe flies off the handle and gets upset over nothing too.
Don't become like Kendra Silvermander.
Kendra Silvermander, has yet to be published... she says so several dozen times in each of her 21,000 emails to me.
And like you, she's pissed that no one wants to publish her book.
And like you, she takes to ranting on forums because of it.
A more productive use of her and your time would be to be self examining your work to see WHY it's being rejected, instead of spending pointless time ranting on forums.
Learn a lesson from Kendra Silvermander and get off the "bitch about agents, editor, and published authors" bandwagon, before you too, like Kendra Silvermander, end up wanted by the FBI for becoming a domestic terrorist.
>>I'm starting to feel rather depressed, which isn't good, because I recently came off anti-depressants because my mood was improving. I feel like no matter how much I learn, after 10+ years of writing, it still isn't enough, because I don't know the right people, or live in the right place, or have the right face. I'm not writing what's trendy or to the market. I'm not what's "in" right now. And it's so hard to listen to people praising my work, even industry professionals, only to have them turn me down anyway. It's almost worse than people telling me I have no talent at all.
>>Thanks for listening to me rant. Please share stories and encouragement, or maybe even a really big glass of gin. I just feel like no matter how close I get to this dream, it's always going to be a no.