Tuesday, February 19, 2019

When You Get A Rejection, Who Is To Blame?

Rejections are a tough thing to handle. You have spent months on that project and you think it is the best thing ever, and then the rejections come rolling in. "Are these people idiots?!?!" you scream. Clearly the editors and agents just don't see an amazing story when it sits in front of them. This is clearly why the market is the way it is. And the list of comments run on (I left out the four-letter words).

But the real question here, where does the blame lie? Whose fault is it?

Now, while I am sure there are some editors and agents who might have different motives for rejecting a project, although I can safely that all those I have worked with are genuine, writers have to remember that we are all out to find a great story. When we can find those gems and those books get out to the readers, EVERYONE wins!

The odds are, the reason for the rejection is something happening on your end. Sorry to throw you under the bus on this one, but it is important that we start there.

Let me first begin with a definition of communication. I love this one. Communication is "the getting and the giving of information." This is a two part system. If your story is great, and we did not get it, yes, there can be an issue on both ends. Maybe the editor or agent just does not have the brain for figuring it out. On the other hand, and we hear this a lot, maybe it was the information that you gave to us that might be flawed. Consider
  • Your query letter did not give us a true picture of the story.
  • Your synopsis was really not giving us the complete picture.
  • Your first three chapters really did not set the scene for us.
  • Your pitch was pathetic (I know, this is harsh, but it is often the truth)
We have to make a decision on your project from what you send. If that information is not strong, it is not our fault. You cannot simply say, "If you read the whole story, you would get it." No one would have the time to do anything else. 

That query letter is just like any other cover letter and resume you send out for a job interview. You have to "get in the door first." You have to "make that employer" want to meet you face to face. Screw that one up, you will not get the interview, or in this case, the request for more.

The next thing to look at is really the quality of your writing. Yes, you love your story. You put your heart and soul into it, but the truth could be, the story might not be that good. It could be your writing.

When I request more of a project from that initial query letter, I can see the story could have promise. But, when I look at the reading, a lot of the time, the execution is just not there.
  • The writing is forced
  • The writing is lifeless
  • The author chose an approach that does not work with the story
  • The writing is elementary
  • etc.
This is where I have to get a bit real here. There are some people out there who are natural storytellers. They can put a pen to paper and get a great piece of writing every time. But, unfortunately, that number is small and for many writers, this is a skill that needs to be learned. It is a skill that needs to be practiced and will take time. And this is where the "self-publishing" programs out there are really misguiding authors.

"Do you have a story to tell? Do you want someone to publish it for you?" These programs imply that everyone can be a successful published author. What they are really saying is that everyone can put something out there, but they cannot promise everyone will be successful. 

For many authors, they need to take the time to learn to write. Ask the majority of successful New York Times Best Selling Authors and they will all tell you their first story is still sitting in a file cabinet. It is bad! So, that rejection you are getting might be the truth. Your writing is not that good..

So, before you start throwing the blame on other people. Take the time to examine your end of the equation as well. If the mistake is on your end, this is something to work on fixing. 

Monday, February 18, 2019

Agent Etiquette

There are a lot of things in the current business community that really upsets me. One of those is the lack of communication between different parties. We are operating with ideas such as "no answer means no" from the editors and agents, to simply a lack of timely responses. I think there is this belief that since we live in a digital age, it is OK to take this approach. 

Personally, I do not agree. 

When I get submissions in, I make sure that I respond to everyone. OK. there are some that get no response, but these are the people who tell me in a query letter that The Great Gazoo told them to
submit their project to me. I also try to let people know in a timely fashion. My policy is that I say I will get back to you in under 3 months. In reality, I feel guilty when I don't get back to someone within a month. 

Today, however, I want to talk about the proper etiquette I believe writers should have when contacting editors and agents. I am bringing this up because I had an author just in the last two days do the RIGHT thing. 

First of all, we know that you are probably submitting your project to several agents or editors at the same time. This is understandable. But here is where the good behavior comes into play. Let's say you submit to Agent X but Agent Y gets back to you quicker and offers you representation. Good etiquette is to let us know that someone else offered. 

Now, there is a caveat to this. If someone did offer you representation, do not expect us to drop everything to make a decision on our end. Hearing someone else offers is not going to rush things, UNLESS we had already been madly in love with your initial query. Proper etiquette though is to let us know, which this author did. Doing so does not burn any bridges you might need later, AND saves that editor or agent the time of reading the project of he or she has not gotten to it yet.

A second standard of good etiquette is not to harass the editors or agents. In my case, I say I will get back to you in a maximum of three months. If you have not heard by then, sure, contact us and just make sure the project got there. You will notice the approach I took. As an author, I am sort of taking the blame here. I am not saying that the agent is at fault, but simply approaching this from the standpoint that I might not have submitted it correctly. 

The key is BE POLITE!

Along the same lines, emailing the next day to "make sure the project got there" sort of falls under the category of being pushy. If you sent it and did not get an error message, then the project made it. 

Finally, if the agent does pass on the project, simply say thank you. Do not respond back in a way to somehow argue for your case. You got a no so live with it. If the person did send some feedback to you, it is OK to respond back with a thank you and tell them you appreciated the feedback and will use it with your work. So, maybe you don't but saying that is fine. I will say, if you do take that feedback and use it properly with your next submission and mention it, you will likely get some bonus points. 

Just some business things to consider. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

100 Rejections, Interesting But Not Ideal

I recently heard of the idea of 100 Rejections on a podcast. This is the idea that promotes "getting you out of your comfort zone and get your creative work out into the world." (Han). The idea is to push you into not just waiting until something is perfect to get the idea out there, but to be aggressive with your creativity.

On the surface, this sounds like a great idea. In fact, as I listened to the idea, I was thinking it sounds pretty good. There is this thought that the "law of averages" will eventually tip in your favor.

But the reality of the situation is that just throwing things out there and keeping your fingers crossed is not the best approach.

In publishing, we always hear of these statistics of how many times a certain author was rejected before being published. Authors like to use this as a motivating force to just keep trying and eventually things will click - very much like the 100 rejection theory. But when we look at these rejections, we see another side of the story that authors are missing.

As I started writing this post, I did a little searching and sure enough, there were a few nuggets out there that we need to consider.

1) Many of these rejections were for projects OTHER than the one that finally got published. In other words, check your facts.
2) Some of the people claiming rejections were for "non-responses." So if you sent something to an agent that is no longer there, that is a non-response, and not a rejection.

But let's look at the bigger picture of why that 100 Rejection things is not something you should be proud of. Let's examine why.

First of all, if you are sending out projects that are really not  ready to be published due to your lack of experience or the lack of prep-work on the story, then you should never have been submitting the project. This is not showing your persistence or your motivation to be published, in pretty harsh words, this shows your lack of education about the business or writing. In many ways, this is similar to getting rejection letters from a hospital to be a chief surgeon when you are still in high school and have not gone to medical school.

Secondly, if you are getting rejection letters because you sent projects to agents or editors who do not acquire your subject, this is not something to be proud of. This shows your lack of doing quality research. Had J.K. Rowling sent me Harry Potter, I would have sent her a rejection. Not that the series is bad, but I do not acquire the genre.

Finally, if you are sending a project to someone but your voice, style or plot is not something we represent, you will get a rejection, but again, this comes down to your lack of research. I have talked about this in the past. Many publishers acquire Contemporary Romance, but each one looks for something completely different. If you did not take the time to do your research, you deserve that rejection, but you should not be proud of it.

Taking risks is one thing and with that part of the 100 Rejection theory, I am fully backing. Taking the approach of just "throwing darts" and hoping something is going to stick is not a way to be successful in publishing, for for that matter, in any business out there.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Pooh's Motivation For Tuesday

I love this quote...

Pooh says, "I always get to where I am going by walking away from where I have been." Great thought Pooh! Thank you!

I have seen a lot of different versions of this same idea. The thought is simple. Always look forward and not behind you. Rafiki said this in Lion King and the owner of the USA Today said this in his book. It is the simple thought of forward movement.

In today's world, this thought could not be any more relevant, especially with the availability of reviews that anyone with internet access can post about your writing. Your book could be doing really well and then some "yahoo" gets online and tanks your book with terrible review. Add in the immediacy of social media and with one click, things start to fall apart.

I have talked to a lot of authors and when they open up their email to see a negative review or comment, or get an email from a disgruntled author, it completely ruins their day. All of their plans for writing have just gone out the window. Instead of thinking about their characters and that next great scene, all that is going through their heads is how their writing careers are destroyed.

First of all, remember that careers are not destroyed, unless you did indeed do something stupid such as plagiarism or an offensive comment or post. If that was not the case, this is just one person and one comment.

Move forward. Sure, go ahead and vent some! Draw a picture of what you think that person looks like (I recommend making the person really ugly) and then throw darts at the picture.

And then...

Go back to your writing. Move forward.

Things will get better.