Thursday, June 25, 2015

What Happened Between The Request and the Reject?

Many authors are perplexed by this and I am sure it will continue for some time. What happened between that energetic request for more material from that initial query, to a sudden answer of no in that dreaded rejection letter? I wanted to bring this up today as we start into that intense conference season when many of you will be pitching to editors and agents and probably getting requests.

Let's start with the request for more material. As a writer, it IS exciting when someone shows an interest in your writing. This is what you have been waiting for. That editor or agent in an email, or even better, during a pitch, says, "I am certainly interested in seeing more. Why don't you send me
the manuscript and let me take a look." On the surface, we have to start jumping with joy. I mean, really? Did you year those words? "I am certainly interested in seeing more"? They LOVE ME!!!!!

For this moment, go ahead and jump around the room, celebrate with champagne or chocolate! Let it rip! But then, when you come back to Earth, let me finish.

In many cases, we are requesting material because we really do need to see more to make a decision. Do you hear what I am saying? I am not making a decision yet. I just don't necessarily have a lot to work with from this initial information. Yes, there was something in your pitch or query that said this could be something of merit, but this is not a decision.

When I read a query, I look at the premise of the story. I look at it as if I was walking through a bookstore planning on buying some books, but not sure which books I plan on buying. So I load up my basket with "potential" books based on the concept that was on the back cover. Before I hit the counter to pay, I make a decision of which books I want to "read more of" and which books I plan on "rejecting".

The same goes for listening to a pitch. Remember, we only have 8-10 minutes to make any decision. We are certainly not going to say we are giving you a contract right there and then. We listen and then tell you to send us something. I should also add here that there are many editors and agents out there who request everything. One did tell me that it was just too hard to look that person in the eye and say no. It is a bummer, but it does happen.

Just as an inside hint for me at Greyhaus. Here is what different requests mean:

  • A synopsis only - You really didn't give me enough to work on from the query or the pitch so I need to see if the story is really something that is marketable.
  • A partial - This is just like that initial shopping. I need to see the writing and the synopsis to really make a decision.
  • A full - You have something here, but can you sustain the momentum. I should note, if you get a request for a full from the beginning, you really do have something (this is true excitement).
But now let's get to the real question that started this. Let's assume the person had a lot of excitement about the project from the beginning and you still got a rejection. What happened?

The odds are, it is one of two things. Either the market shifted and there was not a need anymore by the time you got the project to the person. OR, and this is most likely the case, it came down to execution.

There are a lot of you that can pitch a great project. Heck, the premise is amazing as well, but when it comes down to the writing, you simply could not produce. This is probably the most frustrating part of being an agent. We get all excited about a project, only to see that the author really has not mastered the craft of writing yet. When this happens, we have to really determine if this is something a round of editing will take care of, or if this is an issue of teaching the person how to write. If it is the second, then the odds are you will see a rejection.

Look, I don't want to rain on your summer Friday here, but it is important to always think about what is going on in the heads of the editors and agents when you submit. Be excited, but be realistic!

Now, get out there and have a great weekend. It is going to be AMAZINGLY hot up here in the Pacific Northwest. Time to crank the AC, and read some new manuscripts inside.

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