Defy & Submit

by jkatejohnston

30 October 2018

Dear Max,

My life has too few problems to be good material. So, here’s a handy problem: the publishers I want to send my book to don’t accept manuscripts unless they come from an agent. And I can’t even get an agent to reject my book in a way that convinces me that someone read the scrap of it that their submission guidelines allowed me to email them.

I think the agents have an auto-rejection algorithm that weeds my pages out before they’re allowed to pollute human eyes. Or maybe some poor intern is given the job of Googling everyone who submits, and anyone who doesn’t have a following on social media doesn’t get a read. Or maybe they just don’t like my writing. Or maybe they can tell from my query letter how much I resent them.

So yesterday I decided, agents be damned, and mailed, as in U.S. Mail, my 360-page manuscript, along with a giant self-addressed pre-paid envelope and the following letter:

Dear Shannon Ravenel,

I don’t have an agent, and I’m submitting anyway. And what’s more, I’m doing it the old-fashioned way, on paper. So there.

It’s not just nerve that’s causing me to disregard Algonquin’s submission guidelines. Twenty years ago, you declined a couple of manuscripts of mine but said, among other nice things, that you’d love to see another project. Well, this is another project.

In the last twenty years, I’ve up and become a lawyer. I see how discouraging that sounds, but I love it, and I’ve written a book about it. This one is fiction. I guess some people would call it a literary legal thriller. I dislike every single word of that label. My description would be something like: Funny, touching, realistic crime novel. A bit thrilling toward the end. First in a series.

Thanks in advance for taking a look at it.

Best Regards, Kate Johnston

P.S. I’m enclosing copies of the letters I received from you back in 1996, 1997 and 1998, since I’m relying on them, and their invitation to submit another project, as an excuse to circumvent Algonquin’s submission guidelines. I hope my having kept them all this time doesn’t seem too crazy.

Well, I don’t think we need to be in too much suspense about the results of that little venture. The package will probably be returned un-opened as a possible bomb.


D-Day has different ears every day. They can’t decide whether to be droopy hound ears or perky terrier ears or something else entirely. Today, they’re sticking out pretty much straight to the side.