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Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Finding the Gift - IWSG January, 2019


It's IWSG Day. The goal of this blog hop is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds. IWSG is the brainchild of Alex Cavanaugh, our brilliant ninja leader.  Co-hosts this month are:   
To find a list of contributors with links to their posts, click here.

 
My Christmas gift was a second rejection letter from an agent I originally queried in January, 2018. The rejection back then (received the same day), contained a sentence with personal, direct, actionable feedback to which I could respond. She was absolutely correct and I spent several grateful months revising my story into what I KNOW is a much better book. 

Now, I am of the mind that a rejection from an agent is a rejection, so I had no intention of re-querying the woman who’d been so helpful…but then at the beginning of December I looked her up again. A FAQ page on her agency website included this:

You turned me down a while back, but I’ve thoroughly revised my work.  Can I try again?
If you’ve genuinely made it substantially different (and, one hopes, better) then we don’t at all mind if you come back to us and offer it again. Just be up front about it when you do, and if we think that a re-read might be to our and your benefit, we’ll be happy to do so.

Oh what the heck. I sent another query. Three weeks later, I received the following:

Thanks for thinking of me again! You’re a good writer and this premise is inventive. That said, I’m just not finding myself invested on this second time around—speculative/magical content is always a tough buy-in for my taste...

Am I disappointed? Yeah. Accepting? I guess. Pleased at least that the response seems to be personal? Absolutely. Hanging on to the phrase, “You’re a good writer?” More than anything. 

Why is this one rejection so important to me? Well, here's the thing. Right now, my query-tracking spreadsheet lists ten open queries out for between 4-8 months to which I have received NOTHING…not even an automatic “Not for me, thank you.” I received one request for a full manuscript that’s been out since August, also with no further feedback. (Note to self. Follow up.) The above statistics don’t include queries I sent prior to my re-write, which I’ve marked “assumed rejection” after hearing nothing over many months. In my limited experience, when querying traditional publishers, no news is NOT good news. So, a simple, quick, marginally personal response says to me an agent is thoughtful, caring and respects writers’ feelings. And, while I won’t make a habit of it, this experience also taught me that the world didn’t come to an end because I queried twice.

In truth, I’m questioning whether this poor book is going anywhere. That said, if I haven’t attracted an agent by the time I’m ready to query my next book (which does not contain speculative or magical content), she’ll be the first on my list.

Wishing you a happy New Year and a 2019 filled with writing success.

20 comments:

Pat Garcia said...

Happy New Year!
What I like is that you went the extra mile. You just didn't give up and say, Oh well. It might be that you might not sell the book as you want to, but don't give up on it. The main thing is that you know you have written a much better book, and I personally believe that some agent out there will know it too when he or she reads it. So keep submitting.
I wish you all the best for 2019 . I hope that your book finds a home.
Shalom aleichem,
Pat G

Sarah Foster said...

Don't give up! It definitely seems like there's a home for this book somewhere. Good luck with the querying!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Sorry the re-write didn't work out, but that agent did have something good to say about your writing. And she responded! Yeah, bummer when there is no response.
Don't give up. Never give up, never surrender!

Joanne said...

this was a "good" rejection, and I know it still stings. But, keep persevering and writing. Here's to a positive 2019

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

It sounds to me like you've got the right attitude and are doing everything professionally. Hang in there, Liza!

Nick Wilford said...

If only all agents responded like that! Definitely sounds as if she would be open to reading something else from you, so I would try with that next book. You got a rejection, but as they go, a really good one.

Bish Denham said...

I too, would take her comments as positive.

Jennifer Shelby said...

Yes! Focus on the good stuff. And if speculative/magic isn't to her tastes, then that is just a bad fit for your work and nothing more. Querying is a hard slog, don't give up!!
-Jennifer from jennifershelby.blog

Patricia Lynne aka Patricia Josephine said...

Querying is a tough cookie to eat. It'd be nice if every query got some form of reply back, but I also understand agents and publishers get a ton and it's not always possible. I'm sure one day you'll get the yes you've been working toward. Good luck.

Gil Stewart said...

Lisa -- I suppose you have touched on a major cause of Writer Insecurity. What other pursuit involves so much time, effort and energy on something that can be so bluntly rejected?

Chances are that has me, like many of my peers, settling for the safer, more comfortable route of self-publishing. My stories are certainly not main stream, I know that. I do, however, have twenty fine-looking paperbacks on my bookshelf. That is enough to keep me satisfied, if no secure.

Natalie Aguirre said...

It's great that the agent responded. That is a plus you should hold onto. Definitely query a new project when it's ready.

Susan Kane said...

A rejection is a challenge, esp. if it was an agent. At least it was given a chance. Don't stop.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I think more and more agents just don't respond when they're not interested. I don't understand that since it would take less than a minute so send a 'no thanks.'
Querying that agent with you next sounds like a good plan.

cleemckenzie said...

It's a tedious and difficult process, but if you're happy with the changes you made based on the agent's first rejection, I'd say you're doing well. Getting free and helpful suggestions from a professional is great.

Diane Burton said...

So sorry to hear about the rejections. One thing it proves is your a professional writer. I know that it doesn't feel so good, but writers get rejections. If you believe in your work, hang in there. Wishing you much success in 2019.

Connie said...

Why is it that editors and agents can't at least have the courtesy to reply with a simple "Not for us, but thank you" instead of leaving writers hanging and waiting for a response. Sorry that the second go around didn't work for you. I know how frustrating and disappointing it is to go the extra mile to make something better and then still have it rejected. As others have said, keep at it! You ARE a good writer! Happy New Year, Liza! Wishing you all good things.

Elizabeth said...

A helpful response is far better than no response. I hope you can find a place for your book!

Jan Morrison said...

I like your attitude and I believe in pluck not luck so keep at it. You bring up a number of very valuable reminders - the first one that struck a chord is that the usual form when dealing with agents or publishers is just a form - it doesn't always need to be strictly adhered to. The other is that there are professionals out there who understand there is a human at the other end of the submission. I try not to care when I don't hear a word or when the rules are presented to me as from a scolding grade three teacher in the submission guidelines - but the truth is I do care. I try and do what is asked and when they don't keep up their part I feel rightfully aggrieved. But because I believe in my work, I keep sending it out and I know you will too.

mshatch said...

I know how you feel. I've had a full out with an agent for over a year and when i followed up a month or so he said he hadn't gotten to it yet. *sigh* It is nice to get a response though, even if it's a negative one. At least you know they got it and read it. No response and there's always the possibility your query or submission was never read or got lost. Not that any of that will stop us from continuing to query...

:)

Liz Hinds said...

Every rejection hurts. It's personal. That said she does sound like a good agent and definitely one for you to contact next time.