Wednesday, December 5, 2012

I want to write a book Part 5: LET'S GET REJECTED!

I think this is my favorite part! We've found our muse. Puked out the story. Edited once and let other read it or edit it. We've decided which path we are going to take on our publishing journey. Now we have to let them read it and reject us!

Well now that just sounds mean, doesn't it? To those of you who are that one in one million person who gets a book deal, or signs with an agent right off the bat, Congratulations! For the rest of us... let's get rejected.

Why do I say you're going to get rejected? Because query writing and synopsis writing and following directions are a learned skill.

Let's start with the query.

In a query you have to tell the publisher/editor/agent who you are, what you've written, what your credentials are, and you have to make it sound competent and like you're someone they'd want to work with. You need to have your voice in there and you have to follow their specific guidelines as to how many words they want you to tell them all that info in. Got it? Yep...see why this is a learned skill? You will over do this. You will send it with spelling errors or missing items and then curse when you've hit send. It will happen!

Synopsis. Usually 3-5 pages telling the acquiring party all points to your book. That's right, you have to downsize your 250 page manuscript into 3-5 pages. Can't do it? They don't want you.

Now, let's say your query is just right and you've managed to perfect the 3-5 page synopsis, can you follow rules? Did they ask for it all at once? Did you send it to the right email? Did you send it in print? Were you suppose to do that?

Let me tell you what happens to your manuscript if you don't do all things right. I have talked to agents who have authors send them unsolicited (which means unasked for) manuscripts. Do you know how much money it costs to send 250+ pieces of paper to New York? It isn't cheap. And do you know what an agent will do if you have done this? They will accept it from the mailbox turn and throw it into the trash. I have heard it from more than one agent's mouth! That's right. You can't follow rules, they don't want you. Likewise, for my house we ask for things differently. We really want to hear your voice come through in your work. But if you start sending me the attachments for your whole book...delete! We want to see your skill, beyond a synopsis and a query (because we know this process sucks!) so we ask for the first chapter, in the body of the email. Don't do that? Delete! Oh, and if you send it to the general email assuming you're bypassing the slush pile and you're going to catch the eye of an editor...delete.

Here's one for you... A submission sent to me in all caps!...delete! How about one that is full of spelling errors...delete.  Same author sent it back and highlighted all the areas they had made mistakes in the first time to show me she fixed them...delete!!! Don't make a fool of yourself.

So maybe a contest is a better way to get your name out there or to get feed back. Sometimes that would be a great thing! Decide how you want to spend your money.

I'm not saying contests are wrong. They are wonderful. They will get you recognized. And they will get you feedback and you will feel rejected.  Here is an example. Early on in my writing, my serious I'm-going-to-get-published phase, I did lots of contests. I sucked! I had 35 pages of what? I write romance and the hero and heroine didn't meet until page 54. They should be having sex by page 54...okay page 100, but you get my point. But it was pointed out to me that they really should be on the same page within the first 5-6 pages. I also suck at commas! My editor will probably attest to this as I notice that is what is added most often when I get my edits back. But, someone sent back my very low scores and said, "If I bought you a box of commas would you use them?" Another very helpful comment to a contest was, "Your heroine is a bitch. I hate her and I would never buy you." Well now...helpful. Those two comments came in the same contest with this gem (perfect score too.) "I love your work." Well now that's helpful! NOT!!!  But I was rejected!

Most contests aren't that mean. You WILL get feedback even if you don't like it. Be open minded. Also follow up. I found out after a contest closed that I was a finalist! Yep...never knew. They didn't send me a certificate or an email or anything. Shrug...hard to be proud, but I'll take it.

So do you feel confident about sending out your work? Remember to follow directions and do your best. I have been rejected from Mills and Boone, Harlequin, Wild Rose Press, and countless others as well as agents. My books go bestseller on the day they launch or during presale. My name rides with Nora Roberts and Debbie Macomber to name a few. I sucked...and to some I still suck! But I got rejected...I got over it... you will to. But you'll never know what you're capable of until you get rejected!

Did you know in sales you have to make 10 calls to get 1 sale? It isn't much difference in the writing world. Go get rejected so you can get on with your life of being a bestselling author!


  1. I find that as a writer, I have reached certain plateaus and had to take "the next step" in my journey to increase my craft. Submitting to publishers and agents has been a necessary step for me to take it to the next level.

  2. This may sound like a silly question. But since every agent has his or her preferences, I try to give them what they want. When you say to put "the first chapter, in the body of the email," is it OK if I have the complete letter (salutation, the query itself, BRIEF bio, closing) and then the first chapter? I always include the phrase, "Per your submission guidelines, the first chapter appears after my signature."

    It just looks neater.


    1. I think saying "as per your submissions guideline" is great! It breaks it and lets them know you looked at what they wanted and you're following their rules. We all like to have rule followers. :) And I also think adding it after your signature keeps the parts separate and tidy.