5 Tips on Dealing with Rejection

Since I am in Atlanta visiting friends, a bit swamped with work, and getting ready to start querying, I thought I’d post this oldie but goodie from my “How to Write Full Time and Stay Sane” series.  Enjoy!

How to Write Full Time and Stay Sane is a series that offers advice to full-time writers about how to stay productive and in good spirits.

Staying sane is something I’ll admit I haven’t been doing very well the past week or so.  Although I’ve had some exciting successes in that time (sold my first piece to a magazine, landed another gig teaching a summer workshop), I’ve also received my first few query rejections for my manuscript.  Because of this, I have assembled some tips as well as links from industry professionals to help you deal with this agonizing process.

Now, no one is more self-deprecating than I—nor will you find more of a realist (although, some might use the term “pessimist”)—so I’ve mentally prepared for this time of literary limbo.  In fact, more than one writer and loved one has scolded me for referring to the query process as “the rejection process” before I’d even received one.  But I can’t help it: I’d much rather be pleasantly surprised than sorely disappointed.

Which are you?

But even with that in mind, and even if you get the nicest, most personalized rejection (and I’ve gotten two of those so far), rejection still sucks.

You know getting rejections is normal; you know how subjective this is; you know how pertinent finding the right agent is; you know you must locate someone who falls head over heels for your work; you recognize how tedious of a task that’s going to be . . .

. . . but you also know you’ve put tens of thousands of hours into the writing and editing of this thing, and you’re doing the most vulnerable thing you’ve ever done by sending it out into the world—and then someone doesn’t want it for whatever reason.

So, yeah, rejection sucks no matter how ready you are for it.

HOW TO DEAL

Tip #1: File It & Forget It

In a recent Write-Brained Network LIVE CHAT, a friend of mine—whose manuscript has been rejected 28 times—said that every time he gets a rejection, he files it and moves on to something else.

That’s great advice.  And if you can do that, more power to ya.  I think the more seasoned you become in this business and the more irons you have on the fire, your skin can definitely thicken—but we’re not all there yet.

As well, I am lucky enough to be able to do this full time, and believe me: news of my first story getting accepted to a Virginia magazine alleviated some of my “I’m-going-to-die-hopeless-and-penniless-and-20-lbs.-over-weight” (Thank you, Stuart Smalley) attitude. However, I fully realize that many of you reading this have day jobs.  The only thing you’ve got cooking is your manuscript, and you don’t have time to distract yourself with other writing endeavors.

So, although filing and forgetting might sound good on paper (or on screen, as it were), I realize it’s easier said than done.  Which brings me to . . .

I’m good enough, I’m smart enough – and doggone it, people like me.

Tip #2: Send to a Friend

During the writing and editing process, we are discouraged from showing our work to loved ones because so many amateurs make the mistake of thinking that if their mother or spouse loves the book, it’s bound to be a New York Times bestseller.

Along that same vein, I am not suggesting you appeal to family and friends for a critique of your manuscript, but now is the time to revel in their bias toward loving it.  Print out a few copies and send them to your biggest fans.

While it’s gut-wrenching (no matter whose eyes scan your pages), if you include a close circle—those who’ve been rooting for you all along (your buddy from work, who always asks about your progress; your parents, who are eager to see what you’ve been doing all this time, etc.)—you are sure to get rave reviews.

As long as you take their glowing assessments for what they are and don’t let them cloud your realistic attitude toward the query process and the publishing industry, this praise can be just the ticket to convince you not to jump.

After all, regardless of whether or not your book will ever get any agent to want it, regardless if the book is even publishable, remember: completing a manuscript is a huge accomplishment. You deserve to have someone stroke your ego a bit.

Your manuscript is GRRRRRRREAT!

CONFUSION

When my first rejection rolled in, I scoured every resource I knew to figure out how to respond.

First of all, don’t get me wrong: I know you aren’t supposed to respond.

But the rejection was not just a personalized version of a form rejection letter.  As well, a YA author friend of mine had given me a referral to this agent because she represented said YA author friend, and the agent had mentioned our mutual acquaintance in the e-mail, so it wasn’t as though this was a cold query.

While I knew not responding at all would have been perfectly acceptable, and while I wasn’t going to lash out at the woman, I went back and forth about sending a “thank you.”

Agents are flooded with e-mail daily, and many are quite vocal on their blogs and on Twitter about not wasting their time, but in doing a little research, I found several well-known agents with conflicting information.  (Wait, agents don’t all agree on everything??)

HOW TO DEAL (AGAIN)

Tip #3: Seek Professional Help

When in doubt, turn to the rejecters themselves—agents and editors.  Many have blogs and other Web sites dedicated to everything from their personal preferences to typical response times.

Here, former Curtis Brown Ltd. agent Nathan Bransford lists acceptable etiquette for rejection follow-up.

For a different perspective, see this post by former agent, Penguin Group’s Colleen Lindsay on what not to do after a rejection.

Over on her blog, FinePrint Literary’s Janet ReidMadame Query Shark herself!—describes how to cut down on your anguish over unanswered queries by making sure you haven’t sent something that isn’t a query.

Tip #4: Gain Some Perspective

Once you’ve gotten a few rejections and you’re feeling like a hack, it’s important to put it in perspective and remind yourself that it’s normal.

Rabbit or duck?

On her blog at QueryTracker, YA author Mary Lindsey discusses how to handle rejection at arm’s length.  Her article is good on its own, but Lindsey references Hal Spacejock series author Simon Haynes’s post, “Rejection of the Literary Kind,” which is also worth a read.

As well, on his Web site, sci-fi writer, photographer and Web designer Jeremiah Tolbert offers an editor’s perspective on rejection.

To round out this area, over at Streetdirectory.com, award-winning romance and nonfiction author Dana Girard categorizes rejection into seven levels and suggests ways you can decode what each kind of rejection means in terms of your manuscript.

Tip #5: Commiserate

For those days when you feel like you’re the only person who sucks this bad, check out the following sites for a little misery-loves-company.

Want some company?

At Absolute Write Water Cooler, you can find several conversation threads where people share their rejections stories, but here’s a link to one where some poor schlubs compete for who got rejected the fastest. Can you beat 30 seconds?

If you’re looking for a gold mine in terms of rejection, bitterness and hilarity, check out Literary Rejections on Display.  The person running the blog—Writer, Rejected—actually says in the About Me profile, “I am a published, award-winning author of fiction and creative nonfiction—but whatever. In the eyes of many, I am still a literary reject.” Writer, Rejected posts his/her own rejection letters (as well as rejection letters sent in by others) and analyzes them—in a sane and fair way (usually).  There are several good posts, so definitely make time to poke around in the blog, but here is an example of a rejection analysis.

And here’s a cranky little rant by freelancer Chris Rodell titled “Reject Me, Please” over at his Media Bistro blog.  If you’re especially pissed off and cynical, this is the post for you.

PEP TALK

This last post (from Nathan Bransford’s blog by guest blogger Jon Gibbs) isn’t directly about getting rejection letters, but it discusses how we reject ourselves at times—how we make excuses for why we can’t do this and that.

Use this when you’re in need of a little pep talk, and it’s sure to snap you back to a state of sanity.

If you’re seeing the old lady, you definitely need a pep talk.

Pointers from the Pros: Author Stephanie Feagan on Querying

Pointers from the Pros” gives tips from authors and publishing industry professionals on everything from craft to querying to their experiences on the road to publication.

I spoke at the 30th annual Romance Writers of America conference in Orlando, Fla.  Although I couldn’t go to all the faboo sessions being offered, I took a ton of notes at the classes I was lucky enough to attend—and I’m sharing some of those tips with my lovely blog readers. (<—Thanks for being so fabulous, BTW!)

The first afternoon of the conference, I attended the PRO Retreat, which was stockpiled with talks by awesome agents, editors, and authors.  *ahem—Donald Maass much?*

Here is author Stephanie Feagan’s advice when it comes to querying and revising.

THE QUERY ITSELF

  • Get feedback on it from writer friends.
  • It doesn’t matter if you win awards. It’s nice, but if the agent doesn’t think she can sell your book, then it having won an award isn’t going to change that.
  • She says to keep track of queries—who you’ve sent them to, what they’ve requested, responses, etc.
    • It’s normal to not hear back from just a query, but it NOT normal not to hear back with partials and fulls.

Nice, but not always necessary.

WHERE TO START WHEN QUERYING

  • Absolute Write Water Cooler
    • This is the first place she went [the forums].
    • It has agents listed, and people write down their experiences with them.
    • You can get a feel for how agents work.
  • AgentQuery
    • Agents have their own accounts and can sign in and update it [in terms of submission guidelines and genre preferences].
  • Agency Web sites
    • Usually, the most up-to-date info for submissions is listed there.
  • Verla Kay’s Blue Boards
    • This is like Absolute Write Water Cooler
  • Literary Rambles
    • [Casey McCormick spotlights agents by compiling interviews/profiles done with them from all over the Web.]
  • Publisher’s Marketplace
    • [Weekly listings of what agents have sold.]
    • [You must pay to use this site.]
  • QueryTracker
    • [A site where you can actually submit your query to an agent and track your experiences with requests/rejections.]
    • [Or, you can just go in there and read the comments of others who’ve done this, to get a feel for agents response times, likes/dislikes, etc.]
  • WeBook
    • [Works like QT:] Put in query letter, and it sends it to the agent you want it to.
    • They charge for it now.
  • AAR [Association of Authors’ Representatives]
    • It lists reputable agents and info about them.
    • [*However, it should be noted that just because an agent is NOT a member of AAR does NOT mean he or she is NOT reputable.]
    • It has a good list of questions to ask agents when you do get “the call,” [as well as many other helpful writer resources.]

DON’Ts

  • Don’t try the “throw-and-see-if-it-sticks approach” when querying.
    • [Where you query agents without researching them and make little changes to your MS, based on whatever feedback you can get your hands on.]
    • This  is desperate.
  • Don’t query multiple projects.
  • Don’t keep tweaking your manuscript.
    • If it’s ready to be out there, you should not keep revising.
    • Also, she says it’s much better just to scrap it rewrite the whole thing—that’s what she did.
      • This way, you don’t have to keep trying to shift around details to make it all “fit”—you’ve got a fresh palette.

Get a fresh start.

Want more? Here’s a post I did on How and Where to Find Literary Agents.

In the Blogosphere: 6/7-6/18

“In the Blogosphere” is a series, which lists links to writing-related blogs I’ve stumbled upon throughout a given week (usually).

THE NEXT STEP

I’ve focused a lot here on the blog about querying, but what about the next steps?

Here, QueryTracker’s Mary Lindsey asks Erin Murphy Literary Agency’s Joan Paquette about agent-requested revisions.

D4EO Literary Agency’s Mandy Hubbard also weighed in on this subject, both from the author’s perspective as well as from the agent’s perspective.

Over at the Guide to Literary Agents blog, guest blogger Felice Prager tells what to ask an agent when you’re lucky enough to be offered representation.

And, once you’ve signed and you’re working with an editor (and the revisions keep rolling in), here’s some advice from Greyhaus Literary Agency’s Scott Eagan on how to work (productively) with an editor.

Step one (one one): We can have some fun . . .

CHARACTER RELATIONSHIPS

One thing that deserves much attention when you’re plotting, writing, and revising is how characters relate to one another.  Curtis Brown, Ltd., agent Nathan Bransford discusses dynamic character relationships by referring to one of my YA author heroes, John Green Squee!

On her blog, Writing It Out, dystopian YA author Beth Revis talks about creating compelling love triangles, where something is at stake for all three characters—not just the third wheel.

Decisions, decisions . . .

TRENDY VS. TRUE

Over at Writer Unboxed, Ray Rhamey makes some important points about following industry trends as opposed to staying true to the stories you want to write—even if they aren’t “what’s hot” right now.

"He's so hot right now!"

GREAT NEWS

Dying to go to a writers’ conference but can’t afford it?  Write kids’ lit?  YA authors Elana Johnson, Lisa and Laura Roecker, Jamie Harrington, Casey McCormick, Shannon Messenger and Jen Stayrook have pooled their awesomeness to bring us a FREE, online writers’ conference—WriteOnCon—Aug. 10-12.  Canyoubelieveit??? Click here for details.

HILARIOUS AND A HALF

Since I’m always a fan of grammatical humor, here’s Allie of Hyperbole and a Half’s take on idiots people who write “a lot” as one word.

In the Blogosphere: 4/5-4/23

“In the Blogosphere” is a series, which lists links to writing-related blogs I’ve stumbled upon throughout a given week (usually).

SOME HOW-TOs

Over at her blog, Kidlit.com, Andrea Brown literary agent Mary Kole discusses how to layer points of view.

On the Guide to Literary Agents blog, guest blogger and kids’ author Laura Manivong tells us how to target submissions to specific agents.

ONLINE PRESENCE

QueryTracker’s own YA author extraordinaire Elana Johnson did a great little series on blogging.  Here are but a few of the several awesomesauce posts she dedicates to this topic:

  • Here, Johnson talks about why one should blog and touches on what one should blog about
  • Here, she explains what to do once you have a blog
  • Here, she suggests where to spend your blogging time in order to gain some blog traffic

Like I said, she gives all sorts of helpful tips, but I’ll let you poke around in her blog on your own and decide what you need the most help with.

TWITTER

Looking to get the best writerly experience you can out of TwitterWrite Anything’s Annie Evett lists several hashtags for writers here.

Once you’ve found your way around the Twitterverse—Twittersphere?—and you’ve discovered your favorite hashtags, check out Tweetchat.  By entering the hashtag of your choice, you can more quickly and easily follow the conversation during Twitter chats.

CLICHÉS

We all trying to avoid clichés in our writing—right?  Over at YA Highway, contributor Emilia Plater presents the five protagonists you meet in young adult literature.

For a little bit of a different take on a similar subject, on her blog, up-and-coming YA author Steph Bowe exposes the problems with many conventions often used in YA lit by supposing what things would be like if real life were like a teen novel.

And, the good folks over at And Now for Something Completely Unnecessary make a confession about using “confessions” in titles . . .

...they're cliché.

Have a nice weekend, everybody.

How and Where to Find Literary Agents

I’m not sure if there’s just something in the air besides all the pollen, but in the last week, several folks have asked me about how and where to find literary agents.  While I’ve only been querying a short time and while I’m not represented yet, I’ve had some encouraging results from querying some folks I’ve found using the following resources—and I’m happy to share!

RESOURCE 1: GUIDE TO LITERARY AGENTS

The first place I go to find an agent is Guide to Literary Agents (F+W Media) or the Guide to Literary Agents’ blog.  The printed publication is a goldmine in terms of all things agent and query-related, as it offers several helpful articles at the beginning and lists just about every agent and agency under the sun, categorizing them in a number of ways.

The blog features “Agent Advice” interviews, which are especially useful in deciding whom to weed out of my query pool and whom to query (and—bonus—some of the interviews are by moi!).  After I indulge in a bit of narcissism, I focus on some of the blog’s other features that offer great insight as far as agents’ preferences of genre and submission guidelines: “How I Got My Agent,” “Successful Queries,” and “New Agency Alerts.”

RESOURCE 2: AGENTQUERY

I also use AgentQuery—it’s a huge database, where you can do basic or advanced searches (by genre, agency, agent, etc.).  The profiles matching your search criteria often list what areas the agents seek, personal preferences, clients of theirs, links to Web sites and interviews featuring the agents, and sometimes even recent sales.

RESOURCES 3 & 4: QUERYTRACKER & ABSOLUTE WRITE WATER COOLER

QueryTracker is another database that does a lot of the same things as AgentQuery; however, it offers something AQ does not: queriers’ comments.

While it’s not perfect information, it gives one a sense of the agent’s response times, which sometimes differ greatly from what their agency Web sites denote.  Of course, when reading these messages, I take them for what they’re worth.  For the most part, though, the comments are informational—it’s not folks griping about being rejected.

For instance, someone will note the date they queried.  Then, they’ll come back and note the date of their rejection, sometimes whether or not it was a form rejection, the date of their requests, etc.

Absolute Write Water Cooler is good for this as well, but not all agents are in there because it’s a forum, not a database.  I don’t use AWWC as much as the AQ and QT, but if someone requests material from me, I like to dig a little deeper.

Ooh - is that my dream agent I see?

RESOURCE 5: AGENCY WEB SITES AND/OR AGENT BLOGS

While AQ and QT offer lots of great information about agents, the trouble with these sites is that the information isn’t always 100% accurate.  I just don’t think every agent updates his profile often enough.  It doesn’t happen frequently, but on occasion when I’ve used an AQ or QT profile for writing agent interview questions, the agent will come back with: “I don’t rep (insert an area of fiction or nonfiction here).”

That’s why, for the most up-to-date information, I rely on an agent’s bio on his agency Web site or posts he’s written on the subject on an industry blog.  It’s true—not all agencies have sites and not all agents blog—but a good number of them do, and it would behoove you to find out before you send that query.

RESOURCE 6: GOOGLE

Sorry, Bing—I’m just not on board yet.  But, be sure to do whatever kind of Internet search floats your boat.

You can find interviews, profiles—all kinds of info to help you craft a query that will connect with a specific agent—through simple name searches.  (It sometimes helps to add “literary agent” after the name.)

 

Research is not that hard, people.

DO I EVER GET TO QUERY?

After I’ve done all that, if I feel like the agent might be interested in what I write, then—yes—I write the query and send it on its merry way.

In the Blogosphere: 3/29-4/2

“In the Blogosphere” is a weekly series, which lists links to writing-related blogs I’ve stumbled upon throughout a given week.  Most posts will be from that week, but if I find some “oldies but goodies,” I’ll throw those up here as well.

I never find as much time to read blogs as I want, but here are a few posts that struck me this week.

BAD WRITERLY HABITS

Science fiction writer Liana Brooks talks about a bad habit she has that I think most writers (myself included) also need help with: impatience.

If this post isn’t a kick in the pants, I don’t know what is.  On her blog, Between Fact and Fiction, upcoming young adult author Natalie Whipple explains “How to Wallow.”

Coffee has played a significant role in my days for the past several years—hell, I’ve been drinking the stuff since I was about nine years old!  Being that I’m genetically cursed when it comes to being anxious and being that the query stage of writing has kicked up those natural tendencies about 15 notches, I’m trying to cut back.  (I just bought decaf to mix with my fancy flavored coffees!)  But in honor of that bad habit, the drink I love—the drink that doesn’t always love me back—here’s The Oatmeal‘s 15(ish) Things Worth Knowing About Coffee.

From time to time, I have this bad habit, too! *doink*

INSPIRATION

This week, author and contributor to QueryTracker Elana Johnson had an awesome idea—paying it forward.  She and several other blogging authors interviewed 75 fellow authors who’ve “made it” (i.e., they’re agented, some have book deals).  Among the tons of inspirational stories these writers shared, I’m highlighting two:

Okay, so now that you’re totally inspired by those writers’ “pay it forward” interviews, what will you write?  Jonathan Morrow offers 10 tips on how to get your writing juices a’ flowing at Copyblogger.

THE CRAFT

On the Will Write For Cake blog, the Joanna Stampfel-Volpe repped kids’ lit author Lynne Kelly Hoenig lists some ways she injects characters’ feelings into her writing without “telling.”

APRIL FOOLED

Here, Jessie Kunhardt of The Huffington Post describes 11 great literary April Fools’ jokes.

FOR FUN

Ever wonder what those literary agents are really doing day-to-day?  FinePrint Literary‘s Suzie Townsend and Nancy Coffey Literary‘s Joanna Stampfel-Volpe fill us in on their secrets.

Finally, here’s some Venn Diagramming I can get behind.  The Great White Snark outlines the differences between the insults many of us grew up being called: nerd, dork, dweeb, and geek.

Venn Diagrams? Lucky.

In the Blogosphere: 2/15-2/26

“In the Blogosphere” is a weekly series, which lists links to writing-related blogs I’ve stumbled upon throughout a given week.  Most posts will be from that week, but if I find some “oldies but goodies,” I’ll throw those up here as well.

I never find as much time to read blogs as I want, but here are a few posts that struck me this week—and last week, as I slacked and didn’t do a Blogosphere post last week.

SOME SPLAININ’ TO DO

I don’t know if it was just the places I was checking, but it seemed like a lot of industry peeps wanted to explain a lot of things to writers this week.  Maybe the winter freeze is making people write bad queries?  Or maybe it’s making writers whinier?

Among my favorite entries were by WordServe Literary‘s Rachelle Gardner and Carina Press‘s Angela James.

On her blog, Gardner explains why lit agencies have submission guidelines as well as why she might reject one’s work after she’s requested a partial or full.

James explains why they don’t give personalized rejections as well as why manuscripts are rejected in the first place.

LIT AGENTS

Ever a sweetie, Curtis Brown Ltd.‘s Nathan Bransford reminds us, as writers, to appreciate our biggest supporters, our loved ones.

Love you—and thanks for everything, Kyley T!

Over at Greyhaus Literary, Scott Eagan gives some advice on how to write young adult lit—or how not to write it.

This post on titles by FinePrint Literary‘s Janet Reid made me laugh, and it also answered some questions I had about the process.

RESOURCES

On her blog, Write on Target, YA and women’s fiction writer Debra L. Schubert posted this vlog, wherein she and her agent, Bernadette Baker-Baughman of Baker’s Mark Literary Agency talk publishing.

Being that much of my job now relies on waiting for responses from others, this post, by Peter Bregman over at Harvard Business Review, helps put a lot in perspective in terms of what to do when your voicemails and e-mails go unanswered.

Ring, dammit, ring!

QUERY HELP

On her Web site, kids’ lit author Hélène Boudreau makes writing queries look easy with this breakdown.

Here, Nathan Bransford talks about the difference between being savvy and sucking up; and here, he discusses the theory some have about querying in batches.

For another take on dissecting queries, check out QueryTracker‘s Query Ninja, Elana Johnson.  We’ve got sharks, we’ve got ninjas . . . what’s next? 🙂

. . . And here two takes on post-query etiquette:

-and-

TONGUE-IN-CHEEK QUERY HELP

On her Probably Just a Story blog, Laura Ellen Scott parodies Writer’s Digest‘s 21 tips on how to get out of the slush pile.

REALITY CHECKS

Andrea Brown Literary Agency‘s Mary Kole reminds us that getting an agent is not a magic bullet to publication; and, in this post, The Intern talks about why agents and editors would *like* to set you straight when you send bad queries—or non queries, as it were—(but why they just can’t).

As seen on TV.

CONTESTS

Some awesome peeps are giving away some awesome prizes!

Break out your tap shoes: Kids’ lit author, the award-winning Beth Kephart wants to know your definition of dance.  She’s giving away signed copies of her second YA novel, House of Dance, to two lucky commenters with the best entries (contest ends March 5).

Want to have your fiction published in Writer’s Digest?  Here, WD’s Zachary Petit lays out how to enter their monthly Your Story contest.

The paperback, out this March.

ALSO

Check out my recent interview with Books & Such Literary Agency‘s Etta Wilson on the Guide to Literary Agents blog.

Writer’s Digest and Writer’s Digest Books is calling for reviews and success stories, so show them some love, if you’ve ever used one of their trillions of resources and hearted it.