Tuesday, December 11, 2007

One opinion in a highly subjective business

Maven Carrie RyanAs y'all know, I was out of town last week on vacation (it was unbelizable!! -- seriously, did you expect me not to use such a fab pun?) When I got back I had two fun bits of mail waiting for me. The first was a form rejection from a literary agency I'd queried 5 months ago. The last line echoes what so many form rejections say -- this is a subjective business, another agent may feel differently, and keep trying.

And they're totally right because you know what the second letter was? My first advance check from my agent. Ironically, a similar thing happened when I sold my book. I floated home from work with stars in my eyes and Publishers Marketplace announcements swirling in my head to find a form rejection letter waiting for me.

I have to say, these were the two best rejections ever. Because they were both a flat out (yet polite) "No!" from very respected agents (who I really thought would love my project). And yet, clearly their opinions differed from other agents and other editors because, well, my book sold :)

When I first started querying, I used to read that line "this is a subjective business" on so many form rejections and think "sure it is, but that doesn't mean you're not supposed to love my work!" And yet, I can't think of a single writer who didn't get a form rejection on a project that went on to sell (yes, I know they're out there, but my mind is tired tonight).

The authors at Fangs, Fur & Fey have been posting about their paths to publications (mostly from the slush pile) and it's fascinating reading. So many form rejections, so much dedication and perseverance.

I know how easy it is to get a form letter and think "the agent hated it, I stink, I'll never make it." But I'm here to tell you that one agent's form rejection is another agent's sale. At least, that was the case with me :) It really is a subjective business.


B.E. Sanderson said...

Thanks, Carrie. I needed that. I've kinda dropped out of the query process to work on editing my completed manuscripts, but I know I need to get back into the game. The problem is whenever I stop, it's so darn hard to ramp back up. I make excuses for why I can't do it today, and put it off until tomorrow, and tomorrow, and the next day. I just need to kick myself in the butt and forge ahead. (After the first of the year, of course.) ;o)

Funny thing happened to me the other day, though. I got a form rejection from an equery I sent at the beginning of October. Shocked the heck out of me. Especially since the agency site says they don't reply unless they're interested. Don't quite know what to make of that. *shrug*

Celeste said...

Very nice pep talk. I got a rejection on my BIRTHDAY of all days from a junior agent who I thought was going to really like my partial. Well, she read it through, but didn't love it "enough" (or so she said). This immediately after someone said my book had two full reads, but in the end the agency didn't love it "enough" to rep it. I try hard not to get bent about rejections - but it was hard to take on MY special day.

Bill Clark said...

Great post! The old saw, "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again" still has truth. I've always found that perseverance pays off.

And yes, we all have to remember than everything is subjective. The trick is to find someone (agent, editor, publisher) whose subjectivity matches your own. It's all downhill from there on!

And how do you find this soulmate subjectivity? Right! Keep trying. If you don't, you'll never find that match, and the world will be poorer by another good book whose author failed to persevere.

Carrie Ryan said...

b.e. - I know where you're coming from! I'd totally written this query off, had no expectations of ever hearing (and only wanted to so I could fill in the last blank on my agent query spreadsheet).

Celeste - on your birthday! That's terrible!

Bill - you're so right -- it's all about perseverence.

Darcy Burke said...

I love this post so much. I've heard numerous stories along this vein, and frankly we can't hear it enough. Subjectivity!!! Gah, it's everywhere. My hair, my clothes, my food. But yes, we just need that one love connection. My fingers are crossed for all of us.

lacey kaye said...

This blog improved my entire day! I read it this morning and all the great comments coming in... I agree with them 100%. THANK.YOU.

Tessa Dare said...

How funny! The same thing happened to me. The same day my book sold, I came home to a rejection letter.

And it still stung, just a bit. I'd be lying if I said it didn't. Whyyyy???, I moaned. Why doesn't everyone adore me???

Yeah, I'd better get over that one, hadn't I? *rolling eyes at self*

Jackie Barbosa said...

Wise words, indeed.

I'm not really looking forward to querying because I'm afraid I'll take every rejection as a "you suck." It's nice to hear that even those who've sold their books can still get rejection letters. No one's book is for EVERYone.

Writer, Rejected said...

Hey, that is the BEST way to get a rejection as far as I'm concerned. Will you send us some of your old reject letters? We are posting them anonymously at Literary Rejections on Display. Check it out? www.literaryrejectionsondisplay.blogspot.com

Erica Ridley said...

I'm here to tell you that one agent's form rejection is another agent's sale.

So true, Carrie! Fabulous post!!!

Diana Peterfreund said...

Did you see Kristin Nelson's post about this exact subject the other day? ;-)


Karen Mahoney said...

I love this post, Carrie! You always seem to blog about just the right thing at just the right time. :)

I've never queried before, but will be dipping my toe in those deep, dark waters in the new year... *shivers*

Anonymous said...

Can you give us an idea what an advance check for a new writer might look like? Especially in the paranormal romance field? This would be much appreciated.

lacey kaye said...

Check out Brenda Hiatt's Show Me the Money page: Click here

You will want to look up the line by the publisher you are targeting.

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