Just paint a target on my head

Ok, what is it with people who can’t handle rejection? Man…two in a row. Is it the water? The lunar cycle? Crabs?

More importantly, why am I showcasing this? Because it highlights what not to do, both in a query and any subsequent correspondence.

I have completed a commercial novel: The American Car Salesman (86,000 words/300 Pages). The novel’s narrative lends itself to comparisons to such novels as Cormac McCarthy’s No Country For Old Men, William Kennedy’s Legs, and Russell Banks’s Continental Drift. The main character’s name is Chuck Testo. The novel is the struggle for order and affection in his personal life, against the greed and dishonesty in his business of car sales. Chuck Testo is a man who battles relentlessly with his own past and inner-balance. He’s the car world’s answer to Tony Soprano.

Chuck’s wife of seven years, Bernadette, has now become unhappy with the man Chuck is–a confused, two-timer, obsessed with Gordon Gekko and making money–and decides to carve out an identity of her own, a decision that goes against Chuck’s idea of a married woman’s role. His best friends, McKenzie, Quick Jim, Smitty, and Speedometer Willie, all want something from him. And now that he has replaced beloved dealership boss, Bobby Clark, who’s dying of cancer, Chuck’s enemies, Dealer Bill and Tony G, want even more. They want everything!

We follow Chuck and his cohorts on a haunting jaunt through Albany’s corrupt auto-world and the drug underbelly of Miami Beach, as the ghosts of unforgivable sin take hold. Will Chuck ever repay the debt to Murph, the man who raised him when his real mother couldn’t, and his real father wouldn’t? Will he live to an honest end or be buried in a grave of dishonesty? With the imminent arrival of the Internet and computer car-buying, Chuck is forever worried about the business changing around him. Like the song says: The future’s uncertain and the end is always near. Every human thought and sense is enriched with this novel. You’ll never look at your car salesman the same way.

I am currently an English & Writing Teacher at the high school level. I am a graduate of the College of XX (M.S in Education) and the University of XX (B.A. in English). In 1998 I was awarded a $1,500 scholarship from XXX Community College for a sample of creative writing I submitted. I have published a critical essay (Redacted) for an educational journal. Most recently I have had a short story (Redacted) published in a literary magazine Spell for Rain, and an editorial article published in the Times Union newspaper. I was a founding member of the Saint Rose Creative Writing Club. In September 2008, I was selected to participate in a Master’s Fiction Writing Class taught by 2007 National Book Award Finalist Lydia Davis (Varieties of Disturbance: Stories). I can send a full manuscript or partial at anytime.

Thank you for your query. You have a tremendous amount of things going on, and, I’m afraid you’re long on description and short on plot. The description you have isn’t enough to compel me to read this without a plot. Best of luck to you.


I appreciate your feedback, Ms. Price. That is the first time that I have heard that critique. In fact this is a very plot driven novel. Perhaps the weakness is in my presentation. I hope you will consider looking at the first few pages of the novel or even taking a look at a longer more detailed summary. I have taken the liberty of attaching such a summary and a chap-by-chap to this e-mail. I hope you will consider, as this would be a tough way to get passed up, because the plot in this novel is very rich, if nothing more. Thank you.

(Mr. Redacted)

(Ok, this sort of thing really chaps my hide because I didn’t ask for it. Never, never, never send something to an agent or editor if they don’t request it. It makes you look like a noob.)

Dear (Redacted),
I’m sorry for the confusion, but I’m afraid you misunderstood me. This was a rejection. Going from a vague description and little plot to a five page synopsis and chap by chap outline that I didn’t request is a huge jump. Again, apologies for the confusion. Best of luck to you.


No, I did not misunderstand you. I am sorry that jump was SO HUGE for you. But yes, your small-time apology from your small-time press is accepted. And now that I have been rejected from such an important figure in the publishing world (you), I think I am going to drop the dream. How’s that for vague description? Or would you classify that as synopsis? So, no, best of luck to YOU.

My parting shot:
I daresay that had you communicated with that kind of passion and clarity in your original query, your endeavors would have been far more successful. Your ego didn’t serve you well, otherwise you would have seen I was trying of help to you.

Sheesh, reactions like these are exactly why I usually issue form rejection letters. That’ll teach me.

4 Responses to Just paint a target on my head

  1. michael says:

    The speed and efficiency of e-mail can be problematic when having knee-jerk reactions to rejection. I think everybody feels a little rage when rejected, the act of writing a letter, addressing the envelope, stamping it and hauling it to the mailbox affords a rejected person the time to contemplate their situation before making regrettable decisions that can’t be retracted once the send button is pushed.

    I keep a stack of such letters on my desk and read them before sending an e-mail.

  2. Marian says:

    Does querying a small-time press make one a small-time writer with a small-time book?

  3. lynnpricewrites says:

    Too true, Michael. I agree that getting one’s emotions out on paper is therapeutic, but that doesn’t mean you have to hit the Send button. I found it interesting how quickly the author went from well-mannered to flaming rude-inski in the course of minutes – because he sent me nastygram about fifteen minutes after my “second” rejection letter. Sad, that.

    Does querying a small-time press make one a small-time writer with a small-time book?
    LOL. I have no idea; I’m too small-minded to know.

  4. Bep says:

    He didn’t think you were THAT small to send a query to you in the first place! Noob!!

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