Thursday, February 17, 2011

Discouragement and lessons learned

I'm feeling a little down at the moment, having one of those existential crises when I wonder why the hell I spend so many hours working on books that it seems nobody is ever going to read outside my critique groups. Yes, I got a couple of query rejections, and they bummed me out. It's not personal, I know that (in my head), but it still hurts. And after having queried this book for quite some time, I'm beginning to wonder if anyone is ever going to get to know and love my characters as much as I do.

When I first sent the book out, it wasn't ready. I wasn't ready. I didn't know what a query was, or who to query. I think I wasted some really good agents with a terrible query letter and a book that wasn't ready to be sent out. Knowing what I do now about good query letters, and how polished a MS needs to be before submitting, I cringe with humiliation.

After the book semi-finaled (is that a word? If not, it should be) in ABNA last year, my confidence in it was buoyed, and I spent a long time working on a new, much better query letter. But still no results. So I went back to the MS, and realized there were things about it that needed changing. I ended up writing six new chapters, and cutting out huge sections toward the beginning.

So with the new, very much streamlined version of the book ready to go, I decided it was time for a new query letter, and knocked out another one, better again than the previous one. I've only sent it out three times, so far, but with two of those three coming back as a rejection, I'm not hopeful. So my question has to be, is it the query that's not working? Or is it the pages?

It's impossible to know. While I'd much rather get a form rejection from an agent than silence, those form rejections don't tell you anything about what you need to do next. I could spend weeks working on yet another query, but if it's the pages that are getting me rejected, I'd be wasting my time.

Do I give up on this book? Do I keep going, fumbling blindly through the darkness? I believe in my book. Will anyone else?


  1. I know how you feel. I think the reality is that what we're trying to do is insanely difficult. Rejection is just a part of the journey. It doesn't always indicate the strength of your project. It just indicates that there are three million other projects out there that you have to compete with.

    Trust your gut and keep trying! If that means more tinkering, then so be it. Or, maybe it is time to get your work out there and you just have to find the agent who will connect with it. Either way, good luck!

  2. I agree with Sarah - especially since I know you're talented. You're not one of the 95% of people out there just submitting junk. You've got good technique and voice, and such an amazing style of writing. (I know this because I told my co-worker the other day that my friend/cp Kate was an increcible literary fiction writer, and I wouldn't lie to this particular co-worker).

    So much of this industry is about timing, and mood, and the alignment of the stars. I hope you find it in you to keep going because I'd hate to see you quit (and I'm selfish) <3

  3. Thanks for the encouragement! I know I will keep plugging away at this. I couldn't stop if I wanted to. I did that for years, and it wasn't until I came back to writing that I realized what my life had been missing. Making jewelry is fun, and satisfies some of my creative energy, but I'm not as good at that as I am at writing, and it's way more satisfying doing something you're good at.

    I just need to keep at it.

    *takes deep breath, adjusts anti-rejection armor and dives back into battle*

  4. Keep going, Kate!

    If you've only been rejected a few times, that is nothing. Elana johnson got 200 rejections before her book was picked up. So hang in there.

    Semi-finaling in ABNA is nothing to sneeze about. You were in the top 1 percent. THAT IS AMAZING!

    I should be so luck.

    There's an easy way to find out if it's your query or pages that are not working. I've found that many agent only ask for the query. Submit to them. If they ask you for pages, then you know your query is working. If they don't then get cracking on a better query.

    Don't use ABNA's pitch either. I found mine wasn't powerful enough to get an agent's attention.

    Good luck.

    I hope this helped.


  5. Michael's advice sounds really good. I haven't sought an agent yet, but I know it's really hard to land a good one. I keep hearing it's all trial and error, do your homework about the genres they want, make sure they're in your targeted market, and keep sending it out. Sometimes it's not even the agent themselves who look at it.

    I think a lot of it is finding the right place at the right time (aka luck). So, good luck and don't give up!

  6. You should self publish and not rely on those old and oppressive ways of publishing anymore. It's a great tool for truly independent artists of all types of art.

    More and more artists are self publishing. It's my hope that in ten years the established publishing houses and producers are long gone.