How Twitter Led to My Best Rejection Letter, To Date

I’ve been wanting to tell this story for a while now. I hope to get all the facts straight since it was back in April. Also, I promise not to beef up the truth of what I’m about to tell you.

A while ago, I was “invited” to participate in a Twitter contest for unpublished authors by a friend via Facebook.

FOR THE LOVE was complete and ready so to speak. It was sitting at 126K words. I was in the process of trying to cut it down. I knew I was still over word count. I had sent out some queries though, to see what would happen, even at a high word count. At that point, all the responses I’d received had been a NO. Not harsh ones, but still, they were rejections.

As a Twitter Newbie for the most part, I’m still trying to get the swing of it. The contest was called #PitchSlam and you only get 140 characters to pitch your book, which has to include the hashtag. {I point this out, because it explains why some times I leave off a letter or get creative.}

I’ve searched and searched my feed, and from what I can tell, I didn’t actually play #PitchSlam. I did, however, play the other contest that was more for fun and linked to the #PitchSlam contest. It was called the #playedby game, where you got to post photos of actors and actresses or other faces who would portray your characters if your book were a movie. Like this:

Somewhat sorry for the bird. FOR THE LOVE’s Sterling would be #playedby Steven R. McQueen, if I had a say.

But in all honesty, I think my most favorite and clever tweet was this one:Twitter 11

In the process, I began researching the agents participating in the contest. I came across an agent that will always hold a special place in my heart. I freaking love him. Dr. Uwe Stender, of TriadaUs Liteary Agency. I wasn’t confident how he pronounced his first name, but I didn’t care. I liked him. His twitter feed was funny, and as I scrolled through it, I came across a tweet that caught my attention like a one of those electric bug zappers. I was drawn to it.

Twitter 8

I quickly scrolled to the top of the page, to see how many followers he had. The answer? 1,994. So I gave his tweet a star, and then commented.

Twitter 10

From there, this funny little rapid-paced conversation of silent stalking and favoriting tweets began. I knew he was watching me, and he knew I was watching him.

As if to egg me on, he tweeted this, and I replied. (You have to read the tweets backwards, sorry.)

Twitter 7

Like I’d be the Random Follower he’d pick. As if! He was just pushing me to follow. I could tell. Haha.

I kept refreshing, and his follower count went up. 1,997. He tweeted again, as you can see below, in regards to random critique giveaway. And you can see my response. Like I said, stubborn.

Twitter 6

What would happen next, I could’ve never guessed.

Twitter 5.5You better believe I was on it like stink to poo. I tweeted back quick.

Twitter 5 I didn’t feed my family. I hollered, “You guys fix yourself a bowl of cereal. I’ve gotta keep working.” To which my kids were like, “What’s new?” Their expressions may or may not have been laced with a few eye rolls and then smiles, as they got free range of the kitchen.

The next thing I did? Clicked the follow button, closing the gap to his goal even more. He hit 2K shortly after, while I was prepping my query letter. In fact, I read this tweet of his before I wrapped up my query. AND THIS IS WHERE YOU NEED TO PAY ATTENTION. BECAUSE THIS TWEET CHANGED HOW I WRAPPED UP MY QUERY. I just didn’t know it yet. Just wait, you’ll see.

2015-08-04 21.24.41

Sorry for the poor photo quality.

I opened a new document, to write up a personalized query letter, as I simultaneously went to his website. I’d been on it earlier, but hadn’t taken a hard look. It was then, that I realized that fantasy wasn’t something he represented. My MS wouldn’t be something he’d pick up. I scrolled down. There, just below his name was Laura Crockett, one of his esteemed colleagues and agents. And yes, she took fantasy. I continued my research, on both of them.

After an hour of reading and searching them up, I began my letter. Even though he’d offered to look at it, I decided it would be best to query him, as if it were for REALS. This is the letter:

Dear Dr. Stender,

First, I wish to thank you for inviting me to share my query with you for simply being enthusiastic! If only my bubbly personality and eagerness were a true superpower. I was scrolling through the agents participating in the #PitchSlam contest when I found you. While the purpose behind your offer is feedback oriented, I do feel inclined to say my query would probably suit Ms. Crockett best with her interested in fantasy. That said, I am more than thrilled to have your sharp eye and expertise on my side and look forward to your feedback.

One by one, Lenox’s family is disappearing. Focused on finding them, he discovers a family secret—he’s a descendant of Cupid. Sounds cute, except the “Father of Love” is a mask worn by the Devil. He seeks to own every soul, robbing mankind of love instead of instilling it, and Lenox is his next target.

Rozlyn Shawnessy plans to enlist in the Society’s war against Cupid—just as soon as her demigod powers kick in. Then Lenox shows up asking dangerous questions, and she answers him with a killer right hook. He retaliates with a passionate kiss, but his touch ignites a crippling curse that lands them both in the Society’s training institute.

Bound together, they must rely on each other to find his family and unlock her curse. If they fail, Cupid will own their souls and enslave them to everything love isn’t.

FOR THE LOVE is my debut novel and is complete at 126,000 words. With brothers separated by more than their differences and Lenox and Rozlyn’s relationship, my story should appeal to both fantasy and romance readers. Thank you for your time and for what it’s worth, I don’t think people will drop you like a hot potato—and being from Idaho, I know what I’m talking about when it comes to spuds.

See that LAST LINE? Funny, personal, and it shows I’m paying attention. But let me assure you, when I wrote it, I was worried it wouldn’t be “cool” or “work.”

I’m proud of myself, that I got my brave on, and just let the verbiage flow naturally, but there’s a fine line between overdoing it and magic. And I had no way of knowing which it would be.

Two days went by. I settled in for a long wait. Forty-eight hours later, I was on the phone with my husband of 14 years. It was an important call regarding the house we were building, and during our discussion, I got a phone call from an 801 number. To me, that’s a Utah number and I have loads of great friends and some family in Utah. They could leave a message. I would call them right back. That’s the beauty of caller ID.

The caller left a message, alright. But I’m a little slow to check messages. Instead, I hopped up and started dinner, which was to be eggs and bacon. While I stirred the runny yokes, I started the process of listening to the voice mails, and of course the kids began fighting over the volume of the TV. It shot up like we were at OneRepublic concert, and I couldn’t quite make out what caller was saying in his message.Totally thought it was spam, especially with the thick German accent. Telemarketer. Yay.

And then when I heard the words FOR THE LOVE come off the lips of Arnold Schwarzenegger, I dropped the phone. It clamored to the floor, thankfully, instead of landing in the raw eggs. I snapped at the kids, as I picked up the phone, and sent them all to their rooms, which they totally deserved.

My heart hammering, I tried to start the message over. Instead, I got a lovely animated voice saying: YOU HAVE NO MESSAGES.

Yeah, I get that. I know I have no new messages. I need the old ones, the ones I didn’t or haven’t listened to, yet. I pressed the button again, to take me back to the main menu, and then tried to play the messages.

YOU HAVE NO MESSAGES. I pulled the eggs off the heat.

YOU HAVE NO MESSAGES. I killed the burner. What? None?

YOU HAVE NO MESSAGES. YOU HAVE NO MESSAGES.

YOU HAVE NO MESSAGES. YOU HAVE NO MESSAGES. YOU HAVE NO MESSAGES. YOU HAVE NO MESSAGES. YOU HAVE NO MESSAGES. YOU HAVE NO MESSAGES. YOU HAVE NO MESSAGES. YOU HAVE NO MESSAGES. YOU HAVE NO MESSAGES.

I started crying. I sunk to the floor, and let the pure panic and sheer what-the-hell? take over. I gulped and gulped trying to compose myself. I tried one more time.

YOU HAVE NO MESSAGES.

Hastily, I called the 801 number back. I had to know what Dr. Uwe had to say, because thus far, all I’d caught was this:

“….Uwe Stender…. calling…. FOR THE LOVE…”

Was the query good? Bad? He’d called, so was that because it was so good he wanted to see more? I thought about that. HE CALLED. Agents don’t call, unless they’ve arranged to make THE CALL, which in my mind is the one to make an offer of representation. Was my query SO GOOD I’d converted him to rep fantasy? No, that’s your ego talking, Gina. 

Okay, then WHY DID HE CALL ME? and how in the heck am I ever going to hear what he had to say? I ran my hand over my face a hundred times, my thoughts all tangling like Christmas lights. New ones lighting up and flickering out.

The 801 number went to an automated voice, saying I couldn’t reach anyone at that number.

The next thing I could think of was to reach out to my “Other Family” as I call them. My online crit group is full of wonderful people, and we’ve become each other’s writing family. I instant messaged the group, and relayed all the gory details of the whole thing–from the first tweet to the phone drop that somehow deleted ALL my messages. Then, I asked, “What do I do?”

Emailing back and asking for his feedback–a second time– felt like saying, “My dog ate my homework,” and agents are BUSY people. I couldn’t bring myself to do that. They don’t have time to repeat themselves.

A combination of two member’s advice blended into a perfect answer. Daniel used his mad skills and found me a phone number direct to TriadaUS Literary. He even called it late that night to if the number was indeed accurate. It was.

Charlie suggested I simply state that I hadn’t received all of the message. No explaining the kids volume or dropping the phone. Be calm, collected, and express that I wanted to improve and would like to hear all of what he had to say.

I went to bed a hot mess, and all morning long was a basket case. I waited until the kids were gone to school, and then I sat myself down. I carefully dialed the number. My palms clammed up, my skin went cold. Ring.

Ring, ring.

Then, voice mail. Haha. I got all worked up over nothing! But I hadn’t prepped to leave a message. Instead of wisely hanging up and thinking of something to say, I went for it. Pretty sure I repeated myself, but oh well.

After ending the call, I agonized over it, and then messaged my Family. They were loving, teasing, and supportive all at the same time. Before I even had time to open my MS for edits, my phone rang.

Dr. Stender called me back. This time I didn’t drop the phone. I’m not sure I breathed the whole time, but I must have, or I’d be dead after our 21 minute conversation. I let him do almost all of the talking. {Now, I know some of you think I’m lying here. I’m not. I know I can’t shut my mouth, but I wanted to hear what he had to say so badly, I couldn’t talk. I had to force myself to speak. Replying to his questions was easier than asking my own, but I managed to squeak out a few. I tried to sound professional and educated when he asked me if I felt my story was more literary or commercial. I had no idea what in the world he was talking about! But I didn’t feel nearly as stupid as I thought I would. Instead, he couldn’t stop complimenting me, my work, and the query. He really, really liked my personalization, and went on about how authors over do it or don’t do it at all, and how I nailed it. So…. MAGIC! Spuds=Magic! *happy dance* I was grinning from ear to ear, I tell ya!

I remember him saying something about it being one of the better queries he’d seen in a while. That the stakes were good, the premise was excellent. That I should absolutely send it on to Laura, his colleague. He was all positive feedback, with the exception of two things.

Thing One. Word count. He was so kind and awesome as we discussed the number. It was this moment that I found the courage to put it on a serious diet.

Thing Two. It was about the query letter itself. Again, he stated that my personalization was excellent. He laughed at my Hot Potato comment, said my voice was awesome. (And he wasn’t referring to my actual voice.) BUT. Because there’s always one…. he wanted me to fix the second paragraph of the actual query. He was all, “You’ve set the stakes in the opening paragraph, and they’re awesome. It’s unique and you’ve got something there. But then you give me a scene. A scene. Then, in the third paragraph, you’re back to the stakes. And those stakes are strong. BUT GIVE ME THE STAKES in the second paragraph. STAKES, STAKES, STAKES. That’s what I want. GIVE ME THE STAKES.”

The way he showed me how he saw the query letter from his vantage point was interesting, and eye opening. It was just what I needed to hear.

In the end, I couldn’t get enough of his German accent telling me what to do. I loved it. The way he spoke to me was like he was my personal coach. That invested. I didn’t want our call to end. He wrapped up with all those awesome compliments about how solid it was, encourage me once again to send it Laura and then we parted ways.

I sat on the couch, unable to move. I was shaking and exited. I was worried I couldn’t cut  another six thousand out of the story. And worst of all, I wasn’t sure what the stakes were for that second paragraph. I was going to have to dig deeper.

Turns out, it was the best thing that I could’ve done to my query, and my MS.

I teamed up with a friend, Rachel Larsen, and together, we did some rapid fire editing on each others manuscripts. I cut stuff, and stitched the pieces together, if it left a hole. I removed an entire scene, which was very hard to do. The like. Editing is hard. My friend Jeigh said, “Think of it like fine surgery, not a chop shop.” Or something good like that. All I remember is the FINE SURGERY part. I could do this.

And I didn’t look at my overall word count. Not until I was closer to the end. Some chapters, I managed to remove 2K. Other’s only 500 words. I wasn’t sure I was going to make it.

Until, I did.

I reworked that second paragraph, again and again. Until it felt all “stakey,” as I now call it.

And then, days before the 2015 LDStorymakers conference, I wrapped all the edits up. I had a newer version of my query. And when I complied my MS, I found I had cut it down to 116K words–more than I thought possible. I was overwhlemed with the workload I had completed, and I desperately wanted to call Dr. Stender back, and tell him, “I did it.”

But I didn’t do that. Instead, I relied on a tweet that I’d sent to him just a few days after that phone call. That would have to be thanks enough for now.

twitter 3

Then, I went to the conference, and I pitched FOR THE LOVE to Lizzie Poteet and Kenna Blaylock. I had dinner with Susie Townsend.

A week later, I sent out the requested material, and then sat down to my laptop with a humble reverence. I opened a new document, and started another query letter. This one to Laura Crockett.

Of course I checked her Twitter feed. {I still do. I still watch Uwe’s.} I put the same energy into that query that I did when I queried Dr. Stender.

Based on her feed, she was headed to BEA2015. After I sent the query out, I got an automated response that she was out of the office until Monday, and I knew why and where she was. I sat back, not expecting anything. I went back to my daily routine.

And you know what?

She replied to me, while she was at BEA. My query letter got through. It made it through her slush pile, while she was at Book Expo of America! And not only did it get through, but she asked to see pages. Fifty of them. SCORE ONE FOR TEAM GINA! I attribute this to the fact that Dr. Stender’s name was in my query to her. If she thought me a liar, all she had to do was ask him. So don’t ever make this kind of stuff up for a query letter. You hear me? Be authentic. Be honest. And above all, be real.

And a few days after that, I received what I call  My Best Rejection Letter. Wanna see it? Okay. Here it is. The moment you’ve all be waiting for.

Dear Gina,
Thank you for sharing a sample of For the Love. First, some personal items — congratulations on the house! And your query is tight and professional and concise. I don’t know what it looked like before Uwe offered his advice, but it looks great and makes you stand out from the rest. Second, the manuscript. I wanted to enjoy it — you were right that our preferences align — but I found the narrative wasn’t for me. The writing is polished and ready for publication, and the plotting (from what I could gather in 50 pages) is excellent. For the Love simply isn’t the project for me. I’ve no doubt you’ll find the right agent for it soon, especially when you’re armed with a killer query and a ready-for-the-press manuscript in hand. 
Best of luck,
Laura

I still think about this letter, and what she had to say. How it impacted me for the better. I can almost hear her cheering me on, and I haven’t got the slightest clue what her voice sounds like. Sure, it’s crushing to be told no, but when you get a NO like this one, you just keep going. You lift your chin a little higher and trust you’re doing just fine. You trust that agents aren’t big ole Mean Girls or Nasty Playboys looking to ruin your day. They’re smart, and human, and not beyond the author’s reach, if you do it right.

So, tweet on. Don’t be afraid to use social media to your advantage, and for reals, keep going.

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4 thoughts on “How Twitter Led to My Best Rejection Letter, To Date

  1. YAY! awesome post. Thanks for the shout out, rapid fire editing swaps are now my favorite thing. That little exercise gave me all kinds of motivation…..and I’d never have had that on my own!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow! That’s awesome. I love how things came together for you and I’d take that rejection any day. Good luck with your further adventures in the trenches.

    Liked by 1 person

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