“I Will Always Love You" - Maybe Not, April 10, 2022, by Jude Hopkins
If you’ve ever sent out query letters to agents, you know the pain you feel when you get rejection letters back.
It’s similar to the pain of having someone you love reject you. OK, not that bad, but if you’ve poured your lifeblood into writing a manuscript, sometimes as intensely as you’ve invested in a relationship, it hurts on both counts.
So one day, I thought of the similarities of the lyrics in Whitney Houston’s song “I Will Always Love You” to the words found in a typical literary agent’s rejection letter.
By the way, Dolly Parton wrote the above-mentioned song in response to her leaving business partner Porter Wagoner to pursue a solo career. (There were rumors of an affair, but both deny it. Dolly did say they had a “passionate” business relationship, however.)
So even though I could go more highbrow and mention perhaps a poem like Thomas Hardy’s majestic “Neutral Tones” about the end of a relationship in which he observed his ex-girlfriend’s eyes roving over him like “tedious riddles of years ago,” I’m going with the more well-known song.
See if you don’t also find the two—Whitney’s version of Dolly’s song and a literary agent’s rejection letter—to be uncannily similar (all in fun, of course).
Dear Aspiring Writer:
Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to review your query letter. It’s a privilege to consider a project that is the result of someone’s hard work and passion. Unfortunately, after quickly skimming your query, I have decided to pass because your manuscript sounds like a bad fit for my list at this time. After spending over a decade and $5K in editing, you deserve someone who will champion your work.
But that someone isn’t me.
Keep in mind that the publishing business is a subjective one, so please know that what doesn’t work for me might just be perfect for another agent. We both know I’m not what you need. If I were to request, say, a partial or a full, I would only be in the way of your finding someone who is genuinely enthusiastic about your work. Try to think in those terms, bittersweet though it may be.
I know this is not what you want to hear. You had visions of our future together, our names linked on this project as well as on subsequent paperback and film contracts. Just know that I’m rooting for you to find that agent who will treat you kind [sic] every step of the publishing process and help you realize everything you’ve dreamed of. Please don’t cry. I wish you joy and happiness—and, above all, a deal.
Agent’s Name Here
P.S. Please do not reply to this email.