Nicola Vincent-Abnett

Nicola Vincent-Abnett
"Savant" for Solaris, Wild's End, Further Associates of Sherlock Holms, more Wild's End

Thursday 9 February 2012

Failure on the Heels of Success

With every little bit of success, comes a little failure. It is the natural way of things, the Universe spreading the load. That’s fine with me.
The day after I received notification that I had been shortlisted for the Mslexia prize - I know! Go me! - an e-mail of the other sort dropped into my box.
I have heard and read all sorts of things about how mean agents are, but this has not been my experience at all.
Like all wannabe writers, from time to time, I send out agent begging letters. I tend to send them one at a time, one after another; it’s only polite. So, every so often I get a rejection note. 
Not one of these rejection e-mails has been rude, unkind or in any way terse. Some of them have been straight-forward, matter-of-fact, but they have all had a general tone of, ‘No thank you’. That’s absolutely fine with me. I am a grown-up. I can take a little honest rejection. You didn’t like my book, but someone else might.
I was introduced to one particular agent via e-mail by another writer, and we’d been talking since the autumn. Naturally, I informed the agent of my progress through the Mslexia competition, and, the very day that I was shortlisted, I passed on the news. 
The following day I received the very kindest reply. The agent had clearly given my work proper consideration, and I was much encouraged by the wording of the e-mail. It went something like this:
That is tremendous news and I wish you the very best of luck with the final twelve. 
I have been thinking this over carefully and although a part of me may be kicking myself come February 15th, I'm afraid I don't think NAMING NAMES is right for me and so I am going to bow out gracefully now. I have agonised over this and although I admire your writing and I'm not surprised that the novel has been shortlisted, I'm afraid I just didn't love it enough to say confidently that I was the right agent for it and could place it in the current market. I am sorry not to be more positive but I wish you the very best of luck with your writing, and I really hope you get some recognition in the Mslexia competition.

Thanks again for the opportunity to read your work.

One agent ‘bowing out gracefully’ indeed.
I suppose what I’m trying to say is, write that book, and pass it down the line. Agents want to read your work and they want to love it. They might not love it, of course, but you’ve got to admire them; would you want to spend your days saying no to people? 


  1. I agree that with every failure there will always be success to follow (though we made need to keep working hard on our projects until we finally meet the success which we strive for in life). With every failure comes the challenge to have courage which makes us stronger & better. The best in life is yet to come as we move forward. Here's to your success in all your endeavors in life! Margo

  2. What a positive 'no thank you'! No-one needs an agent who isn't passionate about the work but the admiration of your writing must be some compensation. Agents I spoke to while doing my MA said the biggest problem for them is that often a good story is just badly written. It sounds like you just need to find the agent that loves the story.
    This waiting is a bit nerveracking, isn't it? Good luck with the short story comp - it's really not my genre, I find short stories more difficult than novels so I don't think I'll enter.

  3. Thanks, Reb,

    Short stories area very particular discipline, I think, but one that I like to dip into from time to time.

    Thanks for the support,