Claire King


Posts Tagged ‘Rejections’

Literary Agent Responses – How long is normal?

Posted on: June 29th, 2011 by Claire - 42 Comments

This week I had a response from a literary agent to a submission I sent out 8 months ago (and withdrew 8 months minus one week ago). It was a slightly surreal reminder of the submissions process (and for information, it was a rejection)…

Rainbow in a meadow


When I was submitting I kept an excel spreadsheet of my submission dates, to whom I submitted, the initial response time etc and I thought it might be time to share. This was my process for finding an agent:

1) Look in the Writers and Artists Yearbook for agents that handle literary fiction, accept unsolicited submissions and were currently open to submissions from new authors.

2) Consider which authors my writing is similar to, and find out who represents them.

3) Draw up a long list of agencies, then check out their websites, google them and see where they have turned up on the web, what novels they have sold, articles they have written, etc etc.

4) Draw up a shortlist of 20, take a deep breath, start sending out queries in batches of four or five.

5) Wait

I don’t know if that’s a good process or not, but it felt right to me.

In the end I submitted to eleven agents before signing with an agent in early November. Of those agents, six hadn’t yet responded, so I wrote to them, and e-mailed, to withdraw my manuscript.

Of those six, three replied by email the same day, to say thank you for letting them know, congratulations and good luck. The three that replied had variously had my submission for 3 months, 6 weeks and 1 week.

Of the remaining three, one never replied. One responded to my original submission in January this year and one replied to my original submission this week, after having had the submission for 8 months!

Is 8 months normal for a response?

For those of you who have work out on submission at the moment, how long do you consider is reasonable for a response? What does an eight-month high slush pile even look like?

In other stats – for the five agents who responded to my initial submission:
One replied after a month to say their slushpile was too big and they had stopped accepting submissions.
Two rejected – One after two weeks, one after three weeks.
Two requested full – both requests arrived 6 days after I posted the query + 3 chapters (from France to the UK). And then pretty fast turnarounds for the fulls – two weeks for one agent and four days for the other…resulting in The Call.

Getting a rejection from an agent saying this: “With such a full list of clients, it is rare that we are able to take on new authors – and then only with material we are extremely confident of placing with a publisher.  Regretfully, we do not feel that your work fits into that category.” several months after my novel sold to Bloomsbury doesn’t have the sting to that it would if I were still looking for an agent. But it’s a sharp reminder that this industry is so incredibly risk averse and subjective.

Wishing all of you slush-pile warriors courage and the best of luck.


Thoughts from the Fiction Editor’s Desk

Posted on: June 3rd, 2011 by Claire - 13 Comments

As many of you will know, I recently took over as Fiction Editor at The View From Here literary magazine. The first issue featuring the stories I selected has just been published. I promise you that it is entirely coincidental that this is also the last printed edition of TVFH. From now on it’s all digital.

I don’t know if that is a sad thing or not, the evolution to digital. I do know that many literary magazines are making the same decision. Run by people who do it for love rather than money, even so the costs of small print runs can make the price of the magazines prohibitively expensive. Not all though – the excellent Words with Jam just launched its first printed edition! Meanwhile the online literary scene is vibrant and booming. There’s a good article here by Kirsty Logan on finding the balance between online and print.

So you can now read the first four stories that I chose (see below for details on how to get your mitts on them) and I wanted to explain why these stories made it in when many many more did not. Unfortunately I’m not in a position to make personalised responses to writers whose work I turn down. But perhaps knowing what made me choose these stories could be interesting?

When I started to read submissions, I didn’t know exactly what I was looking for. Just that I thought I would know it when I saw it. Something that was a delight to read, something fresh, exciting…that elicited an emotional response. It had to fit in with the ‘style’ of TVFH and if all that wasn’t enough, I also knew I wanted the stories I chose to be complementary – to fit together in the issue they would share.

I read around 100 submissions, which included a very high standard of writing. So why did I choose these particular stories?

The writing stood out from the crowd. It’s very hard to describe how that works, except to say that upon opening the stories, by one paragraph in I was no longer ‘filtering submissions’ but reading a story that had pulled me right in. The writing that attracted my attention tended to be bold, tight, and unrestrained by ‘The Rules’. Also it had to be well edited, because aside from a few editorial suggestions, I’m afraid I don’t have the time to go through a piece correcting typos etc.

I was very fortunate in that the stories that stood out for me last month had a common thread that pulls them together:  I ended up with four male protagonists, all searching for something inside themselves. The themes are rather dark, although admittedly this was a general trend across all 100 submissions. I also felt the stories both complemented each other and contrasted, because they were crafted in very different ways:

Bone Fire by A.J. Ashworth

Written in second-person, present tense, a tough feat to pull off, but delivered seamlessly. Here, the characterisation is deftly and tightly woven into a relatively short story. It instilled a kind of panic in me as I read it.

Yellow Fingers by Michael Saul

I found the voice of Joe Jack in this both authentic and unusual. Reading the unforgiving descriptions accompanied by the rough dialect felt a lot like rubbernecking. The imagery is ugly but it held a strange fascination for me.

Man Answers Ad by Anthony Spaeth

Reading this story for the first time was like being seated front row at some kind of absurdist theatre. ‘Waiting for Godot’, perhaps. But unlike some writing which seems to be trying hard to be ‘different’ or ‘unusual’ this seemed entirely natural. The bizarre narrative held up throughout the whole story and I wondered where it was going. I loved how, in the ending, the reader is nudged gently towards a conclusion.

I’m already gone by James Lloyd Davis

A piece of flash fiction that could easily be part of a bigger story. This hints at such a complicated backstory, and then invites the reader to fill in the character, his past, his future, his wife’s future…stretching out your imagination like ripples on a pond.

If you’re a TVFH subscriber, I would be really interested to hear what you think about this issue and the stories I chose. If you are not, well The View From Here can be ordered here, either in printed format or, for your e-reader or computer in digital format for only $1 or £0.69

This is (sniff) our last printed issue. We will continue publishing the best fiction we can find up at The Front View and you are cordially invited to send your words for consideration.

UPDATE: SUMMER 2014 – I handed over the editor’s baton last year to Kate Brown, after my writing commitments left me with little time to read submissions. Kate has picked some cracking stories over the last few months, you should go and read them. 

UPDATE: END 2014 – The View From Here has closed it’s doors, sadly. But all the stories and interviews are still archived and available online.  

Pub/Lit Roundup

Posted on: February 9th, 2011 by Claire - 7 Comments

I’ve decided to keep a log of the best links I find and post or retweet on Twitter and I will post them here periodically. Here is the first batch of twenty:


Literary Agents and Publishing

Questions to Agents (and replies) – Jennifer Laughran (Literaticat) Open Thread

The self publishing Hoo-Ha – Chuck Wendig

On deciding to self publish – Robert Chazz Chute

The speech that all writers need to hear (on rejection, success and living your life) – Jane Smith

How much editing does a contracted book need? – Jody Hedlund

Are e-books killing the literary novel? – bnet

Bloomsbury Restructure along global lines – Publishers Weekly Feb 8th



The four most common mistakes fiction editors see – KM Weiland

What point of view do you use? – Patty Jansen

The lies writers believe in (are there really any rules for writers?) – The Literary Lab

Anxiety and The Modern Writer – Amber Sparks

Maximising Pay-Off with a Character Fix – Novel Resolution by  Lydia Sharp


Writing Competitions

Why writers should enter competitions – Jody Hedlund

Yeovil Prize

Putting rejections into context – Nik Perring


Things to Read – Short stories, new short fiction

Sparks – featuring flash by Jon Pinnock, Vanessa Gebbie and More

Horizon Review – Edited by Jane Holland



Is there a Literary Glass Ceiling for Women Writers?

Mariella Frostrup talks to Sebastien Faulks on Heroes/Heroines and the great british novel – BBC Radio 4

The dangers of a single story – a TED talk from Chimamanda Adichie