The Best Rejection Letter I’ve Ever Received

I’ve been rejected. Yet again. I’ve been rejected.
I keep track of these things. In my writing career I’ve been rejected no less than seventy-two times. I keep a list. No – it’s not a list of who I’m going to go after once I’m rich and famous and can hire my own private mercenary force to open a can of whoop-ass on every literary agent and publisher that’s ever dared tell me my work (please note – my work not me) is not their particular cup of tea. I keep track because that’s me. It’s also really super duper unprofessional to query the same agent more than once with the same project. Keeping track is smart and professional.
Getting rejected is part of the business. If you’re a writer that needs to go and hide in a hole with a bottle of scotch with every rejection letter then you either need to find a new job (beaded jewelry on Etsy?) or grow the fuck up. Getting rejected is part of being a writer.
Getting rejected doesn’t mean you suck or you have halitosis or your ass is too big. It means the agent or the publisher wasn’t looking for what you offered.
It’s no secret that along with writing romance I also write middle grade fiction under the name Olivia Bronson. I haven’t published anything under that name, but I’m shopping a 60k word sci-fi with series potential. Hand up – I can’t write a synopsis to save my life. Pretty much every publisher I’ve ever worked with will attest to the fact I didn’t get their attention with a query letter. I bang my drum in another way. 

But middle grade is another world from the one I’ve made a name in. I need to offer my manuscript to a lot of people that don’t know me. This means querying agents. Querying agents means inevitable rejection. 
I was recently rejected with the BEST REJECTION LETTER I’VE EVER RECEIVED!
Of the seventy-two rejection letters I’ve received this one was the BEST REJECTION LETTER I’VE EVER RECEIVED!

Am I angry that I was rejected?
Nope – not even a little.
Am I deluding myself about being angry about being rejected and in reality I’m just seething mad?
Nope – not at all. I’m a professional. Not a fucking child.
I like analogies so here’s an analogy. 
The agent who rejected me (I’m going to call him Drake Killgore Sinjin VonRhodes because I think it’s a silly sort of name that sounds really made up and doesn’t pass the Supreme Court test) walks into a restaurant. Drake Killgore Sinjin VonRhodes looks at the menu (the menu being the inbox full of submissions he’s received) to see what’s on offer. Drake Killgore Sinjin VonRhodes knows he wants a salad (salad being middle grade sci-fi). The chef (that would be you the author) offers him a wedge salad (middle grade sci-fi set in space). It’s a delicious wedge salad with a really nice dressing. You made it yourself with fresh eggs and really expensive Italian olive oil. As tempting as it is, Drake Killgore Sinjin VonRhodes doesn’t really want a wedge salad. He wants a Cobb Salad (middle grade sci-fi set on Earth). Tempting as the wedge salad is, as delicious as it looks and yummy as it smells, he really really wants that Cobb Salad. So he passes on the wedge salad and takes the Cobb Salad.

Does this mean that the wedge salad is inedible? Does this mean that no one will ever order the wedge salad? Does this mean I should stop making wedge salads? Do I throw the wedge salad at him? Do I try to make him take the wedge salad? Do I tell him that someday someone is going to come along and make my wedge salad famous and then he’ll be sorry he didn’t try my wedge salad when he had the chance? Do I threaten to steal his dog? Do I tell him that if he reads it just one more time he’ll really see my vision?

No. For many many many reasons I do not do this. At the top of the list I’m not an asshole. I also respect the no. No means no. No doesn’t mean hey baby I really do want it just be a little more aggressive and pushy so I can feel the love coming from you. Please take this forward into all facets of your life. No means no across the board. 
But more than that. Publishing is a small world. If I’m an asshole it’s very possible that Drake Killgore Sinjin VonRhodes is going to remember me. I tend to remember the people that are assholes to me. Chances are, since Drake Killgore Sinjin VonRhodes is an agent that specializes in middle grade fiction, I might want to submit to him again. If I’m an asshole to Drake Killgore Sinjin VonRhodes what is probably going to happen if I submit to him again? I won’t get such a nice rejection letter. 
Here is the BEST REJECTION LETTER I’VE EVER RECEIVED: 
Dear Olivia,
Thank you for submitting THE EVENING STAR, which I have considered but must decline. While this is an enticing premise, I’m afraid that this type of space, high octane sci-fi middle grade isn’t quite what I’m looking for right now, and so it isn’t for me. I do also think that your query is a little too long, and unnecessarily, which may prove problematic as you continue your hunt for another agent. I took a really quick stab at shortening the query so that you can see what I think a more appropriate length is, though you may want to shorten it even a bit further and finesse it to have your voice. The edited query is below.
Best of luck in finding the right agent to represent THE EVENING STAR.
My best regards,

Drake Killgore Sinjin VonRhodes (fake name)
What is so great about this email? 
Several things. It’s personal. He really did read my submission. I like that along with the No came a couple of positives. He referred to it as enticing (this could just be a throw away but still nice to read). Even better he used the expression high octane. Good. More than good. Excellent. That’s exactly what I want. The Evening Star is high octane. He got this from my query. I’m doing something right. Best of all, he took a moment to offer a few suggestions. 
Here is the query letter Drake Killgore Sinjin VonRhodes tweaked for me: 

The Evening Star is a middle-grade sixty-thousand word speculative fiction adventure story with series potential aimed at both boys and girls.
When nine-year-old Linus Hawklight rides in the space-elevator from his home on Orbital Habitat to the surface of the Earth for the first time, he learns that he’s in contention for a place aboard his father’s ship, the Evening Star. The mission of the Evening Star is to carry colonists—ten thousand of earth’s healthiest, most promising children—to populate a new planet six-hundred light years away, as Earth has become increasingly inhospitable. Linus is grouped with five other young contenders to form Team Obsidian, and together they’re put through a series of tests that, once successfully completed, earn each of them a place on the Linus’s father’s ship.
Aboard the ship, the team is placed in a form of stasis that slows the aging process and should allow Linus and the other team members to arrive at the new planet with the health equivalent to a twenty-year-old. But Linus awakes early, still his twelve-year-old self, and immediately knows something has gone terribly wrong. The ship avatar, Hesperus, warns him that space pirates have boarded the ship. Linus and the remaining members of Team Obsidian that wake up shortly after him will have to use their wits to wrestle control over the Evening Star back from the pirates, and, with the help of the adult captains of the ship, find another, closer home for the ten thousand children that are waking well before their time. It’s not just the ship’s safety that’s in Team Obsidian’s hands: It’s the future of all humanity.
In addition to being a writer and a mother of two middle-graders, I am a Classics student at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland. I write under the name Livia Ellis and am published with Riverdale Ave Books, The Wild Rose Press, and Liquid Silver Books. I am a Californian in my heart, but have spent the past fourteen years living in Europe.
Per your guidelines, please find the first three chapters following. This is a multiple-submission.
Thank you for your consideration.
Olivia Bronson

What’s the difference? Drake Killgore Sinjin VonRhodes version of the query is tighter. He was able to cut back on a lot of unnecessary detail. 
Here is the original query: 
The Evening Star is a middle-grade sixty-thousand word speculative fiction adventure story with series potential aimed at both boys and girls. The Evening Star began when my nine-year-old son pointed out that he wasn’t allowed to read what I write in the romance genre and that seemed deeply unfair to him. I agreed and together we created The Evening Star.
The Evening Star begins as nine-year-old Linus Hawklight rides in the space-elevator for the first time from his home on Orbital Habitat Theta to the surface of the Earth. The feel of Earth’s gravity under his boots and the huge dome of sky are terrifying contrasts to his enclosed world in the orbital habitat. Linus learns that he is in contention for a place on board his father’s ship the Evening Star. Places are so sought after, that even the captain’s son has to earn his way. On Earth, Linus is grouped with five other children, an equal mix of boys and girls. He is the only space-rat in the group filled with planet-siders. Together they are put through a series of tests. They are Team Obsidian and win their places on the Evening Star when they learn to work together.
The mission of the Evening Star is to carry colonists to a new planet six-hundred light years away. The Earth is dying and the ancient orbital habitats can no longer handle the burden of their populace. The crew will be comprised of the best humanity has left to offer and the passengers will be made up of ten-thousand of the healthiest and most promising of the children.
After The Evening Star launches and Earth is behind them, everyone is placed in a form of stasis that slows the aging process. Linus and Team Obsidian are programmed to be the first group out of stasis and given the task of bringing the ship back to life. While in stasis, the ship’s computer trains and prepares Linus and his team for the mission to come. When he is finally woken in four hundred years, if all goes as planned, Linus will be a young man of around twenty and the Evening Star will have reached its destination – the Earth like Planet Aurora  six-hundred light years from Earth.
Linus is the first to wake from stasis. He is not a young man, but a boy of about twelve. Some time has passed, but not nearly as much as should have. Immediately he knows something has gone terribly wrong. The ships avatar Hesperus warns him that a gang of space pirates has boarded the Evening Star and that unless something is done, they will soon take control of the ship. The remaining members of Team Obsidian wake right after him. They begin the process of reviving the adults which will take longer than they have before the pirates gain control of the ship. Using their wits, ingenuity, and what they have learned through their stasis training, they wrangle the pirates into the brig.
When the adults are awake and fully aware of the situation, Linus’ father changes the Evening Star’s mission. Instead of continuing towards their original destination, which is still hundreds of light years away, they will explore the region of space they find themselves in and hopefully find a home for themselves and the ten-thousand children they have sleeping in pods in the cargo bays.
In addition to being a writer and a mother of two middle-graders, I am a Classics student at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland. I write under the name Livia Ellis and am published with Riverdale Ave Books, The Wild Rose Press, and Liquid Silver Books. I am a Californian in my heart, but have spent the past fourteen years living in Europe.
Per your guidelines, please find the first three chapters following. This is a multiple-submission.


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