Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Rejection Collection

I thought it might be interesting to post some of the rejection emails I have received over the past week or so. The names have been left off to protect the nondiscerning literary agents and those who lack the courage to represent a somewhat controversial book.

Thank you for giving us the opportunity to consider your recent submission. Unfortunately we cannot offer representation.

Because of the large number of submissions, we are forced to be extremely selective when considering new material. We encounter many more talented writers and interesting projects than we can represent, so we carefully guard our time to most effectively serve our small number of clients.

Everyone's taste and judgment are subjective and others may feel differently, so we encourage you to contact other agencies. We wish you the best of luck in finding great success with your work.

Thank you for your query. While your project certainly has merit, I'm just not wild enough about the concept to take it on. As I'm sure you know -- opinions vary considerably in this business, and mine is but one. I'm certain you'll find others who feel differently.

If you have a full proposal (I sent him a full proposal for The Ghosts of November, I believe this refers to another memoir I told him I was preparing to work on) for your memoir, I'd like to see it.

Wishing you the best,

Many thanks for your submission query and interest in XYZ. Having given your synopsis careful consideration I’ve decided to pass as this just isn’t an obvious fit for my list.

Best of luck with your writing in the future and thanks again for your query.

Doesn’t sound quite right for me, but thanks for querying.

I think this is a very intriguing project, but it’s not one I’m going to be able pursue.

Though you have what is no doubt a landmark event here, the market for true crime is fairly limited today, in terms of the number of houses who are actively publishing it.

Thanks, though, and best of luck pursuing representation.

Thank you for the query, although I am not the right agent for the project.

Thanks for your query, but right now we're not taking on new clients due to a very high current work load. Good luck with your book!

Thank you for thinking of me with your query, but unfortunately I just don't feel I'm the right agent for this one. I wish you the best of luck and success.


You may be wondering exactly what my query said. Well, here it is:

Dear Ms. Evans:
November 18, 2008 is the 30th anniversary of the Jonestown Massacre. I was there.
As senior medic of the joint humanitarian task force sent to Guyana to return the remains of the 914 Americans who died there, I was able to observe the grueling and grotesque job performed by the men and women of the force. The Ghosts of November is the only book written by a member of the task force and the only one that describes the nine days we spent in Jonestown.
Originally self-published in 1998 for the 20th anniversary, the revised book is more than 50% new material and has been professionally edited. It has footnotes, photos and a map the first edition lacked. I sold almost 5000 copies of the book in 1998 through radio talk shows and book signings.
I have attached a book proposal, marketing plan and a couple of sample chapters. I hope they will prompt you to consider representing me.
I do have two more nonfiction book ideas to pitch to publishers. One is a memoir of my life as a derelict and the other a nonfiction narrative about cults in the 21st century.
Jeff Brailey
Please check out my Ghosts of November blog at

It also contained the first two chapters, a book proposal and marketing plan. The book proposal said:

The Ghosts of November

Memoirs of an Outsider Who Witnessed

the Carnage at Jonestown, Guyana

A Book Proposal

Book Overview

It’s funny how a simple phone call can literally change one’s life. This happened to me twice. My first life changing phone call was from my first sergeant, summoning me to an orientation meeting. I was to be the senior medic of a joint humanitarian task force. The second phone call happened 20 years later, but concerned the same topic. The first phone call was the precursor of what became an annual nightmare. The second phone call brought the nightmares on any time throughout the whole year, but eventually brought them under control.

This originally self-published book details events leading up to the Jonestown Massacre and for the first time, describes in graphic detail exactly what happened in that American enclave the week after the mass murder/suicide. It compares and contrasts the lives of two groups of Americans living in the tropics that November 1978 – soldiers and their families in Panama and Jim Jones and his congregation in Guyana.

Unique Selling Proposition

The Ghosts of November is the only account written by a member of the Joint Humanitarian Task Force sent in November 1978 to Guyana to recover the remains of over 900 Americans who lost their lives in the Jonestown Massacre. It is also the only book that finally reveals what happened in Jonestown during the nine days it took to accomplish this gruesome mission.

The author, who was senior medic in the task force, provides the only known eye witness account of the difficult job performed by members of the United States military. The books details how those sent to clean up coped with the physical, emotional and psychological effects.

This book also has a news hook in that the 30th anniversary of the massacre will be November 18, 2008. The Ghosts of November originally was self-published in 1998 to coincide with the 20th anniversary. The book was self-published because of Mr. Brailey had a short window in which to write, print and market the book. Though marketed almost exclusively through radio talk shows, he managed to sell almost 5,000 copies of the book in a little over a year, mostly in Texas. Room remains to market this book throughout the remainder of the U.S., especially in Indiana and California where Jones had his ministries.

Mr. Brailey has spent the past two years completely revising, updating and rewriting The Ghosts of November. He has improved the book’s narrative quality and dialogue, added footnotes, a bibliography and index as well as 20 photographs. In addition, Rebecca Moore, sister to two victims and aunt of one – Jones’ son – has agreed to write a foreword to this book.


The manuscript is expected to be about 65,000 words long. The first draft is complete. The chapters submitted as part of this proposal are complete and revised.


The Jonestown Massacre is the benchmark by which mass murder/suicide events are evaluated. It is considered by many to be one of the most significant news events of the 20th century. This fact alone makes The Ghosts of November potentially salable to a wide range of readers.

Perhaps the largest target audience is African-Americans because there continues to be a great deal of curiosity in that community regarding the People’s Temple, Jonestown and the massacre, of which approximately 75 percent of the victims were black. People from Indiana and California, the states Jim Jones operated in, who were aware of the activities of his activities and People’s Temple when they were located in these states are potential readers of this book as are residents of the surrounding states of Kentucky, Ohio, Illinois and Michigan.

The book should be well-received in Texas, where most of the first editions were sold in 1998 and 1999. The author was born in Connecticut and attended college in Rhode Island. These states should be a good market for The Ghosts of November.

The book may be purchased as a textbook or resource for academicians who teach Death and Dying, Religion or History. Other academic disciplines that represent a potential sale of the book include: African-America Studies, Sociology and Counseling.

The Ghosts of November will appeal to readers interested in cult and alternative religions. Students of psychology and others interested in mind control and the dynamics of mass suicide/murder a well as people engaged in grief counseling will want to have the book in their library.

Anyone who themselves or who have relatives that were involved in any aspect of the People’s Temple or Jonestown, including survivors, family members, former service men and women who were part of the Joint Humanitarian Task Force are part of our target audience. Professionals involved in mortuaries or the processing of the dead represent a group that will be interested in The Ghosts of November as well. These include funeral directors, morticians, and medical examiners.

There is a large public of conspiracy theorists who, 30 days after the Jonestown Massacre, still believe the US government had a hidden and sinister role in the event. This group of people represents a fairly large number of potential buyers of The Ghosts of November.


Over the three decades since the tragic event, dozens of books have been written about the People’s Temple, Jonestown and Jim Jones, including White Night: The Untold Story of What Happened Before-and-Beyond, Salvation and Suicide: Jim Jones, The Peoples Temple, and Jonestown and Peoples Temple and Black Religion. Only The Ghosts of November was written by a member of the Joint Humanitarian Task Force. The Ghosts of November is also the only book that specifically reveals the events and activities that occurred in Jonestown during the nine days it took to perform the gruesome mission.

John Peer Nugent’s book, White Night: The Untold Story of What Happened Before-and-Beyond Jonestown, Rawson, Wade Publishers, 1979, reveals what happened to the church and its assets after the massacre. However, it does not describe the recovery and clean-up process.

The most recent books are David Chidester’s, Salvation and Suicide: Jim Jones, The Peoples Temple, and Jonestown, published by the Indiana University Press in 2003 and Rebecca Moore’s anthology, Peoples Temple and Black Religion, published by Indiana University Press in 2004. Neither work discusses the activities and events associated with the task force.

Author’s Background

Jeff Brailey is a retired career soldier who served 20 years as a medic in the U.S. Army. He served as public affairs specialist to Army units to which he was assigned from 1972 to 1988. Since his retirement 18 years ago from the armed forces, he has served as a child protective services specialist in Guadalupe County, Texas, and as a safety officer on oil drilling rigs and construction barges in the Gulf of Mexico, Bahrain and off the coast of Nigeria, West Africa. Jeff also has been the chief operating officer of a skilled home health agency, women’s health boutique and medical clinic, advertising copywriter for a large automobile dealership, evidence photographer for a company that provides security to companies with labor problems, and telemarketer.

He also was a homeless derelict for almost six years. This was not an experiment to obtain color for a news story, Jeff was the genuine article. In 2004, he overcame a gambling addiction and in 2005, began working as a safety consultant in Nigeria, West Africa. He is the only person he knows who went from living on the streets to earning a six-figure income in a period of less than two years.

Despite the roller coaster quality of his life, Jeff Brailey has always been a writer. He has been a stringer for more than 20 years, his news and feature stories appearing in nearly a dozen newspapers, including the Sunday Oklahoman, Lawton Constitution, and Panama Star Herald in Panama City, Panama. In 1999, while homeless, he penned a monthly column for the San Antonio Express-News.

Well, that's about it for now. I have contacted other agents and am eagerly awaiting their replies. I know I have a good commercial sellable book, it's just a matter of convincing them I do.