As writers leading a literary life, we have to put up with a regular stream of rejection. That's okay. We're tough. But every now and then it we are rejected in a way that feels, well, just... Wow.
There are, of course, different types of rejection. There is the non-response rejection. If they don't get back in six weeks that means no. Don't follow up.
Then there's: Yes, I'm interested send more. More is sent. This is good. Let's talk on the phone. Phone call goes well and both laugh and have substantive conversation. Then silence. Politely follow up. Silence. Wait. More silence. Polite follow up. Silence. You are done.
Then there's this one. I'm interested, but what shelf will your book be on in the bookstore?
Reasonable question, but hard to answer unless your book is clearly self-help, literary fiction, history, and so on.
However, literary nonfiction books can be a bit tough to gauge since there is a wide range of how stores handle this category. Independents may not have a general literary nonfiction section while online will have multiple categories and tag books in multiple categories so they are found by readers. Big box stores (Barnes & Noble) have general categories with a number of sub-categories that will fit your book, but which one will they choose?.
How do I know this? I spoke with representatives from these different bookstore models for a recent project.
So I try to engage in a brief conversation with the agent by explaining what I've been told by the ten or more people I'd spoken to and end it by clearly stating the category it best fits.
The response was to tell me she isn't interested, only wants the very best, fine tuned ideas, I should stop querying immediately because I don't know what my book is, and should hire a consultant. And she says write a book proposal (I have and it's good). She came up with this without reading a single word of the manuscript or proposal.
I replied to say thanks for the direction then said maybe when it is fine tuned I could query again and that there is a great team behind this book, their bios are in the proposal.
To this, I'm passing and you need to stop querying until you have fine tuned your idea.
Again, I know what category it is, but that not all bookstores (generally independents) don't often use that category.
So I was made to feel pretty crappy by someone who hadn't read a sentence of the manuscript or proposal, which lays out the business case for the book, and told to stop querying because I don't know what my idea is.
This blog is dedicated to what it means to live life as a writer and unfortunately rejection and off-behavior is something we have to deal with in our lives. We need to listen to our critics, but not let them get in our heads and under our skin. It's a balance between accepting we are imperfect, but also following out intuition.
It is hard to do, but practice and patience are the keys to getting it right.