#PitDark on May 25, 2023

The next #PitDark will take place on May 25, 2023.

This is an event for literature of a darker nature.

The contest will happen on Twitter under a common hashtag (#PitDark). During a 12-hour window on the chosen day, authors with completed manuscripts who are seeking representation or publication can tweet a pitch for their books (at most, once per hour).

Agents and publishers will make requests by marking pitches as a like on Twitter. If your tweet is liked, please follow the agent or publisher’s submission guidelines.

For more information on specifics, check out this page.

Interview With Citizen Orlov Author, Jonathan Payne 

In an unnamed central European country after the Great War, a humble fishmonger gets caught up in a world of espionage and intrigue when he answers the wrong phone call.

This thriller meets absurd comedy of errors is currently on Apple Book’s Best Books of May list. They call it “the most fun spy thriller we’ve read in ages.” And Publishers Weekly calls it “a stellar debut.”

I had the pleasure of discussing this novel with the author himself and have included our chat below. Not only did we talk about the book, but we also discussed the process of writing and publishing with an independent publisher.

Jessica: What inspired you to write Citizen Orlov?

Jonathan: I caught COVID-19 and had some weird fever dreams. In one dream, I was back in my government days and they sent me on an assignment to a strange, foreign country. Somehow I managed to get there without knowing where I was. Anything is possible in dreams, of course. As soon as I arrived, someone started shooting at me. I remember a sense of indignation about this. I was only following orders. Who was trying to kill me and why? In the morning, I wrote down the dream and it became the kernel of CITIZEN ORLOV.

Jessica: What is your process as a writer? When do you find time to write? How long did it take you to write the novel? What was your editing process like?

Jonathan: I’m not an x-words-every-single-day sort of writer. I do a lot of pondering and planning before I get into drafting. On my masters course they called this pre-writing. I like that concept. Once I get into the first draft, then I write every day, but I need to know where I’m going first. CITIZEN ORLOV began life as a novella, but my writing group encouraged me to expand it into a novel. So, the writing process was a little on and off, over about a year.

I was nervous about the editing process because I thought: what if my editor doesn’t ‘get it’? What if they don’t understand what I’m trying to do? Luckily, my editor, Elana Gibson, absolutely got it. It was clear to me in our first meeting that she understood what I was going for and could help me get there. On that first call we spent ages talking about Wes Anderson and Coen Brothers movies and I immediately relaxed. After that, the process was a pleasure. Elana had some great ideas for drawing out and clarifying the themes and tone of the story.

Jessica: Describe the experience of publishing a book through an independent publisher. What made you decide to go indie? How do you think the process might have been different than publishing with one of the big 5 publishers?

Jonathan: I started out pitching agents for a few months but I was getting no feedback aside from some rote rejections. I still don’t know if any of those agents read a single word of my work versus my query letter. So, I switched to pitching small presses and got an offer almost immediately from CamCat Books, an independent publisher based in Nashville, TN.

I was drawn to CamCat because their submission process was way more onerous than most; it was like an exam. I really liked that because I thought: at last, there’s a chance someone is actually going to read my stuff. They loved it and made me an offer. It was an easy decision, because they were so enthusiastic about the novel.

This is my debut novel, so I don’t really know how to compare my experience with the Big 5 process. Of course if you go via an agent there’s an extra step where the book is out on submission. I imagine the editing process is similar, but the marketing process is probably different, given that the Big 5 have bigger budgets.

Jessica: What were some of your favorite moments?

Jonathan: Honestly, the process has mostly been a pleasure. I’m learning new things about publishing every day. Although CamCat is a small team, they have a ton of experience in publishing and so it’s been like a crash course for me in how the industry works.

Jessica: What have been some of your challenges in this process?

Jonathan: One of the most nerve-wracking moments was when they sent me five cover concepts and asked me to make detailed comments about them. I’m not really a visual person, but luckily I’m married to a professional artist and former graphic designer, so I asked my wife to take a look and that was a big help. The concepts were all so different and it felt like a big decision.

Jessica: What was the marketing process like for your book?

Jonathan: Well, the marketing process is still ongoing. I’ve been working with CamCat’s marketing team and also an external publicist. I think the most important part of that process has been the team sending the book out for reviews, which mostly hasn’t involved me as the author. My inputs have been doing interviews with magazines and in some cases writing articles about the books that have influenced my work, and so on.

My publicist is going to continue working with me for about a month after publication, and we’re expecting reviews to keep coming in over that period.

I’m also looking forward to attending ThrillerFest in NYC for the first time. I’m in the International Thriller Writers debut authors program, which means I’ll get the chance to pitch my book to the whole conference, just a week after it’s published.

Jessica: What did you learn in this process of publishing your first book?

Jonathan: The biggest single lesson I’ve learned so far is that publishing a book is a team sport. Writing often feels solitary, but publishing is definitely not. I can’t count the number of people who’ve had a hand in bringing CITIZEN ORLOV to the market, but the process has involved lawyers, finance folks, editors, designers, marketeers, a production coordinator, a publicist, a printing company and a distribution company, as well as reviewers, and the bookstore that’s agreed to host the launch event.

Jessica: What advice would you give other people looking to publish a book?

Jonathan: For those looking to get traditionally published, my advice is: make your work stand out. Find ways to make your work different. And, of course, make sure the quality is good enough to publish. From what I’ve seen so far, it seems that everyone in the publishing industry is awash with manuscripts. No surprise there. So, there’s not much point in pitching work that’s not ready for prime time or—dare I say it—work that’s boring. Publishing folks are run off their feet. Send them something that will stop them in their tracks and make them take notice.

Jessica: Thanks for your time, Jonathan Payne! I highly appreciate your deep dive into the process of publishing with an independent publisher.

For the rest of you, be sure to check out CITIZEN ORLOV. It’s a fun novel and a page turner to be sure.

It is available for pre-order on Amazon right now, and will be published May 23rd.

Citizen Orlov Links:

Order Citizen Orlov on Amazon

Order Citizen Orlov on Barnes and Noble

Citizen Orlov on Good Reads

Citizen Orlov on Book Bub

Absurdist Spy Thriller Giveaway

Camcat Books

Related Content:

Mango Publishing Interview – Starting an Independent Book Publisher

Interview with Tannhauser Press – How to Start an Independent Book Publisher?

Interview with Space Squid – How to Start a Fiction Magazine

Why Good Stories Still Get Rejected – Fusion Fragment Magazine

Writing is a field where you can do everything right and still (most likely) get rejected. Even having a well written character, setting, and plot is not always enough.

Many writers are aware of why bad stories get rejected: grammatical errors, boring, cliche, weak passive language, confusing plot, too much or too little description.

But why does a good story get rejected?

The Sci-fi magazine, Fusion Fragment, has a really helpful twitter thread on this topic.

I’ll summarize their reasons here:

  • Not a good fit for the particular publication: This is the “It’s not you, it’s me,” of publishing. But it is true. Someone can submit a really well written story that just doesn’t fit in to a particular publication, whether due to style, tone, humor, or other reasons. That’s why it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the style of a particular publication before you submit your work.
  • Controversial Content: There are certain topics that some publishers are hesitant to handle. This can include suicide, bigotry, sexual assault, etc. If you are writing about a touchy subject, proceed with caution. Certain publishers are edgier than others. So if you want to be edgy, do your research.
  • Topic Frequency: You may have written an excellent story about alien abduction, for example. But the problem is that the magazine may have already accepted a bunch of stories on this topic and is looking for something else. This is why it’s a good idea to study what particular publishers are looking for, or what they would like more of. Also be aware of what topics have been done so much that editors are sick of reading about them. As far as I am aware, zombies, vampires, and young adult dystopia can be a hard sell for this reason.

Aside from the reasons Fusion Fragment gave, I’ll also add a few of my own.

  • Luck: Luck unfortunately is a component of publishing. It’s not everything, but it is a factor. And this factor is out of your control (unless you have a magical lamp somewhere).
  • Timing: Your submission may have arrived at a time when perhaps the editor wasn’t in the best mood, or doesn’t like your topic because of something else they recently read that left a sour taste in their mouth. Who knows? But much like luck, you can’t control this.

I hope this was helpful for you. Remember. You can’t control the outcome of who publishes your work. But you can commit to the process. If you commit to getting better and submitting content on a regular basis, you will increase your chances of success.

If you have any comments on this topic, feel free to leave them here.


Fusion Fragment Magazine

What I Learned in Dan Brown’s Masterclass (Stories From Tomorrow)

Color Coding Rejection (Stories From Tomorrow)

The Future of Writing Fiction in the AI Revolution

(Image Made with AI at PlaygroundAI)

Right now many writers are freaking out about the advent of AI that can also write fiction.

Yet before you start freaking out too much, remember that technology is amoral. The AI we have right now is not sentient. It’s not Skynet. It’s actually a very simple tool that is as good or bad as the people using it, and as good or bad as the input it gets. So whether it puts people out of a job, or gives them more opportunities, is not dependent on the technology, it’s dependent on us and our choices.

It can become a corporate tool to generate mass amounts of cookie cutter content, or it can give a refugee the ability to tell their story to the world. Maybe it’ll do both.

I am aware there was a controversial article published in the New York Times about an AI that tried to get a journalist to leave his marriage. But if you look closely at the article, you’ll see that the journalist was asking the AI to respond as if it had a Jungian concept of the Shadow. I am sure the AI simply combed the internet for dark ideas, and replied in kind.

Basic Tools AI Can Provide Fiction Authors According to ChatGPT Itself

If you want to know something about someone, the best way is to go and ask them. It’s Journalism 101. When I asked ChatGPT how it can help authors write fiction, it told me the following:

AI can help fiction authors in several ways, including:

Idea generation: AI can be used to generate ideas for stories, characters, and settings. There are various AI-powered tools available that can generate prompts and ideas for authors to build on.

Writing assistance: AI can assist authors in writing by providing suggestions for sentence structures, grammar corrections, and even predicting the next word in a sentence. These tools can help authors improve their writing and catch mistakes they might have missed.

Character development: AI can help authors develop more complex and dynamic characters by providing insights into their motivations and personality traits. There are tools that use machine learning algorithms to analyze large amounts of data to provide personality insights.

Plotting: AI can help authors create more compelling plots by analyzing existing stories and identifying patterns that work well. AI can also help generate story arcs and plot outlines based on a set of criteria.

Translation: AI can help authors reach a wider audience by translating their works into different languages. There are translation tools that use machine learning algorithms to provide accurate translations.

Overall, AI can help fiction authors by providing new ideas, improving their writing, and assisting in character and plot development.

Thanks ChatGPT.

Generating Fiction Content with ChatGPT

I have spent much time messing around with ChatGPT. As someone who makes my living through writing, what do I think about it?

A tool like ChatGPT functions as an aggregator of data and information. It cannot have creative thoughts, wisdom and personal insight like a human being can, but it can comb the data it was given to aggregate the creative thoughts and insights of already existing texts.

Here is more detail about how it works: ChatGPT is a transformer-based neural network that provides answers and data with human writing patterns. The AI has been programmed with endless amounts of text data to understand context, relevancy and how to generate human-like responses to questions. (Entrepreneur.com)

I have asked ChatGPT to write me a few short stories. These stories tend to read like a synopsis rather than a story itself. They don’t go into much depth. Or when they do get into emotional details, they read as very cliche. But it makes sense that the language is cliche, because instead of providing something fresh, it’s making a composite from the existing content of the however many thousand stories it read to generate my request.

I’ll share with you a 500 word story I had ChatGPT write about pirate romance to demonstrate how it works:

As the sun began to set over the vast ocean, the sails of the ship caught the warm, orange glow of the sun, making it look like it was on fire. The crew aboard the ship was made up of rough and tumble pirates, men and women who had spent most of their lives on the open sea. Among them, there was a young woman named Isabella, who had joined the crew to escape her mundane life on land.

Isabella was the youngest and only woman on the ship. She had always been drawn to the sea, and the pirate’s life seemed like an adventure that she couldn’t resist. Her life on the ship was rough, but she loved it nonetheless. The crew, at first, was hesitant to accept her, but as they saw her determination and skill, they began to welcome her as one of their own.

One day, as they were raiding a merchant ship, Isabella was tasked with keeping watch on deck. As she stood there, scanning the horizon, she heard a voice behind her.
“Beautiful night, isn’t it?” The voice belonged to the captain, a rugged and handsome man named Jack.

Isabella turned to face him and was taken aback by his piercing blue eyes and his rugged features. She had seen him around the ship, but they had never spoken before.

“Yes, it is,” she replied, feeling her heart flutter in her chest.

Jack stepped closer to her, and she could feel the warmth of his body. “You know, Isabella, you’re not like the other crew members. You have a spirit and a fire that’s rare to find in someone.”

Isabella’s heart skipped a beat as she heard his words. She had never thought that someone like Jack would pay attention to her. “Thank you,” she replied, her voice barely above a whisper.

They stood there in silence for a moment, watching the stars above them. Isabella couldn’t help but feel drawn to Jack, and she could sense that he felt the same way.
As the night went on, they found themselves stealing glances at each other, their eyes locking for a moment before quickly looking away. They knew that they couldn’t act on their feelings, for fear of the crew finding out and causing trouble.

But as they sailed on, Isabella and Jack found themselves drawn together, unable to resist the magnetic pull between them. They stole moments together when they could, stealing kisses and sharing secrets.

As their ship sailed into the sunset, with Isabella and Jack holding hands on deck, they both knew that their love was forbidden, but they also knew that they couldn’t resist it. They were pirates, after all, living life on their own terms, and they were willing to risk everything for the love that they had found.

It’s not bad for something written by a computer in less than a minute. But it would definitely not be accepted for publication by any quality short story fiction publisher. In addition to part of it reading like a synopsis, there are a lot of cliches, including Captain Jack’s “piercing blue eyes.”

For now, I think the technology will function in conjunction with authors, rather than replacing them. Just like a calculator doesn’t get rid of the need for mathematicians, it has just increased the amount and sophistication of math that is done by mathematicians, while decreasing the grunt work.

The Current Rise of Slush For Publishers

Neil Clarke recently released an article discussing how the number of submitters Clarkesworld magazine has had to ban has escalated to an all time high this year because of people submitting stories written by AI.

When it comes to paid publishers, people are going to be more tempted to just copy paste an AI written story, submit it and see how far they can get.

Publishers may be challenged to think of new ways to prove that the story wasn’t entirely written by AI. Or the process of verifying the writer and building a relationship with them as a person might get more thorough.

My writer friends aren’t going to like this, but another reality is that publishers might become less open to the public. They might develop a team or network of writers they already know in order to decrease slush and output human written content.

Predicting The AI Revolution By What Has Come Before:

If we want to understand the future, we must understand the past.

Ever since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, we have found ways to use technology to decrease the time it takes to do a task and to rapidly increase output. The thinking at the time was that this would decrease the number of people doing labor. Instead, we’ve seen the very opposite. People now work longer hours than they did before the Industrial Revolution.

When we found a way to use factories to make textiles, this didn’t mean that less people were involved in making textiles. This just meant that the process became much more streamlined, sophisticated, and that the output of textiles dramatically increased.

Also, when the photograph was invented 200 years ago, this didn’t put artists out of work. Instead, this changed the nature of art itself. As the use of photographs became much more prevalent in the beginning of the 20th century, so too did we see the sudden explosion of the modern art movement. Before photographs, art was about capturing the likeness of an image. But as photographs made realism less impressive, art became more about creativity and expression. There is also definitely an art and skill to photography itself.

And during the Information Age, we’ve seen that spell checking, grammar checking and online publishing has also dramatically increased the output of fiction. As a result, the Information Age has dramatically increased the output of books compared to where things were in the Pre-Information Age. The creativity and style of an author is now way more important than their ability to spell check and grammar check their work.

AI Could Function as a Tool to Rapidly Decrease the Time it Takes to Write a Book.

If we learned anything about technology, it’s that it decreases time to do a task, streamlines the process and dramatically increases output.

Right now, it can take an author anywhere from 6-12 months to write a book. And if the author is writing a sci-fi or fantasy novel with a very creative and in depth world, it could take much longer. I myself take 2 years to write a book (but I also do this in addition to having a full time job and other adult responsibilities).

What if an author could feed the AI algorithm a plot synopsis for their book, character descriptions, world building, and have the algorithm generate a 300 page book in an hour? It’s likely the author would still have to go in and provide oversight, get rid of cliches, make the language fresh, add personal flair to the dialogue, and so on.

But still, it’s possible that this technology could dramatically decrease the time it takes an author to do the grunt work of writing a book, maybe decreasing that time from 12 months to 1 or 2 months. What it would be doing is providing the labor of choreographing a fight scene, or describing a setting rather than making the author take the time to do it.

Lessons From James Patterson and His Writer Factory

People are often impressed that James Patterson can publish 14 books a year. This seems especially impressive after I just mentioned the average writer can pump out at most 1 book in that time (if they are lucky). But here’s the thing about James Patterson—he has streamlined the process. He has a whole team of writers available to write his books based on his outlines and feedback. He has other writers available to do the grunt work of the writing, while he is free to provide the creative oversight.

I imagine this would be a similar dynamic when it comes to a person streamlining their own creative process with the use of AI bots.

In the same way that photography made creativity more important in art, perhaps creativity will become more important in the fiction world as well.

AI and Fiction in the Corporate World

When analyzing the nature of our corporate, hyper capitalist, neoliberal world, one possibility is that publishing companies will have an AI that reads 1,000 of the best selling novels, and then churns out some cookie cutter content that is a composite of all those novels. They would still need a person to go through and provide oversight. But it would be one person pumping out a 1 novel in a month, rather than in a year. People like James Patterson who are good at providing creative oversight will become very valuable, grunt work will become less valuable.

A current example of this dynamic is that the author Erik Hoel at Electric Lit fed his novel to an AI, GPT-3, to see if the AI could write something better. He was shocked and horrified when the AI wrote something almost as good. There were some mistakes the AI made and weird descriptions Erik had to go in and fix. But Erik still said the AI wrote a facsimile of his book in 1000x the speed.

The Capability of AI to Democratize Writing

Above I’ve mentioned the corporate capitalist response, but there is another reality as well. Technology could go the other way and help those who historically have not had access to writing their book because of limitations on education or money.

A quarter of the world’s books are written in English even though a quarter of the world’s population does not speak English.

An overwhelming number of authors are white.

Education is also a barrier to many people being able to tell their stories. I’ve heard English as second language speakers be told that they should give up their hopes of writing a book in English, because it just wouldn’t be good enough to be published.

Is a refugee or a homeless person less worthy of telling their story than a college graduate? If anything, the people in the aforementioned group might have a much more interesting story to tell.

Language, education and societal bias could be less of a barrier to people getting their creative ideas out there.

The Personality of the Author May Become More Important

As publishers begin to churn out a tidal wave of books that are all very similar to one another in order to make a profit, people may turn against this by finding an indie author with an authentic voice and a unique personality they find interesting.

Matt Giaro on Medium made a good point that there is a reason people spend more time on social media than Wikipedia. People are more interesting than piles of information, or what he called “steamed broccoli.”

As Our Output Increases, So Will Our Ability to Consume It

As our ability to generate output dramatically increases, I think parallel technological movements will evolve to enhance our ability to consume it. Perhaps this is the cyberpunk writer in me. But if we consider the possibilities inherent in neural nets and brainware, I think we are going to start developing technologies that will rapidly enhance peoples’ ability to read quickly and mentally digest copious amounts of content. A person may able to read one novel a day, instead of one novel a month.

This could fundamentally change the human being, just as the Industrial Age and the Information Age has dramatically changed the human being.

Larger Questions About How AI Will Affect Society

Above I mentioned that technology is amoral. It’s only as good or bad as the people using it.

I think for those of us white collar folk who make our living through writing, this moment in time could give us a little humility, and a little sympathy for our blue collar brethren who had their jobs traded away due to technological trends, globalism, and Neo Liberal economics.

Technology has the capability to build us a post-work utopia where people can indulge in their hobbies all day.

Technology also has the capability of creating a hellscape where we’re all replaced by machines and the .001 percent of richest people let us starve off and die while they enjoy their new free, mechanized laborers.

This new AI writing technology could enable a refugee with a limited grasp of English tell their story to the world.

This new technology could also produce writing factories that pour out the same sounding tripe for the masses.

It’s all about what we as a society prioritize as important.


This is all heavy stuff. For now, maybe just have fun writing a steamy pirate romance? You could call it, “She Walked the Captain’s Plank,” or “Secrets Below Deck,” or “Passion on the Seven Seas.” Those were my ideas.

Here are some additional suggested titles from ChatGPT

  1. “The Pirate’s Treasure of Love”
  2. “Rogue Waves of Passion: A Pirate Romance”
  3. “Tides of Desire: A Swashbuckling Love Story”

Honestly, I think “Tides of Desire” is the best title here. So, you win, ChatGPT.

By the way, I intentionally showed how I used AI to help me generate content for this article, showing how…for now…AI was a tool that helped my process.

Here’s the remainder of my conversation with ChatGPT:

Me: “Do you think AI will remove the need for human authors of fiction?”

ChatGPT: “While AI has made significant strides in the field of natural language processing and machine learning, it’s unlikely that it will entirely replace human authors of fiction. AI language models can generate texts and even entire stories, but they currently lack the creative thinking, imagination, and emotional depth that humans can bring to storytelling.

Human authors have a unique perspective, and they can convey experiences and emotions in a way that AI language models cannot. While AI can assist in the writing process and provide new insights and ideas, it’s unlikely that it will entirely replace the role of human authors. In fact, some experts argue that AI may enhance the creative process, providing new tools and techniques for human authors to explore and experiment with.

In summary, AI language models may have a role in assisting authors and enhancing the creative process, but they’re unlikely to entirely replace human authors of fiction.”

Seven SMART Writing Goals for 2023

(Image Source)

As the new year approaches, it’s a good time for writers to revisit their goals.

Writers.com has some good advice on how to set smart, reliable, achievable goals. They use the acronym SMART.

SMART is all about the properties of a good (“smart”) goal.

It stands for:

Specific. Make your goal or objective as specific as possible. Say exactly what you want to achieve in clear, concise words.

Measurable. Include a unit of measurement in your goal. Be objective rather than subjective. When will your goal be achieved? How will you know it has been achieved?

Achievable. Be realistic. Ensure that your goal is feasible in terms of the resources available to you.

Relevant. Your goals should align with your values and long-term objectives.

Time-bound. Give yourself a deadline within a year. Include a time frame such as a week, month or year, and include a specific date if possible.

Here are seven goals I can think of that match this acronym.

  • I will finish my outline for my work in progress by (insert date)
  • I will set aside (insert amount of time) to write each day, for at least 5 days a week.
  • I will finish my work in progress by (insert date)
  • I will join a critique group and commit to it (insert number) times a month.
  • I will submit my work to (insert number) of publications each month.
  • I will read for (insert amount of time) a day.
  • I will share my content on social media (insert number of times) a week.

You will notice I did not write things like. “I will finish my work in progress.” Or. “I will get published.” Or “I will write 12,000 words a day.” The best way to accomplish a goal is to make it specific, realistic, to create firm deadlines, and to break it down into small achievable pieces.

Committing to the process is also more important than making “getting published” a goal. There’s no way to know for certain that you will get published, but instead it’s better to make the goal something like, “I will submit to 2 publications a month,” because that is something you know you can achieve.

I added a social media component, because an important aspect of writing in today’s world is having followers who are interested in your work.

I also added reading and critique groups because these things help you to get better as a writer.

Check out this article on writers.com for more information.

Color Coding Rejection



According to Huffington Post 96% of authors seeking agents are rejected. Meaning the chances of getting an agent to represent you for publishing are only 4%. And that was the data from 7 years ago. I feel like the numbers are probably worse now.

For anyone who wants to be a writer, rejection will become a regular part of your existence. Before I started submitting queries to agents I had an idea that it was hard. And at an intellectual level, I had some idea that rejection rates were over 90%. But I really had no idea how hard it was until I tried the process myself. Now a rejection rate of 96% sounds mercifully low because it feels more like 99.999999%, like 9,999 metric tons of cold crushing “NOOOO!”

With the odds 96% against you, it can feel discouraging (discouraging seems inadequate here, a better term is ‘soul eviscerating’). I’ve even read pieces of advice that say things like, “Don’t treat it as a lotto, just improve your skills.” Yet even with a well-written book, the book still has to be a good fit for the agent in question, and it has to be something they can look at and think, “I’ll make money off of this.”

So yeah, it’s hard. Really, really, really, really hard. (I don’t have enough “really’s” here).

Yet one thing that can help is not to look at the process as a binary of “succeed/fail.”

For example, if my process was to color-code agents who accepted me as green, and those who rejected me as red, here would be my table of rejections:


That’s a whole lot of fail.

It might be better to see it as a tiered process because there are actually different levels of rejection.

Here is the hierarchy from top to bottom (best to worst) responses you can get from an agent:

  • Acceptance
  • Request for a full manuscript
  • Request for a partial sample
  • Detailed rejection letter (A detailed rejection is good because it means they were interested enough to take the time to read your work and explain what didn’t work for them).
  • Standard form letter or no response. (Put these in the same category because they’re pretty much the same).

Let’s give that hierarchy some color.

  • Acceptance 
  • Request for a full manuscript 
  • Request for a partial sample
  • Detailed rejection letter
  • Standard form letter or no response

Now let’s look at my list:


That’s a lot more digestible than the first chart. When I break down the numbers, that means 6% of the agents I write want the full manuscript. 10% want a partial. 16% have taken the time to write a detailed rejection. Leaving 68% in the standard form letter/no response category.

In addition to having a goal of getting accepted by an agent, I can also make a sub-goal of trying to improve my odds in the desired categories. When I started out the query process last year, 100% of the responses I got were standard form letter or just no response. Then it decreased to 90%. And so on and so forth.

Your rates may be better or worse than mine. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that maybe this can give you a new way to conceive of rejection that is less painful than the pass/fail binary so many writers like to inflict upon ourselves. And making it a goal to decrease your percentage in the standard form letter/no response category, and grow your percentage in the other categories.