I didn’t make it too far into the literary agency contest. They told me that “my manuscript didn’t meet their needs at this time.” And they told me that I was welcome to query other projects to their agency. Pretty much your tier one standard rejection. (Not good, but better than “don’t darken our doorstep again, you ignorant hack.”)
I was very disappointed. I wasn’t planning on making it to the “end” of the contest. After all, my book is very different than what they represent. But I’d hoped that I’d at least make it to the next level. What I forgot is that they are a business. They are looking for novels that fit their selling niche. For example, some agencies represent science fiction and fantasy. And no matter how beautifully written your romantic thriller is, they’ll turn it down in the time it takes you to blink.
My novel is historical fiction with pretentions to literary fiction. I called it “women’s fiction,” which the agency does represent. But clearly they didn’t buy it—if it doesn’t walk like a duck or talk like a duck, it’s probably not a duck. And though my book had a duck bill (i.e., it was about a woman) my book is more like a platypus and sticking a bunch of feathers on it (calling it “women’s fiction”) didn’t fool the agents.
So I have to get off my duff, write the query and the synopsis, and find someone who earnestly loves to represent platypuses with waddles.
(Don’t you think the plural of platypus ought to be platypi?)