Thursday, September 17, 2009

My first rejection letter

I'm in the process of looking for an agent to help me finish constructing and then selling my work-in-progress, a novel about politics, oil and corruption in Alaska 30 years ago. I don't actually know any agents, so it's a bit random at this point.

This morning I got my first rejection letter (email, actually), which I very much appreciate. It's the first feedback I have gotten from anybody but a few close friends, and it gives me plenty to think about.

Here's the entire message:

Hi Howard: Thanks so much for sending us your novel and for your incredible patience while we took a look at it. I've read, and so have a few of my other colleagues, and we have to say, this was a tough call. Your writing is wonderful--great dialogue, descriptions, touches that we found very engaging. The issue for us is that we feel that the disconnected nature of the structure (which we understand was entirely intentional and part of the novelty of the, well, novel) was not as successful for us as we would have liked. It had the effect of reading like short stories rather than an integrated book that works as a whole. Now, I have to say, that this is entirely subjective--our opinion is based on what we think we can successfully sell and market in this tough publishing world, and if we're not clear on how to position it and market it, we're not the right agents.

So we will thankfully and regretfully pass. We so appreciate your kindness in letting us consider it, and wish you great success with it (which would certainly be in keeping with your incredible career).
I've always been a pretty good writer and I am happy with the writing here; this is my first foray into lengthy fiction, so I have some adjusting to do, but I feel like I am getting better as I proceed. I've written just over 70,000 words at this point and I'm pleased with the story and feel I've covered most of what I wanted to address. I thought the architecture was pretty good, too, though I'll need to think more about that now.

My friends who are published authors agree that I should try to get an agent even before I feel like the book is finished, mainly to help inform me about the current publishing environment, timing, competition, etc.

If you have any ideas, please let me know: howard.weaver (at)

And thanks.

1 comment:

dan said...

from a New York Times front page story yet to be written: imagined by PR maven DB:

Former Alaska newspaper editor penning Big Novel about Big State, set
to be bestseller in 2012

Howard Weaver was born in Alaska and lived there for most of his life,
and for many years he ran the Anchorage Daily News, the state's most
important newspaper. He was the editor-in-chief, a regular columnist
and a man about town. He knew everyone in the state, from state
politics in Juneau, to the oil people on the North Slope, to the
leaders of the indigenous Alaskan Natives whose ancestors have been in
Alaska for over 10,000 years -- Eskimoes and Indians from around the
vast state. Howard Weaver is Mr Alaska. And not only that, he is a first-class writer, columnist, editorialist and editor. He knows the newspaper business like few Americans know it today.

Now in middle age, Weaver is writing a novel about his home state, Alaska, a huge expansive novel
about, as he calls it in a recent blog post, "a novel about politics,
oil and corruption in Alaska 30 years ago."

Initial reaction from the blogosphere has been very positive:
"Howard," said one note, "Your writing is wonderful -- great dialogue,
descriptions, touches that are very engaging. This book has a great
chance to capture the American reading public's attention once it's
published, and your success as a novelist will certainly be in keeping
with your incredible career as an Alaskan and California journalist.
With Palin on the national scene now and Alaska's profile boosted by
daily headlines about climate change, oil fields, Sarah Palin, and
even presidential politics, your novel is set to be a winner."

(Weaver also ran the Sacramento Bee in California after moving down
south from Alaska in the 1990s).

His novel, set to rival even James Michener's big book about the big state, is certain to turn heads and shape the future. You will never think about Alaska in quite the same way again.