#17: Rejections? Get more chocolate! STAT!

Remember when I said this was a brutal business? I don’t think anything is as hard as your first rejection letter. Unless it’s your 30th rejection letter. Don’t get me started on number 50.

Because honestly – you thought your manuscript was ready to go; that’s why you sent it out. And maybe it was ready but that particular agent had a bad day with another client. Or that editor just had a proposed acquisition deal scooped. Or a hundred other possibilities.

Of course, it’s also possible that your manuscript wasn’t a tight as it could be. Maybe the hero’s motivation was fuzzy. Maybe the heroine’s feelings weren’t obvious. Maybe the plot had holes. Or the end was too neat or abrupt. Unfortunately, you probably won’t get that information from a standard rejection letter. There must be some sort of liability issue that prevents agents or editors from writing comments or suggestions to prospective authors; because all of the form letters say the same thing: “Thank you for the opportunity to consider… Not right for me… It’s a subjective business… Best of luck elsewhere…” or a variation on that theme.

So, besides a critique group, how can you get helpful feedback?

Many aspiring authors swear by contests run by genre writer organizations. Judging sheets are usually very specific about what the reader loved – or hated – about your manuscript. There are fees ranging from $15 to $30 per entry, but the end reward can be anything from an editor’s read to a promise of publication. One gal in my critique group sold her first book after winning a contest. And a win or high placement looks good on your query letter.

The down sides to contests are the cost, and the unpredictability of the scores. I entered a contest once and received both a 96 and a 58 on the same entry. Hm. And then we wonder why one agent loves us and another hated us!

Back to rejections. I recommend you create an Excel worksheet and make a list of potential agents/editors, which ones you have queried, when the query went out, when the response came in, and what the result was.

If your submission was requested, it’s perfectly acceptable to follow up with an email 6-8 weeks later if you haven’t heard anything. Be light: “I wanted to confirm that you did receive my submission, which you requested at the Amazing Writing Conference. I would be happy to resubmit if you did not. Thank you for your time.” Or something like that.

You should have 4 or 5 queries out at a time. Too many, and you burn bridges; too few and you’ll be a hundred-and-five before you sell your book.

If you have more than one manuscript, concentrate on one at a time. You can go back a couple months later and query the second book to those who rejected your first. They might be having a better day.

Every author I have heard says keep a file of rejection letters. Or emails, I suppose. I guess that’s a neener-neener to those who said “no” after someone says yes. Keep them or don’t, whatever makes you feel better. I pitched mine. I’ve got my Excel list.

But the advice I do agree with is to set yourself a goal of 100 rejections. Trust me – it sure makes Rejection Number 15 piddly by comparison.

And all along, keep up “The Real Three Rs: Read, Revise, Repeat.” No manuscript is ever perfect, so keep at it. As you learn more, make another pass. Practice will make your next book so much easier to write.

And so much easier to sell.

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1 Response to “#17: Rejections? Get more chocolate! STAT!”


  1. 1 Lindy Schneider 01/28/2010 at 11:19 AM

    Encouraging and informative! Thanks!


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