Author Topic: Brutal Personal Rejection - Advice Please  (Read 1924 times)

Offline mortaldarkangel

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Brutal Personal Rejection - Advice Please
« on: June 14, 2019, 05:06:37 PM »
Update: No longer working on this project!

My 8th rejection came today in a very personal email that really struck a chord with me. I won't say the agent's name or the details of the reply. But, now I'm really reconsidering everything. I'm honestly not sure how to proceed from here. A little background on the situation.....

My book is a historical fiction set during WWII about a Jewish woman who saves a Nazi Officer's life. It definitely isn't all glitter and roses since there are many struggles they both have to overcome.

Here is my response to her since I wanted to be crystal clear on my actual intentions and background of this novel. I may have sugar coated how much I appreciated her brutal wording and accusations.....
*****
I wanted to reach out not in an attempt to change your mind on your personal response to my query. But, I wanted to clarify my stance as a writer and an individual. This novel was not meant to romanticize a hate group. It was inspired when I was attending a university and interviewed those in the Jewish community who suffered from the Holocaust as part of my cultural anthropology project in my senior year. I met a woman who had a romantic relationship with a person in the Nazi Regime. In my curiosity, I soon found this wasn't the only case. "The Nazi Officer's Wife: How One Jewish Woman Survived The Holocaust" was another example, this being Edith H. Beer's biography, and was listed as a New York Times Bestseller.

Having an education in cultural anthropology and psychology, I NEVER want to portray myself as supporting a hate group. Your response did make me realize maybe I need to clarify the background of this story or just keep the novel to myself since this is a rare part of history not understood. Because of this, I will be doing a thorough reevaluation if I need to proceed with this or not. I fully appreciate your honesty and time to send me back a response.
*****

So, with all that in mind. This is what I have been considering.....
1. Not pursuing this novel at all.
2. Adding an author's note in the beginning of the novel detailing historical events, etc. to clarify any questions the reader may have. Or, prevent anyone from jumping to the conclusion that I support hate groups and romanticize them.

The only problem with the last option is that I cannot possibly fit an explanation in a query letter. Which is what led me to this situation.

Any useful and honest advice would be greatly appreciated. I asked my husband, who is Jewish, and he was really no help since he has always believed in this novel.

Update: Maybe I was too nice about this agent. Because she blasted my query on twitter of all places. Wow.......
« Last Edit: July 01, 2019, 06:46:44 PM by mortaldarkangel »

Offline SincerelySinclair

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Re: Brutal Personal Rejection - Advice Please
« Reply #1 on: June 14, 2019, 06:19:48 PM »
That's rough, mortaldarkangel.

Your response to the agent is solid and polite and it gives a great background to your historical piece. I implore you to add in an author's note for agents. Your novel does deal with some heavy material. Having that note could spare you from further rejections and prevent agents thinking the worst of you. You could add the note in the final paragraph of your letter where you explain your background and the historical accuracy of the novel.

At the very least, it would hurt at all to include it.

Offline TigerAsh

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Re: Brutal Personal Rejection - Advice Please
« Reply #2 on: June 14, 2019, 06:57:50 PM »
I think the author's note could work.

Better yet, I think should include a sentence or two in your housekeeping paragraph about what inspired the story (as you explained to us). Also, if you include comp titles (like the NYT bestseller you mentioned), that would give the agent a clearer picture of what you're going for.


« Last Edit: June 14, 2019, 06:59:34 PM by TigerAsh »

Offline mortaldarkangel

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Re: Brutal Personal Rejection - Advice Please
« Reply #3 on: June 14, 2019, 07:07:58 PM »
That's rough, mortaldarkangel.

Your response to the agent is solid and polite and it gives a great background to your historical piece. I implore you to add in an author's note for agents. Your novel does deal with some heavy material. Having that note could spare you from further rejections and prevent agents thinking the worst of you. You could add the note in the final paragraph of your letter where you explain your background and the historical accuracy of the novel.

At the very least, it would hurt at all to include it.

Thank you. That is really helpful.   :)

I think the author's note could work.

Better yet, I think should include a sentence or two in your housekeeping paragraph about what inspired the story (as you explained to us). Also, if you include comp titles (like the NYT bestseller you mentioned), that would give the agent a clearer picture of what you're going for.




Why didn't I think of that before??? Ugh, I just want to beat my head against the wall right now. Thank you!  ;D

Offline retroisking

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Re: Brutal Personal Rejection - Advice Please
« Reply #4 on: June 15, 2019, 04:05:08 AM »
Sometimes we are so drawn into our own novels, we only see what we know, not what is on the page. What I mean by that is, the query should of made clear the hook/conflict. You have been vague, so I am just guessing. If you have done that, then take the agents letter as a favour, because I wouldn't want to work with someone like that. It shows a lack of professionalism on their part. You dodged a bullet.

Offline mortaldarkangel

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Re: Brutal Personal Rejection - Advice Please
« Reply #5 on: June 15, 2019, 11:26:44 AM »
Sometimes we are so drawn into our own novels, we only see what we know, not what is on the page. What I mean by that is, the query should of made clear the hook/conflict. You have been vague, so I am just guessing. If you have done that, then take the agents letter as a favour, because I wouldn't want to work with someone like that. It shows a lack of professionalism on their part. You dodged a bullet.

In the query, I captivated the story. But, not the background. That was where my mistake was and lesson learned....as you said here which I really appreciate. I definitely dodged a bullet after that tweet she sent out. Really puts in perspective how much an agent can either build or hurt your reputation as a writer.

Offline RJP

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Re: Brutal Personal Rejection - Advice Please
« Reply #6 on: June 15, 2019, 12:58:51 PM »
I don’t see any problem with the concept of your book. I wouldn’t refer to your leading man as a Nazi Officer though. Call him a German Officer. It’s an easy fix. Go through your book and change every instance to German Officer. People think WW 2 was like Indiana Jones and all the German soldiers wore swastikas on their arm. This is not the case! And of course, not all German soldiers identified as Nazis and not ALL German soldiers were bad people. Many were people who were swept up in the war or even forced to their posts by the regime.

Anyways, it’s something to consider. That one little tweak could solve everything.

Offline mortaldarkangel

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Re: Brutal Personal Rejection - Advice Please
« Reply #7 on: June 15, 2019, 02:32:20 PM »
I don’t see any problem with the concept of your book. I wouldn’t refer to your leading man as a Nazi Officer though. Call him a German Officer. It’s an easy fix. Go through your book and change every instance to German Officer. People think WW 2 was like Indiana Jones and all the German soldiers wore swastikas on their arm. This is not the case! And of course, not all German soldiers identified as Nazis and not ALL German soldiers were bad people. Many were people who were swept up in the war or even forced to their posts by the regime.

Anyways, it’s something to consider. That one little tweak could solve everything.

THIS  :agree: I forget how much I know about history and how much my readers might not know.

Offline jcwrites

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Re: Brutal Personal Rejection - Advice Please
« Reply #8 on: June 15, 2019, 05:48:36 PM »

Offline SincerelySinclair

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Re: Brutal Personal Rejection - Advice Please
« Reply #9 on: June 15, 2019, 06:50:17 PM »
I was scrolling through my news feed today and I swear that there was an article about some billionaire's children or grandchildren discovering that their mother married a Nazi officer to survive during the war. Your novel immediately jumped to my mind.

Offline utopiandreams

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Re: Brutal Personal Rejection - Advice Please
« Reply #10 on: June 17, 2019, 10:11:34 PM »
Even the smallest amount of research should demonstrate that your premise is one very tired, very problematic trope, that, even if told by someone who lived this experience would be a hard sell. The fact that you're writing this as a non-Jewish person and relying on education to bolster that lane-swapping is enough for me to completely understand where this agent was coming from in their response. I would suggest shelving this story for good.

Offline szedkatz

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Re: Brutal Personal Rejection - Advice Please
« Reply #11 on: June 24, 2019, 02:05:47 PM »
I don't think you being non-jewish is a problem with your story - :) there are several novels I have read about the holocaust by non-jews and with good research and a fresh story, I didn't have a problem with them at all. I would definitely put your reason for writing the story somewhere prominent in your query.  I recently added mine to the first sentence and I think it makes it more powerful.

Offline utopiandreams

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Re: Brutal Personal Rejection - Advice Please
« Reply #12 on: June 24, 2019, 04:44:50 PM »
I don't think you being non-jewish is a problem with your story - :) there are several novels I have read about the holocaust by non-jews and with good research and a fresh story, I didn't have a problem with them at all. I would definitely put your reason for writing the story somewhere prominent in your query.  I recently added mine to the first sentence and I think it makes it more powerful.
This is really bad advice in general. A line about why you chose to write a certain story is in no way part of a professional query, and even if such a line has a place, it would be in the bio section, not the opening.

Good luck, y'all. Research, research, research 🤞

Offline RJP

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Re: Brutal Personal Rejection - Advice Please
« Reply #13 on: June 24, 2019, 10:10:13 PM »
I don't think you being non-jewish is a problem with your story - :) there are several novels I have read about the holocaust by non-jews and with good research and a fresh story, I didn't have a problem with them at all. I would definitely put your reason for writing the story somewhere prominent in your query.  I recently added mine to the first sentence and I think it makes it more powerful.
This is really bad advice in general. A line about why you chose to write a certain story is in no way part of a professional query, and even if such a line has a place, it would be in the bio section, not the opening.

Good luck, y'all. Research, research, research 🤞

"Weeeeyoooo, Weeeeeyoooo, it's the story police! You must all write characters of your own race!"

You know, here in Canada, they're making Aboriginals write only about Aboriginals. These social justice warriors in the publishing houses think they're solving discrimination but all they're doing is forcing minorities to do party tricks. Let's say a Native American writer wants to do something commercial. Let's say they even have a white protagonist. They show their manuscript to Penguin or Harper Collins and they're told, "I like it, but, could you do that Indian thing you do? You know, like, instead of wizards could we make them medicine men? And maybe there should be a dreamcatcher that tells him where to go, yeah, yeah, or a spirit wolf. Could you do that?"

That's the problem with this whole #ownvoices business. It's forcing writers of minority to do party tricks. Let them be authors. And I'm all for an #ownvoices book if it's what the writer wants to write, but let's not kid ourselves that they're not being pressured to "write what they know."

Then, when you come to the realization that a Native American writer should be able to tell whatever story they want, you also have to concede that white writers should be able to do the same (in good taste).

And for the record, I don't think OP's concept is a problematic trope. There was a script that was the biggest spec in Hollywood only a couple years ago called "Ruin." It was very similar to the OP's concept and was written by the Firpo brothers(which is a Christian last name. I'd assume they're not Jewish writers). It's about an ex-German SS officer who hunts down other members of his hit squad to atone for his crimes. All the while, trying to save a jewish love interest from the death camps. It's in pre-production right now and has Margot Robbie as the lead actress. So, yeah, I don't think the idea is nuts and the hundreds of people in Hollywood who buzzed about the script didn't think it was nuts.

Offline utopiandreams

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Re: Brutal Personal Rejection - Advice Please
« Reply #14 on: June 25, 2019, 07:05:46 AM »
Something existing is not proof of it being unproblematic. For evidence, I submit the last 200 years of popular literature.

As to your other concern about pigeonholing marginalized writers, yes, that is a major problem, but it doesn't overlap the OP's greater issue of conflating a short-term experience with lived-experiences in regard to a victim of genocide saving the life of an oppressor.

For a more nuanced understanding, consider this article:
https://www.buzzfeednews.com/amphtml/mollytempleton/ya-twitter-books-publishing-amelie-wen-zhao-social-media?__twitter_impression=true

And I'd appreciate if any replies to me about this are kept public, not sent into my messages so I can be privately attacked for my opinions.