Most of the time when you get a rejection from an agent, it is very bland and unhelpful. Usually form. Sometimes, though, you luck out and get a personal rejection! (Yes, my definitions of ‘luck’ have lowered over time.)

This morning I received a rejection from an agency that I queried back in September. The reply was personal, and not from the agent that I queried, which likely means she had passed Ashes on to someone who might like it more (or delegated reading slush emails, I suppose).

Thank you for submitting Ashes to [our agency]. Unfortunately, we are going to pass on this project. The story in the query sounds interesting with a strong hook. However…the word count is also much too long for us right now. We’ve found that publishers are not taking on projects that are over 100k words because of the costs associated with producing longer titles. For these reasons, we ultimately decided to pass.

There is a definite value in staying the course, and working hard to find opportunities, especially in publishing. But there’s also a big component that is out of one’s control: being in the right time and place.

I’ve mentioned retiring Ashes due to the length to more than a few people, and the responses have ranged from “You just have to keep going!” to “But X, X, and X are all longer debut novels and they got published”. So I wanted to make this blog post just to expand on what keeps happening: if an agent bothers to send me a personal response–which means they saw something worth responding to–they mention the length being the deciding factor. Repeatedly. (So even if X did get published at a long length as a debut novel, all that means is that Ashes is not exceptional enough to overcome that hurdle.)

Ashes‘ professional editor couldn’t figure out what to trim. Its double plots, wrapped around each other in a helix, does not lend itself to being chopped in half and separated into two books in any way that I can see. I don’t know what else to do with it right now.

Perhaps I need to level up more. Perhaps one day I’ll be able to condense it. Perhaps one day I will just self-publish it as is. Perhaps it will be discovered in an attic one day, a lost manuscript. Who knows!

There’s value in staying the course but there’s also value in knowing when to cut one’s losses and focus energies elsewhere. I’ve got one novel to finish, its sequel to start, three finished manuscripts in need of extensive editing, and one currently out querying. There is only so much of me to go around.

I still believe Ashes was a story worth writing, but it’s not the right time and place for it. So it’s staying in the drawer until further notice.

Published in blog So How Goes


Victoria Feistner is a novelist, a graphic designer, and an artisan in equal parts, although some of those parts are more equal than others. She resides in Toronto with her husband and two fur children, also known as cats.

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