Thursday, August 9, 2007

Who's to Blame? Surviving Rejection When it Really Matters

Maven Lacey Kaye I'm done with my book. I love it and fully believe there is someone out there who will love it, too. The rest of it should be easy, right?

  1. Pore through my RWRs, websites, friends' experiences, favorite author acknowledgements, etc and find agents to submit to
  2. Collect them into a spreadsheet for tracking purposes
  3. Type up personalized, targeted query letters to my top agents
  4. Assemble the query letters into envelopes or emails
  5. Send them out
  6. Wait for worldwide fame to find me

Ok, maybe not precisely easy.

Certainly, sending my little manuscript into the big, bad world is a huge deal, especially to me. (As opposed to you, who may not care if I actually get off my couch this weekend and do some work.) But what happens after that?

I know, I know. I work on something else. *But, guys...* What if the agents hate my stuff? What if I start getting rejection letters that say things like, "Dear Author, You will never be published this side of the Apocalypse. Please burn all your existing manuscripts and throw yourself on the knife Erica was talking about Monday."

Won't it ruin my mojo?

The short answer is yes, of course it will sting. I don't wake up every morning hoping today's the day I'll be rejected. There's that cute little salesman saying that "Every rejection is one step closer to a sale," but... psh! Whatever!

The long answer is that I shouldn't let it get me down. A rejection, whether it's for a query or a partial or, God forbid, the full manuscript, is just one person's opinion. Each of us has to find the one or three people who 'get' what we're doing, and that's not usually going to happen right out of the gate. B.E. Sanderson once compared finding an agent to dating. Well, I will compare the entire writing process to dating.

It's a wonderful, magical world of Suck.

You meet a guy. He seems into you. You're feeling into him. He starts rambling on about all the cool things going on this weekend. You smile and say, "Wow, that sounds fun." He seems to take that as encouragement to talk about more fun things. (We're to the part where the agent requests the full manuscript, if you can't keep up ;-) You go, "Definitely invite me to things like that. Sounds like a good time." He smiles a heart-stopping, hazel-eyed smile and talks about more fun things. (This is the part where the agent starts writing you glowing emails at every chapter break but has yet to offer representation.)

So then you walk away, feeling pretty sure that even if he's busy this weekend, next weekend he'll invite you out for a rousing good time. But when you see him again on Wednesday, he just starts talking about the fun stuff going on this weekend. You begin to wonder if he thinks you're too stupid to find fun things to do yourself, or if he reads the Entertainment section of the paper in lieu of Sports. Maybe the only small talk he has is about Things I'm Not Going to Invite You To Do, But Boy, Don't They Sure Sound Fun?

(I have no idea where this part fits into my analogy.)

SO THEN you finally hand him your number and say "Call me if you actually want to do one of those things." (This is when the agent finishes your manuscript, sighs contentedly, and writes you an email that says, "Hey, Lacey, now THAT'S a story!")

Only, he never calls. (She never emails you again.) Either way, you feel unwanted, unloved, and like you were this close but now you have to begin all over again, starting with finding another agent just as hot.

You know what I mean.

And even if you do make that connection, sell your manuscript and become a NYT Bestselling Author, there's nothing to say you and your agent won't get divorced 15 years down the road. Nothing--nothing--in this world is guaranteed. We have to accept things won't always go our way. And we have to move on.

So what's your mode of getting up and on with it? Chocolate? 20-minute pity party/rant fest? Call up your girlfriends and talk about what an indecisive dork he is? Wonder if it's something you did, something you could do better, and have a very, very hard time NOT running off to fix "yourself" before you start shopping again?

Do you accept the "It's not me; it's him!" thing or do you start rationalizing? Maybe the agent has too many clients (the guy has a girlfriend). Maybe the agent is checking around with her peers to find someone who isn't as busy or loves your genre more than she does (maybe he's indecisive). Maybe the agent hasn't had time to write you back (he's busy). Maybe the agent is afraid to find out you already have 5 other agents vying for your attention (he's shy). Maybe the agent is afraid they can't shop what you have (maybe he's gay). Maybe the agent totally doesn't get you at all (translation: nothing short of throwing yourself naked into his arms is going to clue this guy into the fact that you're into him).

Me, bitter? Nah :-)


ERiCA said...

I have no idea where this part fits into my analogy.

I do! I had a similar experience writing wise, where I queried an agent at a Big Name Agency, and the query went to the requested partial stage, and the agent and I met at multiple conferences where we hit it off great personality-wise and the agent provided verbal feedback on the manuscript and hinted that she did not want me to look elsewhere for an agent, we traded a few emails... but yet, as the months wore on, she neither signed nor rejected me. Status remained a constant "maybe".

(After six months or so, I ended up signing with a completely different agent, who is much more enthusiastic about me and my story. But it was tough for a while there.)

lacey kaye said...

After six months or so, I ended up signing with a completely different agent, who is much more enthusiastic about me and my story.

This is a hard lesson to remember. If they never get you, then it's not meant to be. Maybe. My brother and I had a long conversation last night about inviting yourself to things (the topic of my life, let alone today's blog). He was giving examples of times he or his now-friends invited themself to something while playing the clueless card. In other words:

Guy: EndFest is going on this weekend.
Girl: Oh, cool. What time do you want to meet up?
Guy: Uh, er... Uh... Ehr... Ten?

LOL, obviously, not the suavest move on the dance floor. BUT, it could work. We both had stories and opinions on why this sort of thing works. Anyway, that could clearly be an entirely new blog post... And is so not related to this subject!

Bill Clark said...

Excellent post! Love the analogy between writing/agenting/dating. Bottom line: there are a ton of dumb people out there, and you can't take your cue from them. Gotta find the 1/10th of 1 percent with brains, couth, and good taste (and preferably good looks as well).

Not on point, but I just have to share:

Yesterday a book jumped off the library shelf and into my hands, and I've just *gotta* share it with the Mavenworld:

"Austenland" by Shannon Hale

Ms. Hale has a thing for Colin Firth. She even dedicates the book to him: "You're a really great guy, but I'm married, so I think we should just be friends."

The story is a awesome Regency novel set in the 21st century: Jane Hayes receives a bequest that pays for three weeks in an Austen-like setting, where she tries to work though her past failed relationships and find out what it is she really wants. Is Colin Firth/Mr. Darcy really her ideal heartthrob, as she's always thought? And what is she to do with Mr. Nobley (a Darcy doppelganger), not to mention the undergardener to whom she suddenly takes a shine?

Like Diana's SSG, Hale's book includes a list of past boyfriends, placed as chapter prologues also similar to those in SSG. (Can you say literary influence, people? Diana rocks!)

Hale's book came out about two months ago. It's just under 200 pages, which means you can (I did) read it in a day. You will laugh, you will cry, you will wish you had written it. Go. Read. It. Now.

Carrie said...

I compare looking for an agent (at least the querying stage) to interviewing (which I've been doing a lot of recently -- on both sides of the desk). When I'm interviewing for a job, all I can do is put my best foot forward and show them who I really am. If they like me, and they think I'll be a good fit, then I have a shot at getting hired. If they don't hire me, it's probably because they know their business better than I do and they know I wouldn't be a good fit.

When I'm the one interviewing candidates, I hate nothing more than someone not being themselves and thus not standing out. Those are like the bland query letters that says "and then after a tragic accident, Hero learns his lesson" and you're like "what accident? what lesson?!" There's no way to know enough of that candidate (query letter/book) to make a decision and so it becomes an auto-ding.

I just wrote a whole blog post about this, natch I've been too lazy to post it. Guess I should...

lacey kaye said...

Bill, I went to a signing by Shannon Hale! If you think the book is funny, you should meet her in person. The chick is a riot.

I, too, endorse this book!

Carrie--Interviewing! Good one. And probably good to stand out, but at the same time, one has to be prepared to receive weird looks. It's no secret that when I got out of college I was determined NOT to get into a company that was the opposite of my personality. To that, I held back nothing. Needless to say, I went through a LOT of interviews. But when I found that perfect match it really was perfect. They got my sense of humor and really liked my quirky weirdness. Quote from the hiring manager, over a year later: "At first I thought she was making it up. I said, 'No way. That chick tells tall tales.' But then when she sent me the news article and I saw that the dogs in Florida really DO get eaten by alligators, I said 'I have to hire this girl.'"

ERiCA said...

Carrie says:
I just wrote a whole blog post about this, natch I've been too lazy to post it.

Bwa ha haa. This cracked me up. You are so you! =)

Darcy Burke said...

As I just sent off partials to two agents, I'll let you know how our next "date" goes. ;-) It has to be similar to dating. Mr. Burke is laughing at me because I'm either floating on a cloud or pulling my hair out. No in between.

lacey kaye said...

You said it, D.

PS good luck!

Jacqueline Barbour said...

I love the dating analogy even though I think my ability to relate to it is seriously hampered by almost two decades completely off the market. The interviewing for a job analogy is also apt, but I've been in the same job for almost 13 years.

This is probably why the idea of finding an agent terrifies me--I'm woefully out of practice at selling myself!

Good luck to both Lacey and Darcy with the queries! I'll be embarking on the same project myself, and sooner rather than later (or that's the plan, anyway!).

Kelly Krysten said...

Fun Analogy. And HUGE good luck to you! You Mavens deserve to be published for the good karma you're generating helping out newbies like me alone!

B.E. Sanderson said...

Thanks for the link-love, Lacey. I'm honored.

Great post. You're right. The analogy can be expanded to all the stuff we put ourselves through to get a 'date'. It sucks sometimes, but I think when I finally find the right one, it will be wonderful. (Again, just like dating. :grin:)

Bailey said...

Seriously. Do NOT swim with dogs in Florida....dogs are like chocolate mousse for alligators.

Great posts as always, Mavens.

lacey kaye said...

Bailey, that cracked me up.

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