Peering Out From Rejection

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Can you see me over the enormous pile of rejections I’ve collected? Maybe if I jump you’ll catch a quick look at the top of my head. It’s rough out there and I’ve got the battle scars to prove it! That being said, this round of queries was actually more successful than all previous rounds. Success is all in how to you choose to define it, right?

I call this round successful because it has the highest rate of actual responses. This means I got personalized emails, rather than the usual deafening, soul crushing silence that makes me think my query package ended up in a black hole somewhere.

In total, I sent out 13 query packages that included a revamped query letter (which I created after taking a great workshop at Phoenix Comicon). Considering this was a test run for the new query letter and freshly drafted synopsis, I decided to keep the total number packages sent out on the low end.

Within 9 weeks, I received 6 personalized responses from agents. The last one came just a couple of weeks ago. All were very positive and encouraging, citing that my project just wasn’t right for them. While its never fun to be rejected, I do take some pride in the fact that I wasn’t chastised for terrible writing or told I should give up (I’ve heard horror stories from writers who have received rejections of this nature).

With 7 total responses, that means 53% took the time to answer me and they did so with something other than a form letter. You know what? I’ll take that with a smile. In previous rounds of queries, I was lucky to see a 30% response rate. This is progress.

On the other hand, there were six black holes. I’m in the process now of learning how to check in with agents who have not responded. I’ve never been brave enough to do it, but at this point, I don’t think I really have anything to lose!

In addition, I’m diving right back into the battlefield. I’ll be participating in #PitMad on Twitter today! Search the hashtag and you just might see my pitches for my novel. If an agent favorites the tweet, that means they are requesting a submission. It’s my first time, so I have no idea what to expect. Nothing may come of it, but I figure it’s worth a try. And it’ll be fun to see what other authors are pitching!

The rejection pile is high and mighty, but I keep telling myself one thing: All it takes is one “yes.”

 

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c.b.w. 2017

Writing Means Failing A Lot

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I am really starting to understand why the word “persistence” comes up so often when writers talk about what it takes to be successful. While decluttering my writing space and organizing files on my hard drive, I faced the eye-opening reality that I’ve been at this writing thing for ten years, (at least in the quasi-professional sense). Ten years. And I don’t have a lot to show for it other than a few teeny tiny publishing credits.

My journals and files say otherwise. I’ve written two novels, more poems than I can count (there are about 1,000 haikus alone), and more than 1,000 blog posts (this one blows my mind the most!). Writing is the easy part. Finding an audience is a little tougher. Getting published feels almost impossible.

My rejection folder is enormous. I have an interesting relationship with this stack of rejection. On one hand, it’s hard not to take it personally. It is after all one agent after another telling me they aren’t interested in what I poured my heart into. On the other, it’s nothing personal. We all have opinions about what we like to read. My only saving grace is that I’ve never had an literary agent tell me my writing sucks and that I should just give up. I know writers get this sometimes and so far I’ve been lucky. It’s just frustrating on so many levels that I can’t seem to break through the barriers.

The soul crushing truth is writing means failing a lot. Not only in the ridiculous number of failed drafts, but in the process as a whole.

Yet, I persist. I’m too stubborn to let the failure win.

I took a little break from the query process to regroup after the last batch of rejections, (30 rejections hit pretty hard). Then, last month I took a writing workshop on query letters and the synopsis. While much of the information wasn’t anything new to me, I still walked away with a renewed sense of purpose. It’s amazing what being among writers in the same situation can do!

This week I sent off a brand new volley of query packages. I must be a glutton for punishment. Most writers seem to be, so I’m in good company. As a matter of fact, I already got my first rejection from this batch. It was pretty swift and painful, but not unexpected.

I’m bracing myself for more to come, but I keep reminding myself I only need one yes. All the no’s don’t matter, it’s the yes I’m after.

Persistence is key.

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c.b.w. 2017

 

And We Go Back

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It’s been very quiet on the novel front (even though my muse has been very chatty on the sequel!), but that’s about to change. I’m ready to take another dive in the literary agent pool, despite the ever growing odds against me.

I spent the summer waiting for query responses that never came – the silence was deafening – and evaluating both my novel and query package. After another round of rejections, I can’t help but ask myself if some of the changes I made were doing more harm than good.

The last round of query packages included a new query letter and a full Chapter 1 rewrite in the novel. Both changes were prompted by several rounds of rejections. There’s only so many rejections you can take before you consider that maybe there’s something wrong with the product.

Prior to the changes, I was averaging about 75% actual responses and 25% no response to my query package. While it is gratifying to receive some sort of a response, the fact of the matter is they were all rejections.

After the changes, the stats changed significantly and not in a good way. In the last round of querying, less than half of the agents I queried responded. The rest offered nothing but silence. This was either a really bad stroke of luck or I need to rethink the tinkering I did on my novel.

Given the drastic change in statistics, I’m thinking it’s time to get back to basics. It’s obvious the rewritten first chapter isn’t grabbing agents’ attention (all that I queried requested the first chapter as part of the query package), so I’ll be scrapping the rewrite in favor of the original version.

After comparing the two this weekend, I can honestly say I like the original version better. It moves a bit slower, but it offers a stronger introduction to the lead character. Furthermore, it provides stronger contrast to the character she evolves into as the novel progresses.

As for the query letter, that’s where it gets a little tricky. I like my new query letter better than the original, yet it’s also part of the package that incited little or no response. So, now the question becomes, was it it the query letter, the rewritten first chapter, or both that turned off so many agents?

Yeah, that’s a sticky wicket.

I went back and read my original query letter and there’s a lot to like about it, but it’s not that exciting. The new query letter has a little more personality and leaves a little more room to personalize it for individual agents. The logical solution to pull the best elements of each and combine them into one new query letter. Yet, I’m left asking myself if that’s really necessary. The original letter has a great track record for getting responses – why mess with it?

If I’ve learned anything in this process, second-guessing yourself can be disastrous. I’ve believed from the start that my novel is something special and I can’t afford to lose that focus. The plan moving forward is to submit the original novel (as structured by me and my editor) and to utilize both query letters. As I research agents, I’ll decide which query letter might be the best fit for each agent on my list. Social media, blogs, and websites for prospective agents offer a lot of insight on personality and preferences.

I’ll consider this last round as yet another lesson learned. We’ll just add it to the lengthy list of things this process has taught me! Despite the constant failure, I remain optimistic. My novel will find its way into print – it’s just a matter of when.

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c.b.w. 2016

The Rejections Keep Coming

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Five months ago I sent out several query packages for my novel. I had every intention if sending out more, but the needs of an elderly furkid forced me to make some changes to my priorities. For the record, I’m not sorry I shelved my writing dreams for a few months as I would not trade the time I had with my dog for anything.

During those “off” months, absolutely nothing showed up in my inbox. Ugh. Rejection by silence. That’s the worst kind! I went into my spreadsheet and marked all open queries with “assumed rejection.” How depressing is that??

Just when I think the silence is going to kill me, I get an actual response from an actual agent. While it was rejection, it was a personal email rather than a form letter. She took the time to explain why she was turning me down and gave me encouragement to keep looking for an agent who would be the right fit for my work. Even though this is a rejection, her kindness reduced the sting a little.

As I look through all my rejection letters (there’s more than 30), I’m noticing the vast majority are personalized responses. I’ve decided to look upon this as a good thing. In addition, I only have five “assumed rejections” from lack of a response. That’s not too bad.

I remain optimistic, but I’m also not going to lie. It is discouraging to be at it this long with little or nothing to show for it. Sometimes it truly does feel like this publication thing just isn’t going to happen for me. This is an industry where the competition is fierce and there are literally thousands of incredibly talented people vying for a small number of contracts.

So what’s next? Another round of query packages, most likely. I still have a number of prospective agents on my list and I’m motivated to add more agents to my list. Part of my motivation comes from knowing well-established writers have all experienced the repeated sting of rejections. It’s part of the process and I just have to endure. When I see writers like Stephen King and J.K. Rowling received rejections by the hundreds, my thirty rejections are just a drop in the bucket. This is not over and I’m not giving up.

Thank you, J.K. Rowling for inspiring all of us to keep going!

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The right agent is out there somewhere and I’m going to find her. 🙂

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c.b.w. 2016

 

How To Stay Alive In a Pile of Query Rejections

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In the midst of gearing up for a new round of submitting query packages, a fellow blogger asked me how I’m able to stay so motivated after multiple rejections. That’s a good question and I’m sure a lot of aspiring authors are wondering the same thing.

Earlier this year, I collected eight rejections (five actual responses and three no-response) to go along with the previous five from last year. Thirteen rejections are not fun, but in the publishing industry this is a minuscule number. To pay my dues as a writer, I know I have many more rejections coming my way. That means I have to be ready to take them and keep going.

For me, staying motivated comes down to five basic principles:

Remember that it’s all subjective.

In any creative field, individual judgements are part of the game. Agents, editors, and publishing houses, all have their likes, dislikes, wish lists, and hate lists. A submission is considered through all of these lenses, along with the business side of publishing. A book has to make money. Period. A prospective agent or publisher can love a book, but if they think it won’t sell, it’s all over.

I liken it to my own personal judgements of books. Sometimes I love a book so much it earns a special place on my bookshelf. Then, there’s the books I hate – the ones I can’t sell to Half Price Books fast enough. Yet, someone else out there has read it seven times and loves it every time. Agents work the same way.

Try to remember it’s not personal. An agent isn’t sending a rejection as a personal attack. They are simply looking for a project that works with their individual interests and business goals.

You have to show up. 

Taking a risk can pay off with great success or tank with astounding failure. The point is understanding that if you want something to happen you have to show up and take action. Doing nothing = nothing happens.

You can write an incredible novel or poetry anthology, but if you’re too afraid of rejection it’ll just sit in a drawer and collect dust. Agents and publishers do no send out hunting parties to scope out introverted writers or dig out the next bestsellers from hidden writing rooms. They need writers to come out of the shadows and make themselves known.

If you hide, they can’t find you.

Let rejection be your fuel.

I don’t like to lose at anything, so I turn that competitive edge into a tool.  It’s all about attitude and choice! If I choose to let each rejection become a roadblock, I will lose the game instantly. If I choose to let each rejection be part of the process, then I stand a chance to Pass Go and collect $200.

Every rejection I receive only fuels my fire to try again. A “no” just means I haven’t found the right outlet and I’ve simply eliminated it from a giant pool of prospects. Soon enough, I’ll have it narrowed down to that one “yes.”

Wear Your Thick Skin

Rejection can sting pretty badly if you don’t wear protective armor. My thick skin was developed through enduring beta readers picking apart my work, losing countless competitions, and realizing something I’d written was total crap.

Thick skin is only possible if you’re willing to open yourself up to criticism, rejection, and reality. It is absolutely essential to let these three things sink in and make you stronger. Mainly because you learn that not everyone will fall in love with your work and that’s okay!

Rejections bounce right off of thick skin like one of those super bouncy rubber balls.

It only takes one Yes.

In the end, it won’t matter how many “no’s” stack up in my inbox. What is going to matter is the one “yes.” Keep the focus where it belongs – directly on the goal. At the core of motivation is eternal hope and hard work. Never lose sight of what you’re trying to accomplish and never stop believing that it will happen.

When that “yes” shows up it will erase every single rejection you’ve ever received.

I’m still waiting and working for my “yes,” but I’m pushing forward  with these five principles in mind. As Galaxy Quest so eloquently put it: Never Give Up, Never Surrender!

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c.b.w. 2015