Yippee! Another rejection!

After my recent rewrite, and having found Diana Urban’s blog post about querying, this time around things are going much better. If you are querying, check out the blog post for some great information. I won’t write about all her suggestions, but I’m going to share the two I wasn’t doing that are really making a difference for me.

From day one, the entire querying process has been daunting. You only have a few paragraphs in the query letter to get them to read a sample, which is what will hopefully lead them to ask for the manuscript. I’d done some reading online and gotten some advice from an editor, but each time I sent a letter out, it felt like an experiment. The problem was, if the experiment didn’t work, you couldn’t just try again with the same agent. Most were then off limits unless you did a major rewrite.

To solve this problem, new author Diana Urban urges querying authors to hire a professional, such as an editor or junior agent. From my understanding, junior agents assist agents. One way they assist is by screening queries. If you want your manuscript to make it to an agent, you first have to get past the junior agent. (And if I’m wrong about that, they at least likely know what agents want.) By hiring a Jr. agent to edit your query package, you can be sure it includes all the elements an agent would want to see. Ms. Urban recommended two people, and I chose K. Johnson Editorial. She provided great feedback that allowed me to improve my query letter, synopsis, and submission pages. It seems I’m already seeing results and will hire her again for my other synopses.

The other suggestion that has been so helpful is to use QueryTracker. Part of the pain of my previous querying attempt was the silence, and slow, erratic drip of rejections. Now I can see what other QueryTracker users have submitted to the agents. I can see which of those submissions has been rejected or had a full manuscript request. Because of that, I can see where my query is in the process and the rejections don’t come completely out of the blue. Are there still 10 manuscripts between mine and the ones rejected? I know I have a while to wait. Or, like recently, I could see that manuscripts before mine, and after mine had been rejected, leading me to believe it had made it past the junior agent, and was waiting to be reviewed by the agent. While it was still eventually rejected, that information from QueryTracker gave me so much hope.

And my most recent rejection gave me my best hope yet. Literary agencies receive hundreds of queries each week. We authors are dying to know why we were rejected, but they don’t have time to tell us. It’s frustrating, but totally understandable. This week’s rejection came with really useful feedback. If they didn’t see potential, they wouldn’t have bothered with feedback, and I now know if I can introduce my character in the way they’re looking for, I can sell this book. The story, query, and synopsis are where they should be. The first chapter is not.

I have a long weekend of work ahead of me, but I’m very excited to get to it. I believe the first full manuscript request is just around the corner. That doesn’t mean an agent, but it means another step forward, and right now, that’s all I need.

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Another Step Forward

Progress is never a straight line. It’s always a few steps forward, a few steps back. That’s exactly what the past few months have been for me.

While waiting for my editor to return to work, I had someone from my target audience read Fear Unleashed — a 12-year-old girl who reads voraciously and loves scifi/fantasy. The verdict? She loved it. I even had a chance to sit down and ask her a few questions and hear her suggestions. It was a confidence booster. She was anxious to read the next book, so I better get it finished! One step forward.

Beyond the test of patience while I waited for my editor to return to action, it felt like I was faced with another test. I came home last week, opened my mailbox, and instantly my heart froze in my chest. It was a letter from the IRS. It’s the one piece of mail that instantly signals bad news. It’s never a letter saying, “Hey, we found out you overpaid and now we’re sending you thousands of dollars.” It’s never that. No, it’s always something scary and something bad. I instantly went to a dark place. I saw my dream ending. I saw the last of my savings gone. This leap left little room for error. A serious illness, injury, a totaled car… all things that could put me in a desperate place. I never figured in the IRS, but that could do it too. It felt like once again the football was being pulled away just as I was kicking. A huge step backward.

I went to the dark place, but I didn’t stay. Even as a lead ball formed in my gut, I attempted to reason my way out. I read and reread the letter, looking for an indication of what they thought I might owe. While I realized it would be painful, I could take the loss. I got ahold of my accountant, and was reassured that everything was fine. This was a computer error that would quickly be straightened out by him. Once I got him all the forms he needed and signed where I needed to sign, I felt back on track. Having had a chance to get my feet under me for the past two years, it was easier to regain my balance. Being a part of a supportive community also helps me remain steady.  So, I managed to deal with a delay in submitting my manuscript, and a threat to my finances without losing hope. Yay, me! Two steps forward.

Today I finally took the next big step forward. The manuscript is in the hands of a literary agency. It may be months before they make a decision, so there is nothing for me to do at this point except keep writing and wait. But Fear Unleashed‘s journey has begun. Will this be the start of rejection until I finally find a “yes?” Or will I defy the odds and land an agent straight off? Stay tuned to the unfolding saga.

And even though I’m celebrating my steps forward, I recognize I will surely have to take a step or two back yet again. Going with it instead of fighting it, is a more graceful response and turns the whole process into a dance. And that’s what I’m hoping to do… dance all the way to publication. Cha cha cha.

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Hiring an Editor – Check

A little over a week ago I contacted an editor and sent him my manuscript. I’m studying quantum physics for the next book, and so for the past week it’s felt like my manuscript has been like Shrodinger’s cat… neither alive nor dead, nothing but waves of potentiality. Surprisingly, rather than feeling frustrated by the wait, the anticipation and possibility of anything happening was lovely.

Tonight the wave became a solid particle, and I now have a highly-experienced  professional’s opinion about my book. As expected, there is good and bad. Some of the bad can easily be fixed. Some of it may have deep roots that will be difficult to untangle… not impossible, just difficult.

He pointed out bad habits that I have developed – some are remnants of my screenwriting days, one is the very common bad habit of writing in the passive voice, and the rest are just personal weaknesses. Hopefully the more I am aware of my flaws, the harder I can work to fix them in my future writing.

There were also compliments, which provided some encouragement to keep trying. It’s very nice having a professional in the publishing world describe your manuscript as enjoyable and entertaining. So, as I watch my savings dwindle, I feel encouraged that it’s not time to go to plan B just yet.

What’s next? I don’t know. I am a babe in the woods when it comes to the publshing world. My guess – I go back to work with the guidance of my editor, and when we have something polished I start writing query letters to agents and publishers. Will that lead to a publishing house? It’s a roll of the dice, but at least in today’s world, there is the option to self-publish. One way or another, I will have a published book, what is in question is what reach it will have.

I just have to keep checking things off the list. Step by step. Bit by bit. It’s how every dream becomes a reality.

What’s the next thing on your dream’s checklist?

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