a tale of a rejection, and the straw that made the cup run over, or something.

Somewhere out there is a literary agent (who shall remain unnamed here) who asked for science fiction submissions on Twitter the Friday before last. I was in bed at the time, reading my Twitter feed on the iPad (as one does), so I got out of bed again to send that agent a query letter that followed the requirements of the agency in question.

I woke up the next morning to find a form rejection in my inbox. That agent had rejected the query without having asked for sample pages–without even having read a single word of the novel. And it was a nice, short, courteous, and professional query letter, not two lines of HAY U WANT TO B MY AGENTZ? CHK YES OR NO LULZ.

I said a very naughty word at the computer screen and felt something in my head go SNAP. Then I had Scrivener compile the ebook files for the novel, bought some cover art, made a book cover, uploaded everything to Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing service, and told people on my blog that the novel is available for sale.

Right now that novel is #245 on the Kindle Store, #2 in Military SF on the Kindle, and #13 in the entire Science Fiction category (all print, Kindle, and audiobooks) on Amazon. Right now that novel has sold an ungodly amount of ebook copies for a self-published first-time novel by an unknown author.

Right now I’d like to kiss that agent square on the mouth for being the catalyst that finally made me decide to take the novel’s fate into my own hands.

39 thoughts on “a tale of a rejection, and the straw that made the cup run over, or something.

  1. Good for you!
    P.S. I bought a copy. Haven’t read it yet, but based on the reviews I’ve seen and the writing I’ve already seen from you, I’m looking forward to it. One more book to finish before I get to it.

  2. Bought the novel right after you announced it and read it in two sittings. Very, very good (though when the giant aliens showed up I wanted to shout “Man in suit! Man in suit!” like the old Godzilla movies).

    Between you, Hugh Howey, Elliott Kay, Lloyd Tackitt, L.I. Albemont and several other self-published authors that are selling ebooks hand over fist, the big houses have got to be quaking in their boots.

    I’m glad the agent rejected you. Looking forward to the sequel!

    • I had a spoiler warning in my parenthetical but apparently it was stripped because it was inside some greater-than/less-than signs. I hope I didn’t spoil anything for folks who haven’t read the book yet!

  3. See? I told you, I told you that all those idjits who sent you rejection letters have their heads up in anatomically unlikely places. That said, I also feel the need to express some form of gratitude to the person who, albeit indirectly, finally enabled me to purchase your writenings.

  4. For work-related reasons, I am involved in a 4-week, online course about ebooks and libraries. Last week, the question was posed, “What would attract a writer to self-publishing?” By golly, I would like to relate your tale to my peers, if I may.

  5. The Internet: Man’s (current) Final Frontier

    Freedom is found out on the frontier, followed by stunning prosperity, followed by Government, and finally by slavery.

  6. If I may — the agent wouldn’t care. Why not? Agents don’t sell to the public. They sell to publishing houses. He probably rejected you because it wasn’t something he could sell to his publishing contacts and he could tell that from your concept.
    That said — yep. I too once said I’d never self publish, not even my back list. I put up with many such exchanges as this, got published, have… 23? books out. Something like that (I lose count.) Got the stomach ulcer, lost hair, lived in a constant state of stress. One year there were SIX of my books published, and none of them appeared on any shelves that I or my friends could find. How could people buy them if no one could find them? (I think I was some sort of write off for the house.)
    And then I snapped and started putting out my short stories. Everyone says short stories don’t sell well in ebooks — everyone including my bestseller friends — but mine are making me around $200 a month for either trunk stuff or stuff I’ve already been paid for once.
    So, two years ago, I fired my agent. I waved bye bye to two of my publishing houses, and kept the one that was always nice to me. Two weeks ago I got my back list back but for two books from the houses I dumped. And now I’m putting those books up myself.
    The people I laugh at? The ones who are still looking for agents and traditional publishers now. I’ve seen some of the contracts new authors are getting. All for the privilege of being treated like dirt and blamed when a book doesn’t sell despite no marketing. With the exception of Baen (and they’re only doing my science fiction. I’ll take mystery, fantasy and historical indie) my attitude to publishers has become “run away NOW.”
    Forget publishers. Sell to the public. That’s where the money is.

  7. I’ll jump on the bandwagon about leaving traditional publishing behind. I’ve finished my fourth and last novel for a major publisher and if a contract for a fifth in the series is offered, I’m saying “no.” I’m a mid-list author who probably doesn’t make a lot of money for the publisher, but it’s folks like me who keep the lights on in New York. I’m through with it, though. The contracts are egregiously one-sided, the royalty payments appear with the regularity of some obscure comet, and you have absolutely no say in anything at all. Publication date for my fourth book was pushed back three months. Was I asked? Of course not. You’ve made the right decision, Marko. I hope you’re wildly successful.

  8. I’m buying your book because it came up when I bought a Neal Asher book. And the reviews looked great….. this may be the start of something.

  9. It’s a great read, Marko, I’m 2/3rds of the way through it and I can tell that it’s FAR too short!

  10. Marko, the only complaint I have about your book is that it’s about six chapters too short. I read it in one sitting after I figured out why it wouldn’t show after I bought it. I’ll read it again in a day or two. It was delightful.

    I love kindle.

    Gerry N.

  11. Glad you did what you had to do to get your novel out there. I have thoroughly enjoyed it and look forward to the next installment. TOO SHORT!!! :)

  12. And Terms of Enlistment is my first ebook! All I have is an old iMac but I dragged TOE out of iTunes into Adobe’s Free Digital Editions and viola! it works. Best wishes Major!

  13. I am very happy for you. Please do not take the rest of this as grousing, but remember that you have a blog that has a pretty good audience. It is a great marketing tool for your works, because a lot of people have come to know your writing and expect that they will see the same level of quality in your fiction as they read here.

    My gut feeling is that a lot of the books that are e-published essentially sink into the bottomless byte well. Congratulations for beating the odds.

  14. Dude. Bad-ass success unto thee with that book. Hope it keeps on keepin’ on for you.

    That being said, I’d say not to be too offended by the agent thing — agents get heaps and mounds of submissions weekly. They have to have some way to sort through them and respond quickly, hence, query letters. It may have been a sales issue, a personal lack of connection, or maybe the agent just didn’t understand the potential (and, obviously, you wouldn’t want that agent). So, high-five for kicking ass with the book, but don’t let that agent thing stick in your craw too bad.

    — c.

  15. God! This is just what I’m going through. I was in the dumps a few weeks back. I’d gotten so many form rejections that something inside me broke a little. And yes. Something snapped in me as well. I haven’t yet hit the publish button. I’m in the process of compiling the cover art, the formatting etc. BUT I have decided to self-publish as well.

    Congratulations to you on having done so damn well! Love it when a self-pubbed novel succeeds!

  16. I, too, would like to thank that agent for finally letting me read the book, and I’m looking forward to reading more.

  17. I read once that J.K. Rowling has a Christmas card list made up of all the people who rejected her Harry Potter series. Every year they receive a very kind, very glittery, embossed reminder.

  18. Congratulations on finally having some publishing success! I bought it on Kindle as soon as Tam had mentioned it on her blog. Enjoyed it, very Heinlein-esque in concept — only gripe: WHERE’S THE SEQUEL!??!!!

    Wishing you the best in your self-publishing career…

  19. I had a slightly different experience. I submitted my humorous novel to one of the big six publishers. While waiting to hear from them I entered the 2010 ABNA contest and got to the semi finals. Spurred on by the Publishers Weekly reviewer who described it as ‘Droll, witty and utterly British’ I e-published on Kindle. It had sold over 5000 copies when I received a polite rejection letter from the publisher explaining that although it was good, they didn’t feel the book would sell enough copies to justify publication. I took great delight in replying and thanking them for their consideration and telling them that I had self-published and sold over 5000 copies (now over 17 000). I didn’t receive a reply.

    (But Can You Drink The Water? )

  20. Huge congrats on taking control of your own career. I love your honesty in this post. The slush pile process is broken. The reason writers don’t understand what agents are looking for is because agents have no idea what they are looking for. The whole thing’ll be moot in a couple years anyway when every writer goes indie and the big six become one outmoded entity. Look forward to checking out your book – it sounds great!

  21. I’m hearing more and more stories like this. All I can say is go Indies, agents and publishers no longer recognize what the public want to read.

    I sold over 50k books with my first book in the first six months and had agents tapping me up left, right and center. I eventually signed with a top NY agent. However, since i sent the contract back he’s done NOTHING to help me. I’ve sold well over 250k novels now through my own hard work and initiative.

    Good luck to you with your future writing.

  22. Congratulations! I’ve been at this self-publishing gig for 3 years now, and I see it as a marathon rather than a sprint. But I think it’s GREAT that you’ve shot off the starting blocks in such a spectacular style! Go, you!