Friday, January 16, 2015

When To Give Up And Shelve The Book

This is a tough one for every author to deal with. You have worked countless hours on a project. You love the darn story but time and time again, the project just keeps getting rejections. At what point do you just say "screw it" toss that bad boy to a shelf and get on with your life? Well, like everything in publishing, it all depends on the situation and what type of responses you have been getting. The rejections can be due to the project, the writing or simply the state of the industry at the present time.

First of all, let me say that rejections do suck. You have someone telling you, on some level, "you aren't good enough." Damn them! They don't know good if they were sitting on it. Let me just say that unless that statement is showing up in your rejection letter, that is not the case. The rejection is just saying it isn't quite right, or maybe it just needs a little more work (and hopefully they have given you enough to work with to make those revisions). For an agent, those rejections are even harder because we have to react to it first and then we get to relive it with you when we call you. Still, the question remains, when do you shelve that book?

I have heard a lot of people say never to shelve it and just keep sending it out. Personally, this is a waste of time and energy. In the first place, the odds are, your project doesn't fit with every agent or editor out there. I saw one article state to send your project out to 80 different agents. Again, the odds are your writing, approach and attitude about writing probably do not match with 80+ agents. These people are not just marketing consultants, they are your writing partner.

So, when it comes to marketing your book to agents or editors, consider the list first of ALL of the places your story logically fits. For the agents, make a list of those agents you REALLY want to work with and you admire for the work they do, AND that your style fits with them. If all of these people said no, move on.

It is important to remember, however, that you should not just wait until you have exhausted this list. As those rejection letters come in, you should be taking some time to assess what each one says. If you see a pattern, stop sending those submissions out and fix the problem. It is just for this reason that I do not send out a proposal to every one of the potential editors I think my client's work might fit with. We prioritize the list and start sending it out in chunks. If we need to reassess, we have the ability to do so.

If we do find that the comments are all coming back with some extensive changes, or simply comments that imply this is not the right time, then we shelve it. Just working on the project over and over again, and staying in that revision mode is doing nothing for getting those other books written. Shelve it and focus on something else.

But what about those of you who are still writing and aren't at the submission phase yet. Do you ever stop on a book? The answer is yes, there are times when you may want to. If you dive into a project and simply come to a stand still. You are really stuck with what to do next, then it might be the time to put it up on a shelf and go on. This doesn't mean you can't come back to it, but that roadblock may be due to a number of things. It might be you are writing with blinders on and you won't be able to see a real solution. It might be there isn't one. Or it might be that your heart simply isn't in it at that moment. Give the story a rest and see what happens. Don't force it.

Now, should you shelve it because it got too hard? Absolutely not. Writing is not easy. The words will not flow perfectly for you. This is not a reason to quite. Keep working at it. You will overcome the problem. I promise. But do understand, it is 100% OK. to say this project is simply not going to work. Don't let your critique partners tell you otherwise. Trust your gut instincts and work from those.

Have a great weekend.


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