Random Rejection: The Panettieri Agency, “Long Before Dawn”

After our previous “random acceptance” anomaly, we’re back in familiar territory, with a rejection letter from a literary agent I was hoping to get to represent Long Before Dawn:

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As you can see, the main reason for this rejection was that the vampires in Long Before Dawn are not “sympathetic”. There is a reason for this, of course, which I will attempt to put succinctly:

VAMPIRES ARE MONSTERS!!!!

Vampires are not sympathetic. They don’t “hate what they’ve become” and they don’t “prey only on those who prey on others”. They prey on anybody they can find. I know that ever since Lestat and his cronies came along, it’s been hip and cool for vampires to be tormented and misunderstood and mopey in an I-Paint-My-Lightbulbs-Black-And-Listen-To-The-Cure sort of way, but you know what? I detest those vampire sad-sacks. Okay, fine, I was a huge fan of Buffy and Angel and they had a couple of vampires who were sort of angsty and sort of self-loathing, one of whom (Spike, of course) was my favorite character on both shows, but these vampires were the exceptions. All the other ones were predatory scumbags. (And Spike didn’t get to be really self-loathing until the last season of Buffy, when he got his soul back and got rather whiny for a while. Fortunately he got over it.)

But, I digress. As you can tell by the above rant, I don’t care if “sympathetic” vampires make for New York Times bestsellers; I’ve got no interest in writing or reading about such creatures. So obviously, even if she had decided to represent me, it would have been an extremely poor fit and very likely wouldn’t have worked out.

On the other points raised in the letter, I eventually eliminated the omniscient point of view from the book. I very rarely use that POV anymore, and when I went back and edited Long Before Dawn for its Lulu release, those scenes went away or were rewritten.

She was kinda right about the sex, too; I did end up toning that down.

A little.

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9 Comments

  1. Have you sent out queries since writing the revision?

    (And yeah, you and she probably wouldn’t have worked. Had she taken you, she may have tried to get you to change the whole heart of your story. Not worth it! You’ll find the right agent.)

    Jim says: I did send out a few, but this was right around the time that I started getting REALLY irritated with hearing “you’ll be getting the contracts soon” from my publisher on Dragon Stones, so I decided to give Long Before Dawn the Lulu treatment to see what their product looked like. As it turned out the Lulu book looked very impressive, so I went ahead and cancelled the contract with the publisher and put Dragon Stones out through Lulu as well. So while I wouldn’t necessarily turn down an agent who appeared waving offers from Scribner, I’m no longer actively looking for one either.

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  2. I don’t think I’d like vampires who “hate what they’d become”. I don’t want to feel sorry for a vampire. ๐Ÿ™‚
    She might not have known her reader public like she thought she did.

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  3. Hahaha…good point ๐Ÿ™‚ I love your opinion of the “tormented and misunderstood and mopey in an I-Paint-My-Lightbulbs-Black-And-Listen-To-The-Cure” kind of vampires. I totally agree which made me crack up. Thanks!

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  4. Good point! Here is an opinion of mine, so take it for what it is worth. I think kids have gotten into the vampire thing too much because of the sympathetic vampire craze. (I’m not saying I don’t read them, because I do.) This was driven home one time when my niece and I were talking and I said something about the vampires in a book not being evil as they are traditionally. She was shocked and said, and I quote: “Vampires aren’t evil! They’re beautiful!” YIKES!

    Jim says: She wouldn’t say that if she bumped into one of my vampires in a dark alley … ๐Ÿ˜‰

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  5. Hahah cool a vampire discussion!! I missed this post, yes, even though it is way old ๐Ÿ˜‰
    I guess everyone likes their own style of vamp, but I also don’t get why is so appealing about some whiney ” I wish I was dead, woe is me” kind of vamp, I mean we hate that type as humans, why would we like them as vamps?
    Spike was my favourite too! I guess that a good vamp is a bit of both, because while there are no real rules and they should act as such, they should also have a human side, I mean full whiny with a conscience sucks, but them also a mindless zombie just hell bent on killing leaves the mystique of the vamp theme.
    I just watched a show last night about Eleanore Ameile (sp?) and I can so totally see where the legend evolved, was really interesting.
    I mean this is where the vamp stories started from, and the cold blooded killing machine is what it was, but I think it has evolved to a sexy thing, forbidden pleasure, I mean they call sexy people vampy.
    And it comes back to the not dying thing, I think so many people are scared of their mortality that the whole “not dying” thing became romantic and that is how the Vamp progressed from a zombie like killing machine to sex on legs, wooing their victims before giving them eternal life…bah! I say who would want to like forever with a whiney “woe is me”, have no fun. wallow in self pity kinda guy or gal? eewwww.. kids these days?!
    Oh crap, I can ramble when I get going hehe I will have to give your story a read! It’s so hard now days to find the time to sit and read a book ๐Ÿ˜ฆ
    J ๐Ÿ™‚

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  6. Pingback: Random Rejection: Schooner Bay Literary Agency « James Viscosi's Scribblings

  7. Maybe this was the agent’s way of saying the book just wasn’t quite up to snuff but rather than sending you a form letter right out rejecting you which they would do if they didn’t see any possibility in the book at all (because believe me agents as do publishers see a lot of truly unbelievably terrible writing from authors who think they are really good), she instead sent a letter with a few tips, like the omniscinet point of view, like too many points of view & like too much sex – these bieng scenes you might want to work on before you try again. No author likes to take criticism but sometimes, no often times, the criticism is well founded – after all an agent will have seen a whole other side tothe business that you perhaps have not – it may also be a way of her saying find an agent who matches your writing style and sensibilities. It’s always easier to bash the deliverer of the message than to admit it might need a wee bit of work. Do you think that if the agent took you on that she wouldn’t expect you to make some changes and then if she actually placed the book with a publisher that the publisher wouldn’t come back with a list of changes too. That’s the way it works for a reason. You’re kidding yourself if you think your work is perfect the way it is. Expect varying points of view because it’s how the business works. Not everyone who reads a book is going to like it. This is just your first foray into opinion. So sit back, be a little bit less bitter and good luck with the writing.

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    • It’s an interesting point of view, but I don’t think that’s what she was saying. I take her letter at face value — that she doesn’t like a “vampire busters” story, and that the other issues she mentioned were secondary.

      I am going to guess that you only read her letter and not the subsequent commentary, which is not about bashing the Panettieri Agency. In fact, I myself touch on the same points that you raise, in particular, that the agency would not have been a good fit for me circa 1993. Ultimately (when I dusted “Long Before Dawn” off again after years of its sitting idle), I made most of the stylistic changes she suggested, but I am not interested in reading or writing about tormented, “sympathetic” vampires; in my world, vampires are monsters. Full stop. Anything else is not a vampire.

      This rejection letter is now nearly 20 years old, which does make it a relatively early one, but it’s far from the first, and even farther from the last, such letter in my collection. I’m hardly bitter about it. (To see something I am still bitter about, I would refer the reader to The Eclipse Saga, the “Eclipse” in question being the defunct comic book publisher, not a series of books involving sparkly vampires.)

      I realize that this was essentially a drive-by comment, so this next part is mostly for any subsequent viewers: if one were to read beyond this post, one would note that I am more than willing to make changes and take suggestions from editors and agents. It’s how I got several short stories (such as “Singletrack” and “Suicide Corners”, both of which make appearances elsewhere on this blog) into magazines, and how I cut my novel “A Flock of Crows is Called a Murder” (also appearing elsewhere on this blog) down to a short enough length to be accepted by its original publisher, the late, lamented DarkTales. After over a decade submitting queries and collecting rejections, after 20-odd short story publications and contracts with two different publishers, I’m fairly aware of how the business works, and of the need for flexibility when it comes to revising one’s works according to the opinions of those who are interested in publishing them. With the opportunity for disintermediation afforded by current technology, however, the business is changing; when I can reach thousands of readers (mainly in the UK — for some reason I’m more popular there than here) with a book that I’ve produced myself, moving far more copies than my traditionally published books ever did, why would I continue following the old model?

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  8. Pingback: Not A Review Of “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” | Scribblings

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