Monday, February 15, 2016

Writing Tips: Rejections

  No one likes rejections. We don’t like to receive them, and most of us don’t like to give them. While you’re in the “query trenches”, you’ll receive lots of rejections and have hopefully developed some thick skin by now. Even Stephen King, Stephenie Meyer, J.K Rowling, Veronica Roth, and virtually every author has received several rejections. At least. I have a notebook of rejections. All organized and highlighted in various colors with a color code and stickies per project. It would make a nice wallpaper if I did it right.

  Anyway. The point is, is that you will get rejections and it isn’t always about you, your skill, or your story. There are lots of variables that go into whether an agent will sign you. Such as: topic, market salability, personal tastes, client work load, if another client has something similar, if they don't know an editor who would take it, if they don’t have the time to give it the spit shine it needs, etc.

  Rejections can come at any stage: initial query, partial request, full request, R&R, and post notification of offer. It doesn’t stop there, because the next phase is the submission process…to editors. An editor can reject on initial mention, proposal, after reading a few chapters or the entire thing, at the second-reader level, at the acquisitions board level. If your book makes it to print…there are rejections from bloggers, some well known like Kirkus Reviews and USA HEA Today. And of course, rejections from readers, as in bad reviews. But don’t let this deter you. Why endure so much heartache? Because it’s all subjective. Books are entertainment, which means there’s no formula for success, and forget the idea of getting green lights all the way.

  Let’s get into what sorts of rejections you can receive, and how to work with what you get.

1) No response. Agents will mention in their submission details that a "no response means no". Many times, they'll mention it can take up to so many weeks. Sometimes, they post updates or you'll find response times on query databases. Unless the agent mentions a "no response means no", then it's safe to re-query after a few months, or longer depending on how long it takes others to receive responses, especially if they received rejections. This sounds horrible, doesn't it? Not even given the courtesy of a response? Don't take it personally. Agents are busy, and it's you who are after them. Sometimes queries get lost in cyber space. Other times, the agent is too busy. But you can only try or think about them for so long. Time to move on. For the love of all that is good and sweet, do not pester them. This is like constantly checking up on that boy you're crushing on so many times before you realize he is just not into you. It's desperate, and in this industry, unprofessional on your part. If this method bothers you, then by all means, stay away from agents who have this policy.

2)  Form rejection. A boiler plate rejection letter that agents send to every “no”. It may or may not include your name/title, and it seems so unprofessional. After all, you spent countless hours perfecting your query/pitch/submission packet, not to mention all the research that went into learning about your target agent/editor. You triple checked that their name was spelled correctly, read all of their interviews, wish lists and don’t-want lists, and even stalked them on Twitter. It’s just the game. They receive thousands of queries, and personally responding to each one takes a lot of time away from their clients. Queries are the least important of their endless to-do things. What can you learn from form rejections? If you receive a ton of initial rejections, consider the query itself. Did you have someone critique it? Does it sound professional and intriguing? Did you research how to write queries and master the hook? Sometimes, form rejections hit you on requested material, and even after notifications of offers! UGH. So frustrating, right? But agents/editors are in no way obligated to give you more. Remember that.

3)  Personalized rejections. They’re pretty much the same as the form rejection, but they include name/title…and if you’re fortunate, what exactly didn’t work. This could happen, like the form rejection, at any stage from query to requested material to notification of offer. But, if an agent/editor so much as gives you one honest morsel of feedback, analyze it. Do you agree? Do you see a pattern along with other personalized rejections? If so, you may decide to take that advice and implement it into your revision.

4)  Requested material rejections. If you received a request for additional pages, congrats! That means your query is on point. It’s intriguing and the agent/editor needed more. At any stage, personal tastes will effect the decision, but if you’re not getting more than a few chapters, consider revising those crucial opening chapters. It’s always great to get specific feedback, but if you don’t get any, send those chapters to a critique partner. If a partial turns into a full request, and a rejection still comes…take it in stride. Many agents/editors will give some feedback at this stage because they’ve already invested so much time. Again, apply or ignore, but remember that they’re the professionals. There’s a reason you want them in your corner, so consider feedback seriously. 

5)  R&R. A revise and resubmit is sort of a rejection, as in it’s not acceptable in its current state for the agent/editor to take you on. However, they liked your writing/topic/creativity enough that they see potential. You just need a little extra work. Now, you may wonder, isn't that their job? Not all agents are editorial. Even if an R&R comes from an editor, they don't have time to hold your hand. They want to see that you're willing to make the changes and see how those changes work out, if your vision meshes with their vision. An R&R usually contains feedback, often times detailed feedback. It means take this advice, revise your ms, and re-submit when you’ve nailed it. You can spend precious time doing this or not. It’s up to you. Coming from a professional, the advice is usually sound. But, this is your ms. Go with your gut. When you receive the R&R, you may reply with a thank you and let them know that you’ll be sending along a revision as soon as you can. This is the only rejection that you should ever reply to. Ever. If you decide to make revisions, make sure to mention in your re-submission email that the agent/editor invited you to do so. Begin with their usual submission guidelines, ie: query only; along with 10 pages; or what have you unless specified in the R&R. Don't just send them the entire ms without invitation.

  Rejections hurt. But take them for what they are. Don’t beat yourself up over them believing that you’re worthless or think that every agent/editor is an idiot. Neither are true. Learn from them if you can. And always keep moving forward.

  Happy writing!