What I’m Listening to: Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd
But how many Rejections did I receive until I got to a Yes?
Yup. That’s a lot.
Now, I will admit, some of this may have been my own poor query writing (in a critiquing group, I invariably was told “This needs more work”). But mostly, I think a contemporary King Arthur story just doesn’t do it for most agents. Also, 75 of those Noes came before I switched the POV to first-person present-tense. Would they have said yes to that? I don’t know.
Along the way, I did have two very small presses say yes. But I just didn’t think they offered me enough leverage beyond what I could have done by self-publishing. Still, it was nice to hear something nice once in a while.
While I followed the Writer’s Digest weekly “New Agency Alerts,” for the most part, I used “The Directory of of Literary Agents” (sign up required, you will get ads in your email). I selected agents who were open to queries about my genre (Contemporary fiction or Paranormal) and queried 5 a week.
I had a lot of automated rejections—which didn’t hurt at all. I had direct rejections—which were a lot harder to take. Mostly, I have a file filled with “Not for me, thanks” responses.
The record for fastest rejection was 3 hours. Longest was 2 years. Both made me laugh.
How did I stand all the rejection? Sometimes I didn’t. Every once in a while, I had a good cry and moped around, thinking I’m no good, etc.
But mostly, I withstood all the Noes because I understand that the minute I stop writing, getting the book to the reader is a business decision.
In querying agents and publishers, I know they aren’t looking at it as “Oh, Jacqueline spent 3 years writing this. We should honor it with a contract.” They are looking at it as a product-concept they can make money on. “Can I sell this/Will it sell?” are the operative thoughts to this process. If they don’t feel they can, that’s a decision they make for their own business. That they have to feel passionate about it, connect with the idea on a personal level, is what makes publishing slightly more difficult than selling widgets.
And so, as the rejections piled up, I worked hard not to let it get to me. I spent the time honing the manuscript. I sent it to beta readers (Shel Horowitz and Joan Druett were amazingly patient and helpful!) to have them give me some tough love. And I did a lot more research on what the market (agents and publishers) is looking for.
So, if you are going through the process of querying and collecting rejections—stay at it. Don’t give up. Every No is a stepping stone on the way to Yes!