nothing personal

So I’ve sent all my queries out, plus a few to other interesting agents I’ve stumbled across during this process and one to a small press.

So far, I have five no’s, none of them personal.

But there is nothing personal about this process; it’s nothing personal.  I repeat this as my mantra.

It took a great wave of manic energy to make me approach these strangers, introduce myself, insist that they look at me, and make myself so visible when I’m usually happy to hide. I put on a suit and panty hose.  I shook hands with a firm grip, I bragged brazenly, and I acted like I knew what I was doing.  Then I was the the girl at the party with the sparkly low cut dress, the one who laughed with her head thrown back, the one that looked like she was up for grabs.  Now,  I’m wearing a nightgown and a skull cap pulled low, sitting on the sofa beside my cat, weighing pros and cons.  My head aches and there’s a funny metallic taste on my tongue.

They say, “be careful what you ask for,” and I know what they mean. I have no idea if these hoops I’m jumping through are going to get me where I want to go.  Is it only me, or do you ever wonder if you really want what you think you want?  And then, if you don’t get it, do you convince yourself you never really wanted it at all?



About Anna Fonté

Girl in the Hat, aka Anna Fonté, is an author who writes about invisibility, outsider status, everyday monsters, and her attempts to befriend the neighborhood crows. The things she writes want you to look at them.


  1. Took me a year – at least a year – of rejections before I met my agent. Stiff upper lip!

    • My god, Helen. You must have infinite reserves of confidence. How many queries did you send? How did you know it would have a happy ending?

      • Probably 30ish? I had no idea it would have a happy ending. I simply thought, everyone has to do this. I write lit fic, which narrows the field considerably. I just have to find one person who falls in love with my writing – that’s what the agency told me – they have to REALLY want to take you on these days, if you aren’t an obvious cash generator.

        In the end I got a few close calls on my own, a few helpful suggestions and a few less than helpful, before a friend forwarded me the email address of a friend of her friend, an agent. But the agent only took me on because she connected with my writing.

        Why did I keep writing for 3 years on my book? Why did I complete a PhD with it as the main text, despite being told I should drop out (until I turned things around). Why did I rewrite half my book on the suggestion of one potential agent? Why do I still hope to be published, if not on the first book then perhaps the second?

        Why do you write? Because you do believe, and know, to a variable degrees of certainty, something about your capacity, your potential as a writer, storyteller, stylist, polemicist. That your voice is worth sharing, no matter how few people at first want to hear it.

        Because you can do something that not that many people can do – that is, be persistent. That is, keep challenging yourself to write better. To listen to the suggestions other have towards improvement. To keep sending letters out into silence, where others would have given up. Tenacity. Dedication. Self-criticism. Just enough ego to oil the gears. Some few trusted people who back you up. Time in your day to keep going.

        Can you do it? I think so.

  2. hello there….I have been freelance writing full time for a few years, the pay sucks and my dogs are crappy co-workers. I write for pennies sometimes even though I have vast experience news reporting and working for newspapers and magazines. However, my fiction is where my heart is. My world stops when I am working on my fiction. I, too, have let my prized possessions go out into the world to be rejected. I hate that process but love writing more. I have just started my own blog on here, even though I know I should have for “work” purposes a long time ago…Your blog caught my eye for I feel your pain and your love! Now, I’ll back to my amazingly brilliant short story that only my kids may ever love as much as I do.

    • As soon as I pushed “publish” I flipped back to my short story for a little pick-me-up. I tell myself I am writing not to myself, not to my friends or to any audience but to the adults my girls will be some day. This takes an edge of the impersonalness [sic] off. Hello! Glad to meet you!

  3. I tend to trust that whatever happens is the right thing – because I’m never going to prove otherwise – and try to shape it so it becomes the right thing.
    Little Pollyanna, me. Usually.
    Good luck – hope the right person finds you eventually!

    • Wouldn’t that be a dream, if they found us? I wish it worked like that. (Although I was solicited once for publication in a lit mag. Once. Dream come true.) I wish that I believed things all happen for a good reason. That would give me comfort.

  4. You’re doing great. Only one agent needs to say yes. To answer your question – I used to convince myself that I never really wanted things when I didn’t get them… but I don’t do that anymore. It is a cowardly way to react to disappointment, don’t you think? Better to be sad for a while and then try again. (I say this because I am not sending query letters at the moment. If I was sending query letters, I would wail about the unfairness of it all.)

    • I completely agree. I think lying to oneself is one of the most stupid and harmful things we can do. (Even though sometimes, it sure helps me move one foot in front of the other and the being sad part is risky for some of us.) But still, one can’t move past the sadness if one doesn’t feel it. (I’m in limbo right now, not knowing if I should feel happy or sad. This is what happens when we give power to things outside ourselves. So much easier to be introverted!)

  5. Hang on in there! You are so brave, sharing it with us. I would probably be out in the garden in the rain and fog, eating worms…

  6. Well, if you give up on the agent/publisher. Do it yourself. Cut out the middleman. Either way, you’ll end up pushing your book. May as well do it on your own dime. CreateSpace is easy to use and from there, a Kindle ready upload is a snap. I’m just learning about LighteningSource as another option. Good luck either which way.

    • I’m curious about your personal experience here. How much have you paid? How much have you earned? How much time does it take?

      • I haven’t actually published any of my own. I’ve helped 2 people in my writer’s group edit, format, and upload. The cost to them was quite minimal. The proceeds are small, but certainly no smaller than they are on books published the traditional way. I’m working on a book with another author right now. It will be interesting to see how she does.

        The formatting process gets easier with each new project. The most recent one was a nightmare because of the many old photographs and scanned documents that the author wanted to include. I’ve been working with her since August and we’re just about ready to upload.

        I don’t have precise metrics to give you. The one author who has limited energy and NO tech skills has sold over 200 books since the end of May.

  7. good advice from rangewriter

  8. Todd

    Those five no’s are from LOSERS! They don’t deserve to publish you. Those chumps will be eating “crow” when they see your name next to the huge sales figures of their competitors. As my sister says, in her droll, isn’t it obvious, lawyer-like way, “Well, that’s a self-regulating problem”. Meaning, you wouldn’t want to work with anyone who wouldn’t want to work with you ANYWAY… so, no problem. Like I said before, I’m a salesman, not a writer, (I’m just here cuz I like reading your stuff) so I can tell you a few things about rejection. Rejection is the hunger before the feast, it’s the scream before the birth. It’s the (hey this is fun) tedious drive to the beautiful beach, the nasty bong hit before the nice high! (that’s enuf). I love rejection, I eat it for lunch and savor every flavor it comes in. In your face, behind your back, door slam or dead silence. When you hear no everyday, yes becomes the sweetest note in your ear. So, don’t be afraid of the slams, embrace them because they are the rocky road to the happy home, the burned beets before the tasty sweets (say uncle). We have many truisms in sales but the one that comes to mind now is that the best salesperson isn’t the slickest, the smartest on even the best prepared, it’s the most persistent. You’re already a good writer, now comes the easy part. Just keep at it and you’ll succeed.

    This also reminds me of something I once read on the pitch door to door salesemen once used to sell Mark Twain books. I was amazed at reading it because I had just assumed he was famous and successful because his talent just naturally made him so. I learned that we wouldn’t even know his name today if their hadn’t been legions of reps hawking his wares all about the country. You’ve done the “manufacturing”, don’t now underestimate the marketing side. There definitely ARE readers for your work, and now it will take more work to get to them. So go for it… Balls to the Wall! Cawabunga! Cucamonga! …you know what I mean.

    • Wow. I had to stand up to read this, too. A rousing response– and suddenly, I feel like a tough contender, flexing my muscles, strutting around. (Is it books you sell, Todd? If not, you should, and if so, will you sell mine!?)

  9. Great comments here! All I can add is that I know exactly what I want, and I want it even more when I don’t get it.

    It takes guts to send your heart out into a world of strangers, but I believe, for true writers, it’s harder not to. The publishing industry isn’t very conducive to this right now, but don’t give up! And if you find yourself utterly disillusioned, remind yourself that it’s not personal, and heed rangewriter’s excellent advice.

    Fingers crossed for you, and all the rest of us. 🙂

  10. Look at it this way. Rejections are a sign that you are doing something, unlike many who just dream. That’s a good thing.

  11. The difficult part of the writing business for most writers is accepting the business realities–the rejections, the constant self-promotion, the huge amounts of time spent doing things other than writing. Few of us are in this field because we like to do those things. But we must, and we must find a way to live with them. I do that by thinking of the long term goals. I believe I’ll be successful in this, so every obstacle, like a rejection, is something to acknowledge and then put behind me as I move forward. Even if I never make it big, I’ll know I had some success, gave it my best and never quit, and who can ask more from a life? From what I see, Anna, you’re doing exactly the right things to achieve your dream. It may not happen today or tomorrow, but it will come.

  12. Poor Anna?

    Do you really have a skullcap? *Worried.*

    Keep your chin up.

    The favorable reply will arrive one morning while you’re conversing with the crows…

    • A scullcap is a brimless hat that hugs your head. Mine is knitted cashmere. Nothing scary, VM, not to worry. (Can you picture me with a yarmulke made of bone? Certainly not, unless it had feathers. Teee heee.)

  13. I think agents are worthwhile. However I’ve known many writers who spend their time waiting or their agent to sell their work, and it never happens. They will say things about their agent or drop that some comment about their “New York agent,” and yet the agent is unable to sell their work. Getting an agent is a challenge for sure but only one step along the way. I’ve found it actually more difficult to get an agent than to get my my books published. I publish through very small presses. None of the agents I’ve had, and I’ve had some really good ones, were able to sell any of my work including books that I then published with small presses and won largish prizes. While trying to find an agent, I ended up publishing four books, and now I don’t bother with an agent. I might try again, but I’m too busy writing and publishing books. That said, I think an agent is essential if you want to navigate the world of largish publishers who just *may* promote your book.

    • Although you stated otherwise, your experience is very persuasive and makes me think that agents’ role in publishing is, perhaps, becoming obsolete. At least for writers who are not writing purely commercial stuff, like you and me. I still cling to the fantasy that an agent will take over some of the work but I’m starting to get with the program, as so many people have positive things to say about self publishing and small presses. I used to think it was just vanity that compelled a person to forge ahead without the rubber stamp of a bonafide NY agent, but I’m starting to realize that vanity and belief in oneself are sometimes the same thing. Matt, have you written about your process? I’d like to hear more.

  14. Hang in there, Anna. I hear it takes a long time to find the right person and fall in love. (Oops, find the right agent and form a partnership). Or that it takes knowing someone who can connect you with an agent or five, but even that doesn’t always work. The business part of this writing business sure is a long slog.

  15. Susan

    Is it and agent or a job you want? Either way you do face rejection, and perhaps this isn’t the best time of year to accomplish this awful task. The thing is not to let it define you, the rejections, that is—at your age or what I’m guessing is your age, there is a panic about “being Someone.” In the end there really isn’t much to be other then your one true self. Just keep writing, that is the bravest thing to so.

    • I’m old by most young peoples’ standards. I don’t want to be someone, but if I could make some contribution to our family coffer, I could give myself permission to continue writing instead of getting a Real Job. (Susan, what is it about this time of year? Is it because the hurricane just happened or is it some seasonal thing?)

  16. I always want what I think I want, unless it’s in disguise (like men are sometimes.)

    Every day I get worse at believing for myself that rejection is nothing personal. I have so much admiration for your burst of energy and your folllow through. I’m rooting for you.

  17. You’re definitely not alone…

  18. Keep your chin up, sister. I did everything short of hiring an airplane and dropping a payload of query letters over the streets of Manhattan. Seriously. I sent a LOT of queries, and only a few of them were successful. It cannot be said enough: query widely.

  19. I nominated your blog. I just love it. 🙂

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