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Have you ever been hurt by an agent's rejection?

  1. Nope. Made of steel.

    3 vote(s)
    42.9%
  2. Kinda. Brushed it off though.

    4 vote(s)
    57.1%
  3. More than I'm willing to admit.

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  1. malaupp

    malaupp Active Member

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    Rejection Didn't Hurt as Much as I Thought.

    Discussion in 'Publisher Discussion' started by malaupp, Nov 29, 2017.

    I've been rejected in the query letter stage a couple times, but I always thought being rejected at the full manuscript stage would hurt more. If you're rejected at the query stage, there's a chance you just need to rewrite the hook or something. But to be rejected after sending the full manuscript, that would be like someone saying you're writing just isn't good enough. Like you as an author just aren't good enough. Or so I thought.

    So it was odd to me when I got a rejection at that stage today that I wasn't as hurt as I thought. Mostly because the feedback she gave me (adding more layers and another POV to emphasize a specific aspect of the plot) was more in depth than anything I'd gotten before. Within an hour after reading it, I already had a ton of ideas to add to it. It also helps that she mentioned what I'd done well, which always takes some of the sting of rejection away. And some of what she wrote echoed the misgivings I'd had sending it in the first place, so I may actually have some decent instincts.

    I just wish I could get a publishing agent as a beta reader. Would save myself a lot of waiting time. xD
     
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  2. TWErvin2

    TWErvin2 Contributor Contributor

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    Improve your manuscript and send it out again!

    Building a thick skin is important for long term success.
     
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  3. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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  4. K McIntyre

    K McIntyre Active Member

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    Love it!
     
  5. LostThePlot

    LostThePlot Naysmith Contributor

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    Personally I found being rejected at the query stage much harder. That's kinda random rejection that catches you off guard. When people turned down my whole manuscripts; well, I knew they were maybe out there as a story and if that's not for them that's ok.

    And, honestly, I've had good feedback from everyone who's rejected a whole manuscript of mine. Everyone who's read my whole book said basically "You write really well, this isn't quite the right book but when you finish the next one we'd love to read that." And not even I can take that negatively. I know my ideas are out there, but I think I write well. For agents to say basically exactly that and want to see more of my writing isn't something that upsets me.

    When I was just getting random rejection out of the blue... Well that wasn't a whole lot of fun and when one caught me off guard I acquired a new scar. But when someone says that my work is good but my ideas aren't quite what they want, that makes me feel good.

    I'm presently putting together submissions for my next book and I'm going back to all the agents that turned me down; who read my whole book and took the time to write a personalized response and who said it was OK to approach them personally instead of going through the public submissions process. Maybe this book isn't the one that makes my career either, but I won't feel bad if people read the whole book and see that.

    It's only when I think people read ten words into my book and screamed "No!" that I feel bad. Like seriously, I've had rejections withing hours of submitting, not even long enough to pretend to read the sample. That's the part that hurts.
     
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  6. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    Rejection always sucks, I think. It's great that you got something out of it. I've become a bit bitter and really only want to hear something about a contract in the mail.
     
  7. LostThePlot

    LostThePlot Naysmith Contributor

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    Have you considered drinking whiskey?
     
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  8. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    LOL. Pictures of my rejection letter next to a glass of something get the most likes on Instagram.
     
  9. LostThePlot

    LostThePlot Naysmith Contributor

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    Ah the life of an artist :)
     
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  10. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man or BayView Supporter

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    I'm the opposite - rejection doesn't really hurt but I find it more annoying to be rejected at the query stage. I'm a novel writer, not a query writer, and it's so irritating when I'm rejected for my query-writing skills. At least with a manuscript, I'm being rejected on the thing that matters.

    I just wish I could get a publishing agent as a beta reader. Would save myself a lot of waiting time. xD

    That probably wouldn't help nearly as much as you think. Feedback from agents, and from editors, is very often contradictory. One agent/editor will reject a manuscript because they didn't like the main character, and the next will say they loved the main character but the plot didn't work for them. There's no formula for a good novel that agents and editors understand - they're just readers, with their own preferences and pet hates.
     
  11. LostThePlot

    LostThePlot Naysmith Contributor

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    That's another decent point about queries. Especially when you are getting back form replies or just no replies there's no way to know what happened. A form rejection could mean everything from "we are really busy and didn't have time to read it" to "Your synopsis is garbage and put me off" to "I loved the premise but then I read the sample and you write like a man with no hands flailing desperately at a computer". There's a lot of parts there, any of which could be putting people off and you don't know which one or why and you really can go crazy trying to figure out what you can do differently to try and get better results.

    At least when an agent answers you personally you know if they say no it's not because you synopsis wasn't exciting enough. And when you think about it, when you're dealing with a real person at least you know they saw something in your work that was good. At the query stage you could have written the next sensation and most agencies will still send you a form rejection. No matter how perfect queries end in rejection anyway. And that's tailor made to screw with your head a bit.

    In truth, I don't even know if I write good queries. All I know is that last time a couple of people asked to read the manuscript so I'm going to do the same thing again this time. And that's kinda all you can do. Throw it at the wall until something works.
     
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  12. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    or writing a country and western song
     
  13. LostThePlot

    LostThePlot Naysmith Contributor

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    Why not both! Really stretch yourself :D
     
  14. malaupp

    malaupp Active Member

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    I'm currently working on it. With luck, I should be done with the rewrites by the end of the calendar year.

    Most of my rejections came in the way of total radio silence that I just took as rejection. Which is fairly common with queries. or so I've been told And I'd rather have people tell me "you're not that great at selling yourself" as opposed to hearing "what you're selling is just bad."

    Well I haven't been querying that long. Give me time and I may turn into the same. xD

    True, but agents have a much better grasp on the industry than your average reader, especially if the agent does a lot with the genre you're manuscript is a part of. They can tell you about how long the average manuscript is within that area, how the concept or themes stack up (especially if they've been done to death), and whether or not the work is commercially viable in the current landscape. There's always the chance that you've uncovered something new they don't know how to measure or just managed to hit that one plot point they dislike. But considering the slew of beta readers who reply with a generic "It was good, I liked it." when asked for their opinions on the manuscript, having someone that can speak more in depth is always helpful. I've lucked out with a mother with a Masters in English and a fiance with a Creative Writing degree, but there's still something to be said for the words coming from someone that makes a living off it.

    And as I mentioned, a lot of what she said echoed some of my own misgivings I had when I sent it. I knew there was a whole other avenue I could have taken the story, but I got impatient and desperate to start shopping it around and get published. So when she told me I could be much more ambitious and add more plot layers, I knew my initial gut instinct had been correct.

    Although I will say that I virtually handpicked this agent to send the manuscript to, based on multiple points in her bio. So someone that didn't seem to have such similar tastes that I was going for in the story might have well given different feedback.
     
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  15. LostThePlot

    LostThePlot Naysmith Contributor

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    It is common to just hear nothing back. But that's something that I found easy enough to deal with. You can just put it out of your mind once you've sent a query; if something happens someone will tell you but otherwise just presume that it's not been successful and leave it. Because really hearing nothing doesn't say anything. Most of the time there's a good chance no-one even read it. And that happens, agents are busy people, and that's something that it's easy enough to take in your stride. My problem comes from the ones where you do get a response, but it's a rejection and it comes at a literally a random point in the next six weeks after you sent your query. Sometimes that's no problems at all. But then sometimes you're having a bad day and you get four rejections one after another and it just smacks you right in the face. Sometimes a form response feels like nothing, but sometimes it feels like every where you turn people are yelling "You're shit!" at you and that really sucks when you're trying to keep your pecker up and keep on plugging away.

    I can sort of see what you mean about preferring to hear that you aren't great at selling your work, rather than that what your selling is bad. But I've never had any personal contact with an agent that was anything close to the latter. Remember, if they are contacting you personally it's to ask for a full manuscript. They see something in your work. And they might well still reject your work. But like I say; I've only ever heard nice things back from them. They aren't going to tell you that your work sucks if they are writing to you personally. If they think your work sucks they'll ignore it or send you a form response. If they take the time to talk to you they won't be mean about it. This was the first rejection I got from an agent who read my whole book:

    "You have a lovely voice, and it's very effective, but in the end I am just not 100% sure I can commit to it in terms of pitching the story. I’m at nearly full capacity already, so I have to be absolutely on board with any project, and I fear this one is not quite the right fit for me to champion at the moment."

    And yes, that is a rejection. Of course. But through the conversation we had she said she loved my writing and my characters and asked me to keep her in mind when I finished my next book that is more of a straight romance and more commercially viable. Like I say; she read the sample and asked for more. Even if she did read the rest of the book and think "Urgh, where did it all go wrong!" she still knows what she saw in my writing to begin with.

    In so many words; no-one is going to take the time to write back to you to say you are a terrible writer. No-one. Because they have better things to do. And seriously, these people live and die on their ability to attract new clients. If nothing else they'll be professional with you and say it's not the right book for them and wish you luck with your career. So while yes I agree in principle, you shouldn't worry about people telling you your book is bad. If your book is bad then they'll tell you nothing. If they tell you anything other than a form response it's because they like your work.
     
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  16. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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  17. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man or BayView Supporter

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    You should know all that from your research and from reading within your genre. The only thing agents can tell you that you *can't* figure out for yourself is what their specific editor contacts are looking for, and that's only valuable information if they're already your agent.
     
  18. Lew

    Lew Contributor Contributor

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    Going to @malaupp's OP, that is quite an accomplishment, to get rejected with positive feedback. I, too, got the same thing from the one agent who requested the full manuscript. I had to look up "expositional dialogue," but when I saw the definition, I knew just which chapter she was talking about. This generated a major reqi9te of the first three chapters, which just made it better. I ultimately self-published because, at 240K words, E&D was just too long for a debut writer, and I sent her a courtesy copy.

    Along the way, I learned a lot, especially from talking one-on-one with agents. First, agents get around 400 queries a MONTH, and out of that blizzard, they pick 10 or 12 per YEAR to push to publishers. All agents have very clear guidelines for how to submit your work, and all with whom I have talked said they receive very many that don't fit those guidelines. They are simply flushed without response. All said they would at least give a form rejection to all properly-submitted queries, so if you are not getting responses, check how you are submitting the query.

    Secondly, personalize your query. Let the agent know that you have looked at their website, know what their interests are, and why you think they are a good match for you. If you don't want to get form letter rejections back, don't submit the identical form letter query to a dozen agents.

    Thirdly, given the huge ratio of query input to selected output (>500 to 1), quality matters. Misspellings in the query, a less than perfect manuscript fragment submission, all are reasons to reject that as an unfinished product and move on to the next query in their overfilled inbox. You never get a second chance to make a good first impression.

    And finally, even if you are the next James Michener, with a perfect submission, if they are tied up on marketing one of their ten selected projects, they are going to reject you because you caught them at the wrong time. So don't take the rejections seriously. Just make your submissions as personal and as professional as you can, and wait for it to hit the agent who just FINISHED her last project and is looking for another.

    I submitted around 40 queries over three months, got one request for manuscript, and averaged around a 70% response rate. Although I ultimately self-published, I was glad to have given the query route a try. Good luck to you, @malaupp, and keep up the good work
     
    Last edited: Dec 11, 2017
  19. LostThePlot

    LostThePlot Naysmith Contributor

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    That's probably the best piece of advice that anyone can get when dealing with rejections. Publishing is a business and even the best writer known to man would still have to send out a lot of submissions before they got accepted. Not because they aren't great; simply because agents see a lot of submissions and even the best book often gets lost in the clutter. Agents are busy people and there's all kinds of reasons why they might not click with your work. Even if they are just having a bad day and aren't feeling well disposed to their slush pile; these things happen.

    To put it another way; how do you think all the agents who turned down Harry Potter feel about that in retrospect? The knee jerk reaction is to say that obviously they are pretty unhappy to have missed out on 15% of the hundred odd million J K Rowling made off that series. But the truth is that most agents would say that it doesn't immediately leap out at you as the next great sensation and while it's charming enough they just didn't feel that it was worth their time. Maybe they were wrong in retrospect. But at the same time if they weren't passionate about the work then how could they go into meetings with powerful people and really try to sell it?

    And that is kinda the attitude to take. You're looking for the person who will sell your work with passion and commitment, who really believes that it will make it. That's the standard that agents have for your work. That's the standard you should have for agents too. If they aren't going to share your passion they are worse than useless. So when they say no, that doesn't mean that it's bad, it doesn't mean that it'll never get out there, it just means that it didn't instantly jump off the page to them. And that's fine. You'll find someone who will love your work, or you'll write another book they love. And when you do; that's when you'll get there. No-one makes money as the author everyone thinks is meh.
     
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2017
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  20. Gemima

    Gemima New Member

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    No because in that instance it was justified and I totally get in hindsight where I was going wrong. Rejection never feels good though! But it's improved my writing and my concept of 'readiness'
     

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