Monday musings: Can you ever please a literary agent?

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By Samreen Ahsan

I’m an indie author and I published my first book, A Silent Prayer, in February 2014. Before publishing, I tried to pitch many literary agents, but unfortunately received only rejections because (obviously) no one cares for an unknown author. I was advised that I should self-publish, get some reviews and accolades and then come back again with another query letter.

So, I accepted the criticism as their wisdom words and published through an independent publisher―a lot of cost was also involved. Of course, nothing comes free. Writing and publishing a book is a tedious business, which requires lots of effort, unwavering dedication and money.

Success grabbed my hand and I kept winning awards and recognition one after another, receiving five-star reviews by readers and appreciative feedback from some editorial critics. I kept sending query letters to agents. I received nothing but rejection. I’ve even lost count now.

Then, I read some blogs where authors discussed: you need to work on the query letter. Again, I took this advice and worked on my query letter. I thought maybe my query letter was not good enough. I hired professionals who helped me make query letters. I got a few responses. The positive ones from agents asked me to send the first few chapters and a detailed synopsis.

Again, after three months of waiting, I was still let down by the agents. I don’t care how much money I’d earn after selling my booksall I want my book is to be available in every bookstore, broadening my readership. And this won’t be possible without coming under the umbrella of a large publishing house, which is

not possible without pleasing an agent.

So how do you do that? Honestlyno answer.

They read your first three chapters and decide the book is not good enough for the mass market. I’ve read some crappy books that became NYT bestsellers―whose initial chapters did not gain my attention as a reader, and whose reviews were also not worth discussing.

I don’t know exactly what intrigues the agent. Is it the writing style, the story, the character depth―I don’t know. I’ve seen books with skyrocketing sales that have no plot, no depth in the characters and a very predictable story-line with abundant sex scenes that sound ridiculously impossible in reality. Sex in an elevator, on a kitchen counter, over an office deskreally? I want to meet those couples in real life.

So I thought maybe I have issues with my story. It doesn’t matter if it has more than fifty five-star reviews or seven awardsmaybe the story is not fit for the mass market. For a test, I uploaded my book for free on Wattpad to see how readers would take my story. The response was unbelievable. Within two months, more than hundred thousand subscribers read my book, liked it, voted it and purchased the second book of the series from either Amazon, B&N, Smashwords or Kobo. My sales increased―my readership increased. Still, everyday I receive messages through Wattpad how amazing the book is, people begging me to upload the second book of the series since, in some countries, the ebook is not available and it is not available in their bookstores where they could just go and buy it.

That is why I wanted to publish through a large publishing house: to make it available for readers, bringing my story to the shelves of all bookstores. I know: not everyone carries a tablet or e-reader. There are people on this planet who still like to feel the book and prefer a paperback.

Interestingly, I still receive rejections after tremendous support and positive feedback of my readers. First agents say: you need to get reviews and recognition (which is not possible without publishing a book) and then they say…oh! we see you’ve already published it. Come back later with a new unpublished manuscript. (Huh! What a nice approach to reject!) And it seems like a recursive process.

Apparently, one of the agents told me that despite being good reviews, they want to see if I’ve good sales as well. It made me chuckle when they said they’d only pick my book if the Amazon sales is at least 50K per year. Really? If I were making this much amount of money from my one book, why would I need an agent to take all my book rights and give me only 2% of the sale?

And all they say is: it just needs one agent to like your book. So, I’m waiting for the right agent to like it. If you’re writing a book or planning to query the agents―be prepared for rejections but don’t think your work is bad. Every author has a different voice―you can’t compare apples and oranges―likewise, you can’t compare Nora Roberts and Dan Brown.

So, just be patient, keep querying agents and hope for the best.

After all, you need only to please one!

Samreen Ahsan is the author of the multi-award winning Prayer series.

History, art and literature are my passions. I love digging out information about prophecies, divine miracles and paranormal events that are mentioned in history and holy books, that don’t sound possible in today’s modern world.

Since childhood, I have been into reading and writing–and yes, it can’t happen without imagination, which luckily has no boundaries. Dance and music are also pastimes I enjoy, as well as reading romance fiction. I love to travel and explore historical cities. I live in Toronto, Canada.

The Prayer series, comprising A Silent Prayer and A Prayer Heeded, is my first story about paranormal events based on Islamic concepts. My new series begins with Once Upon a [Stolen] Time.

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Thursday teaser: The Oblivious Girl’s Handbook

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This week’s excerpt is courtesy of bestselling DelSheree Gladden

“Joseph and I are very independent,” I said. Then I remembered Monroe having to hold my hand through the crowd and felt the need to clarify. “What I mean is, because he’s gone so often, we know how to get along without each other when we have to. Clingy would not work for us, not with his job. I wouldn’t want him hanging all over me all the time, either. Maybe it’s not how every relationship goes, but it works for us. See?”

I took my phone from my purse and had Joseph’s Facebook profile up in a few taps. One more tap brought up all his pictures. They were what I’d wanted to show him before. Sliding it across the table, I gestured at the pictures.

Monroe took the phone, scrolling through the pictures, but his frown only deepened. “What am I supposed to be seeing? It just looks like Joseph hangs out in a lot of bars, with a lot of other women…all over the state.”

Frustrated by his negativity, I held back on snapping at him only by reminding myself that he was a cop and it was likely a habit to always think the worst of people. I turned the phone so I could see the pictures and tapped on one of Joseph at dinner with a brunette woman at least a decade his senior. Maybe if you just looked at the pictures his behavior seemed odd, but the comment that went along with the post clearly identified the woman as a client. It was a business dinner.

I pushed the phone back at Monroe. “Joseph is so good at his job because he’s friendly and makes people feel like they’re the center of his attention when he’s with them.”

Still skeptical, Monroe navigated to anther picture. One of him and a group of friends out at a club, drinking, laughing, enjoying each other’s company. I still didn’t see the problem. “He goes out with friends when he’s in town. So? He went to college with the guy on his left. They usually hang out when Joseph is in San Diego. The blonde is his girlfriend.”

“And the other blonde? The one Joseph has his arm around?” Monroe asked.

I rolled my eyes. “Probably one of Caleb’s friends. Like the four other people in the picture with their arms around each other’s shoulders. They’re all just posing for the picture. Besides, if it was anything more than that, why would Joseph post it publicly?”

Monroe shrugged, not backing off but not pushing it either. He went back to his sandwich. I spooned soup into my mouth, annoyed he would judge Joseph when he barely knew him. It was a mystery to me why Joseph was on his bad side. Everyone who met my boyfriend loved him. Except Monroe, apparently.

That bothered me more than I wanted to admit, though I wasn’t sure why. What did his opinion matter? I barely knew the guy. Joseph and I had been together for almost three years. No doubt Monroe’s instincts were fabulous for police work, but my relationship with Joseph wasn’t a case in need of solving.

Did you like that excerpt? Check out The Oblivious Girl’s Handbook 

Being oblivious to all the signs that your life is about to fall apart doesn’t stop it from happening to Sara Taylor.

Alone except for the Siamese cat her boyfriend—ex-boyfriend—Joseph left behind to teach her a lesson, Sara has no clue how to survive on her own. She hasn’t handled her own bills in years, can’t meet a deadline without someone else programming alarms into her phone, and is constantly either losing important things or getting herself hopelessly lost. Sara has no idea how she’s supposed to move out of her university apartment and start her first real job without someone there to hold her hand.

Although she knows her new friend Monroe would step in to help, she’s not about to call him after having thrown him out of her apartment when his suspicions about Joseph prove true and Sara is left angry and mortified. It doesn’t take long before she is desperate to lean on someone else’s strength, even for just a few minutes, as real life begins to overwhelm her. Pride forces her to either sink or swim, even when sinking seems the most likely outcome.

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About the author

DelShereeGladden4DelSheree Gladden was one of those shy, quiet kids who spent more time reading than talking. Literally. She didn’t speak a single word for the first three months of preschool, but she had already taught herself to read. Her fascination with reading led to many hours spent in the library and bookstores, and eventually to writing. She wrote her first novel when she was sixteen years old, but spent ten years rewriting and perfecting it before having it published.Native to New Mexico, DelSheree and her husband spent several years in Colorado for college and work before moving back home to be near family again. Their two children love having their seventeen cousins close by. When not writing, you can find DelSheree reading, painting, sewing and trying not to get bitten by small children in her work as a dental hygienist.
Check out her latest books, get updates and sneak peeks of new projects at
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Monday musings: The co-authoring experience, part 2

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A talk with bestselling co-authors Toby Neal and Emily Kimelman

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When Chandler was rejected, he fought back.

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Gord Downie: A poet America needs to get to know

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Thursday teaser: In Sheep’s Clothing

Sydney Rye #9 By Emily Kimelman The ninth Sydney Rye adventure launched on September 27. And for those of you who have inexplicably resisted the urge to buy it, here is a taste. Chapter One Sydney Rye Exquisite, slippery red pulsed, the color … [Continue reading]