Thursday, June 30, 2022

They Like My Writing, So Why The Rejection Letter?

I am sure you have received rejection letters before that talk about how amazing your writing is, but the editor or agent is still going to pass on the project. This is something that happens more often than you think, so don't feel like it is just you. But it still leaves you wondering, why did they pass on your story.

The reality is, there are probably a ton of issues out there, and nothing has to do with your writing. Let's talk about a few of those reasons.

  1. The market is showing a trend that your genre/setting/etc. is not selling right now. Yes, I know we say not to follow trends, but the reality is, if the readers are not buying it now, then it is not a good investment. 
  2. But if now is not a good time, what about the future? This is again a good thought, but again, you can't predict the future. I would also add that you have to remember that publishers already are looking at line-ups 1-3 years in advance. They may already have a book, much like yours, on the calendar from another author. 
  3. You like my book, but put out stories that are not amazing? Why? Good question, and I am sure we have all asked that same question. For this one, we have to go back to the buyers. Many writers will gravitate to their "go to" authors every time a new book comes out. Publishers know this. Now please understand, they are not saying that they want the established authors to put out garbage. They just know people will buy those books. You are an unknown. 
  4. It could be the execution of the story. Too often, I find writing that is good, but the execution of the story is not there. Good concept. Good writing. But nothing to write home about. We still want you to find a new spin on something that we know sells.
These are just a few reasons, but I want you to know, we are looking at your writing. If you have an editor or agent that says they love your writing. but the project is not a good fit, stick with it. It might simply be an issue of being in the right place and the right time. 

Friday, June 3, 2022

What Is The Message Of Your Novel

I remember teaching a workshop about query letters and synopsis writing to a chapter of the RWA a while ago. We got to the element of "the high concept" and suddenly found that I had an entire room staring at me with that "deer in the headlight look." What was the problem? These authors, like so many that I see, had no clue what the message was of their novel. They had no theme to it.

For too many, authors have simply sat down and wrote a story, or I should say, a lot of words about characters doing things. They spend countless hours just writing about event after event, adding witty dialogue, well-crafted phrases and so forth, but in the end, the story is a failure simply because there is no purpose to it. 

That purpose that we speak of is referred to as the theme of the story. This literally goes back to those basic lessons we all learned about in junior high. The theme is the "take away" from the story. It is the message you want us all to learn by the time we get to the end of the story. These themes are also "universal themes." In other words, these are timeless themes that we have seen over and over again throughout the history of writing.

I know that there are some of you who will argue that stories can also be used "just to entertain." Unfortunately, even those stories have a theme to it. Think of it this way, even when you watch stand-up comedians, they still have a common thread of something that we all need to learn.

So, when do you come up with a theme? This needs to be done BEFORE you start writing. As an author, you need to know that message so that everything, the characters, actions, scenes and dialogue, all support that theme. Trying to figure out that message after you write it, is like writing a Master's Thesis, and, at the end, trying to figure out what your thesis was.

With that said, before you start to write today, think about your theme. If you don't have one. STOP writing, figure it out, then go back and edit before proceeding further. You might amaze yourself with the outcome of your novel.


Thursday, June 2, 2022

Why Name Recognition Is Important

One of the top reasons I pass on authors, is when they state how long they have been working on the project they are submitting. As a "hobby author" the time it takes to write a story really doesn't matter. You spend a lot writing that perfect story, lingering over the words and working on the perfect phrase. But here comes two big problems. First, your readers, assuming you get signed by an editor, are not going to want to wait around for your next book. Secondly, you increase your readership through name recognition.Let's talk about each.

If you are familiar with the Game of Thrones series, or even the Outlander series, you will understand. People devoured these books. In the case of both, each TV series moved faster than the authors could write. The readers wanted more and the authors simply did not want to wait. Did they wait? Yes. Did they like it? No!

For you new authors, name recognition is what will save you. Think about the authors you go back and buy. You probably always return to the authors you remember. Sure, you stumble across new authors, but if you get on Amazon, or hit your local bookstore, you start looking for the authors you remember. To be successful in this business, you have to keep your name out there.

I know that for many authors, they have convinced themselves that it is more important to produce the best book possible, regardless of the time it takes. Part of this is true. Yes, we want good books, but you have to be able to produce those books. For publishers, asking for 2-3 books a year at 77K-100K word count should not be an issue. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Funny From Submissions Today

There are many times when I simply have to sit back and laugh at some of the submissions I get. Of course, the humor is not necessarily coming from the quality of the book or the premise, but the submission iteself.

As I was answering emails today, I received a ton for projects I don't represent. Normal, but when it comes from someone who is a PhD at a university who claims great research, or even worse, real medical doctors who don't know how to figure out if what they write I represent, it makes me laugh.

Of course, there are also the submissions where a person openly admits they are working through a directory A-Z copying the same query to everyone with "Dear Agent" or in my case, "Dear Mr. Greyhaus" but then writes back to state there was a typo in my reply to their project (and yet they take the time to send out quality submissions"...

you have to laugh.

I get that submission writing is not fun. It IS tedious. But if you are getting tired to rejections, go back and think about your approach!