Don’t Take it Personally

Happy Monday and I hope you all had a nice Easter weekend! Today I want to talk about that age-old platitude, “Don’t take it personally.” I think writers probably hear this a lot when agents and/or editors decline to take on their work. But I don’t think you hear what we mean when we say it. Listen, we know it’s personal for you. If you’ve taken the time and made the effort to write a book, we know you’ve plumbed the depths of yourself in that process. You’ve put yourself out there, exposed pieces of yourself on the page, and in all likelihood, you’ve suffered some (or a lot) in the effort. You’ve sacrificed, too. Sleep; time with friends and family; peace of mind; whatever it is, you’ve given up a lot to get to that point...
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Why It’s Hard to Tell the Whole Truth

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_5cLmD8GqnKY/SZpaI4ZcXdI/AAAAAAAACt0/ukiFAXsMa0w/s200/Stamp_Rejected.gif As I mentioned on Friday, I’m getting an awful lot of queries these days, and most of my agent colleagues are experiencing the same thing. It’s a lot of work going through them, but there’s nothing more exciting than finding a gem buried in the inbox. I know many of you get frustrated with agent responses that don’t tell you anything about why your project was rejected. I’ve blogged about this before, but today I wanted to highlight specifically why it’s so hard to tell people the whole truth, i.e. exactly what I think, in response to queries. The first and most important reason is because I could be wrong. I would hate to make some kind of pronouncement about your manuscript being unsalable and get you all dejected, only to have my opinion proven wrong...
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When the Truth Hurts

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_5cLmD8GqnKY/SW3pGdTuVdI/AAAAAAAAChQ/nlWce6CLCzM/s200/4+judges.jpg You didn’t think you’d avoid an American Idol post, did you? (Serves you right for showing up here the day after the premiere!) Can I just tell you how much fun I have with this show? It’s always such a terrific metaphor for the publishing business, and in many ways, life itself. I can’t help comparing this phase of the show—the initial auditions—to my box of unsolicited queries. Brave people showing up to show their stuff. They’re taking their courageous leap of faith, and they have such a brief moment of time to either impress—or not. What I find interesting is some of the things the judges say to the contestants who aren’t ready for the big time. Their comments often sound exactly like what goes through my head when I read queries. I wrote some...
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Do the Math

The latest issue of Writers Digest included an article called 28 Agents Who Want Your Work and I was included in the 28. A dubious privilege, to be sure. (Thanks, Chuck!) I’ve been receiving a record number of submissions since then, and it really is cool to have such a large pool of writers from whom to choose. But I have to be as careful as ever in my decisions, and I also have to decide quickly so they don’t pile up too much. In any case, I’ve sent more pass letters than ever the last couple weeks, and I’m sorry for writing about rejection again, but it’s been on my mind a lot. What I wanted to talk about today is that I’m receiving an astounding number of responses back from my rejections. A few are very kind, like the one I told you about on...
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Sending Those Dreaded Pass Letters

Earlier this week, a writer sent me this response to a rejection letter: As a first time author I can’t tell you how much I am humbled for the kind and thoughtful responses from you agents. You guys are really nice people out there…and God bless you for the kind words. Wow. It really struck me as unusual, kind, and incredibly thoughtful. I find it difficult to have to say “no” to so many people, so this was nice to hear! Sometimes I need encouragement like everyone else. I don’t like the idea of so many people being disappointed upon hearing from me when I have to send pass letters. This month has been particularly challenging for a number of reasons… suffice to say, I’m busier than usual all around, and my query box has also been busier than...
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Guest Blogger: Catherine West

Grace in Rejection by Catherine West Ah, the freedom of summer vacation. No schedule to keep, no early wake-up calls, able to stay up until 1 a.m. watching gymnastics… I’ve taken this opportunity to clean out my laptop. Going through some old files, I came across some emails written during a very painful time in my life. I’d searched and found my birth mother, and I discovered I had a sister who knew nothing about me. My birth mother refused to tell her. Ever. I was backed into a corner—do I contact my sister against my birth mother’s wishes or do nothing, and live with the pain of never knowing the sister I so desperately wanted? Tough call. After a few excruciating months on my knees, I knew God wanted me to walk away, to not contact my sister, but let Him deal with it. I...
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Hard to Say Goodbye

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_5cLmD8GqnKY/SCel9jz7f_I/AAAAAAAABbI/0EEU8Qngagc/s320/idol.jpg Time for another American Idol metaphor. Can’t help myself… DC fever is getting the best of me. 🙂 So here we are, down to 3 contestants. Remember when there were 12? After being culled out of so many thousands of hopefuls, those top 12 seemed uber-talented. How sad it would be to see any of them go! Yet week by week, they left. These top 3 are so talented they ALL deserve to win! But no… only one will win. Those are the rules. Out of those top 12, probably at least 4 or 5 will find commercial success in singing. But only one will win this particular contest. The ones that don’t win and go home early… it doesn’t mean they’re not any good. They’re plenty good. But various factors combined to make THIS contest not theirs to win. So, this is...
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Why Are We Doing This?

My writer-friend Richard wrote poignantly last week about the pain of repeated rejections, and how it sometimes makes it hard to stick with this gig. Why do we keep writing? Why do we stay in this business? If you’ve started submitting your work to agents and/or editors, then you’ve probably joined the ranks of the rejected-and-sometimes-dejected. I just want to tell you one thing from the perspective of an agent and former editor: You’re not alone. All of us have to deal with rejection. As I commented on Richard’s blog, agents submit your work to publishers and get lots of rejections. I’m still new at this agenting thing and it surprises me how much it hurts to get pass letters on my clients’ work. I only agree to represent projects I truly believe in....
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No Laundry Lists, Please

I wrote previously about authors arguing with me when I send them a rejection (here). They write back trying to convince me that I’m wrong and I should take another look. There’s another kind of “not taking no for an answer” I get sometimes that seems like a better approach because it’s not an argument, but I have to be honest, I don’t like this one any better. It’s when people respond to my pass letter with a list of their four or six or ten other ideas. They say, “Okay, you didn’t like that one but I have plenty more! Do any of these interest you?” Then a list of pitches. This rarely works out for either of us. I can’t tell in such a brief format whether your ideas are saleable or not. Also, you may not know whether I...
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