On Tuesday, I got another conditional not-really-a-rejection-letter rejection letter.
Disappointing on the one hand because A) it’s a rejection and B) I felt that I took the agent’s concerns about the manuscript’s length and the need to strengthen the climax to heart and made good on both fronts.
Well, I will note that she did not have a problem with the new ending. That was not even mentioned.
No, the gist of her letter was, simply, “I want more” — meaning more length and more depth.
The revised manuscript clocked in at 48,400 words — within the realm of an acceptable YA manuscript length but still too short for the agent’s tastes. “At present, editors are looking for YA fantasy/sci-fi from debut authors between 75-100k, and I feel a 48k novel would be a very difficult sell,” she said.
It seems the length (or lack thereof) was tied closely to her other major comment: “I think there is a lot of room to flesh
out each of the characters, build upon their origin stories…You have a great skeleton, but there are so many more things you can do with the characters and this world.”
In an e-mail exchange I pointed out that this was meant to be the first in a series of books that would explore the characters and the world, to which she replied, “I’m pleased to know that you have plans for a long series, but I do think that in order for a series to sell well, the first book has to be the big hook. And that’s why I suggested you build more upon it. It has to be this first story that compels the readers to want to buy the next. I do think you can leave room for some mysteries to be discovered in later books, but the story in the first has to set it up strongly enough for people to want more.”
She finished with an invitation to re-submit the novel if I choose to expand upon it, and you’re damn right I plan to lengthen and re-submit it. Because the writing bug was biting me something fierce, I began work on what I envisioned as the second book in the series, but now I plan to finish that up and integrate it with the first manuscript. Taken together I am now at approximately 73,000 words and still have a quite a lot to write, so I think the word count issue is as good as resolved. And since “book two” was digging into some of the other characters’ backgrounds, I think I can address her other issue about wanting a stronger starting point for the series.
So it’s back to the proverbial drawing board once again, but I don’t see this as a step backwards but a small step forward. The disappointment is gone and has been replaced by a stronger sense of optimism that this project is going to happen.