Wednesday, September 2, 2009

How Does the "Best Manuscript Ever" Get Rejected?

I know, blogging three days in a row! What’s up with that? It certainly isn’t that I don’t have enough other projects going on. Must have hit a hot button with the agent thing or something. After my last post, I received an e-mail asking about rejection. Basically her point was that if you tell yourself you are the best writer ever, how do you handle it when your manuscript is rejected by an agent or editor?

Good question! This is actually one of the biggest conundrums of being an author. You have to believe in yourself 100% to get the book done and have the confidence to send it out. But then you have to prepare yourself for the fact that most people will tell you your story isn’t good enough. The truth is that rejection is never, ever easy. It wasn’t easy when you got picked last in kickball. It wasn’t easy when no one wanted to sit next to you in class. It wasn’t easy when the girl you asked to prom said no. So why should it be easy when an agent or editor says they don’t want to represent your work? Lots has been written about handling rejection, so I’ll just give you a couple of bullet points to consider.

· Write your book as if it is the best thing that has ever been imagined. Put all your love, blood, sweat, and tears into it. But once you are done, realize that as much as you love it and as good as it is—no one but your mom will feel the same way initially. We all think our book is the greatest thing since Shakespeare put pen to paper. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked, “What do I do if I get twenty agents who all want to represent me?” The answer is, “Wake up and turn off the alarm.” Remember that even JK Rowling was rejected like fifty times before being accepted. Why should you be any different?

· Okay this one is going to be really, really hard, but separate yourself from your work. The agent isn’t rejecting you, he’s rejecting your story. I know, that’s like saying, “The girl didn’t reject you, she rejected your car, hair, clothes, laugh, etc.” But the truth is you can’t let someone not liking your work make you start feeling crappy about yourself. This business is too hard to take every no as a direct hit to your self-esteem.

· Remember that once your book is polished enough to be publishable, it is all a game of timing and luck. You can have the best bait in the world, but you still have to get it in front of a fish that is hungry for that thing at that moment. Keep putting it out there.

· Don’t fall into the self-pity trap of thinking the game is rigged or that everyone knows a secret you don’t. I know the feeling very well. It seems like everyone around you is selling a book and you aren’t. There must be a secret handshake. You have to know someone. The market is too full. The economy is down. Only published authors are getting deals. Going back to the fishing analogy, it’s like sitting in the middle of the lake not getting a nibble while all around you people are catching fish. None of it is true. The publishing industry is not any more rigged than any other industry.

· Which leads me to my last point. Be patient. We all hear the story of the author who writes their first book, gets a huge deal, a movie, sells more books, and is on every magazine. Yep and every week someone wins a lottery somewhere and makes millions. Does that mean you stink if you didn’t win a million bucks? We all here about the rock star, because they are the exception. It’s not that there work is so much better, it’s that the stars all aligned for them. The far more common story is that after submitting ten books, an author finally gets a small deal. Works her behind off, and gets another deal, and after ten years of writing, might be able to make a career out of it. If you need to have a career that promises overnight success and boatloads of money, you really should consider something other than writing.

So that’s it. No magic answer. No silver bullet. Write a lot. Keep submitting. Polish your craft. Meet other authors, agents, editors. And remember, in the words of author JA Konrath, “There’s a word for a writer who never gives up . . . published.”

And if that’s not enough to keep you going, remember that I am probably the most ordinary guy in the world. I barely graduated from high school, didn’t graduate from college, tell really stupid jokes, completely screw up the words to songs, and always got picked last for kickball. I’ve actually got quite a few of my Santa Teresa High School friends on facebook who can testify I was a total dweeb. If I can get published, you definitely can.


Deb said...

You a dweeb?? I don't believe it!

Okay, maybe I do :)

J.N. Future Author said...

please, 3 posts in a row? Thats like freaking awesome! Its like a TON of great advice all within a week!

So no ritual suicide after rejection. okay, got that down. and they aren't laughing at me.....just my story. got that down too. ^.~

Scott and Natalie said...

I haven't started submitting stories yet, but I have gathered a list of 20 children's agents to submit to. Knowing the odds, and the high probability that they will ALL reject, what is the next step? There are only so many agents out there? Can you revise your query and resubmit your story a few months down the road? Or do you have to scratch that story and try another one?

- Scott

L.T. Elliot said...

You're so frickin' awesome. And hilarious.

River said...

Hey, Your book completely nullifies any dweebiness you might have!!! AND HOORAY FOR STUPID JOKES!!!!!

Lauren said...

Saying "The Best Manuscript Ever" is like saying "The Best Rhubarb Pie Recipe Ever." Means nothing unless someone really likes Rhubarb and is willing to taste test it.