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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Rejection

It’s official. I’m a writer. I’ve been rejected. It’s actually not the first time, just the first time for a novel. Despite being told I would probably not hear back before September, it o only took a couple of weeks to be rejected.

I had told myself to expect it. Afterall, nobody gets in on their first try. Still, it hurt. Reading the reasons hurt more.

I gave myself last night to feel lousy about it, then today I would get off the pity pot and climb onto the perseverance pot. Even in my angst, I reminded myself of some things – like the comments I’ve gotten from people who’ve read it. And the fact that neither agent actually read my book. They sampled it. If I can get someone to actually read it, perhaps I’d have a better outcome.

This morning some other facts dawned on me. I know that most writers get rejected many times before someone takes them on. Each person who rejected them had a compelling reason for the rejection… but that didn’t make them right. J.K. Rowling was rejected dozens of times, and obviously those agents reasons were idiotic.

One agent that rejected my novel said its was good writing, good pacing, but too familiar and wouldn’t stand out. Another one said he didn’t care for it and couldn’t follow it. Two agents. Same agency. Two completely different reasons for rejection, and frankly two that don’t even work together. If it’s good writing and too familiar, how could it be difficult to follow? It occurs to me that I can’t take any of their opinions to heart. If down the road, every agent is saying the same thing, then perhaps I should take them more seriously, but for now, I simply have to find an agent whose personal opinion is more closely aligned with my readers.

Other reasons cited for rejection were a weak market linked, in part, to the chaos in Washington. Lucky me. i decide to make my leap of faith at the same time a quarter of my fellow citizens go nuts and decide to destroy the country. Hopefully they don’t take my dreams down too.

This afternoon I did some research on how to properly construct a query letter. I already have several agents in mind that I’d like to query. One in particular interests me greatly, but only allows for 10 pages of the book to be submitted. That means I better have a killer query letter to sell then entire series.

Onward and upward. It’s not the last rejection I’ll get. But I won’t quit. Not yet. Perhaps not ever, because I only fail if I quit. I will persist.

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Making Connections

There are oh so many things in the news I would love to write about and get off my mind, but I’ve been doing too mach of that lately. Instead, this post will be a progress report.

The feedback on my book has slowly been trickling in. For the most part, it is positive. Where there are issues, I go in and attempt to fix it. So many kind people have pointed out small flaws in the timeline, questions about motivation that can be made clearer, typos, and odd sentence structure. They have also pointed out the good qualities like pacing, dialogue, character development, and chapter endings that keep you turning the page. So far, everything that’s wrong can be fixed, and everything that’s right… well, it’s just right. All good news.

A few weeks back one of our clients at work asked me some questions about my book. Her face lit up and she said, “You know who you should meet?!” She proceeded to tell me about a local author who has sold millions of books, won many awards, and is a good friend of hers. She set up lunch for us to meet and talk about writing, books, and publishing. It was a fun lunch and I was able to ask many questions and get some concrete ideas about what to do next.

His best advice was that it didn’t matter if my friends, family, or even strangers like my book. Until I put it in the hands of a professional editor, I won’t really know what I have. So, next week I plan to get started on that process. Thanks to another connection, one back in LA,  I may already have a good one.

The other piece of advice gleaned from our lunch was that it is time to start querying agents and publishers. So, that means it was time to sign up for The Writer’s Market – a huge searchable index of agents, editors, and publishers that lists what they’re looking for in both a query letter, and a manuscript. It feels a little overwhelming to see all the places I’m going to have to start sending letters, but I imagine the list will get whittled down by a large pile of rejection letters. Even Harry Potter was rejected at first. Eventually, I have faith that someone will see potential and take a risk.

One of the things I’ve loved about this process is its ease. In Hollywood there was a constant scramble to make good connections. If you were chatting with someone, and you realized they were in a position to help your career, your antenna went up, your brain started churning, and you calculated all the different ways you could approach, suck up to, and harness their power for yourself. It made for sick relationships, up and down the power ladder. I’m glad to be off that ladder. I’m glad to be in a world where connections flow naturally.

Even better, it’s nice when your friend has the courage to ask the guy who’s sold millions of books to read your novel. I could never have done that. It will be interesting to see what he has to say, if anything.

For now, the editing continues, the professional is about to be brought in, and I’m going to find out for real if this little leap of mine is going to work.

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