This will be an ongoing blog post, I’m sure.
As you may know, I’ve started querying my book. I’ve been doing my research and looking up agents and what they’re looking for. I’ve queried 8 agents so far and have received 2 responses, both big fat no’s.
Now, I knew this would happen. It’s part of the industry, rejection that is. Though it doesn’t make it any easier. So to lift my ego I did a little research on famous writers who suffered through rejections.
R.K Rowling is one of the biggest names. There were reports that the mega-millionaire author was rejected by the first agent she sent Harry Potter to, but landed an agent on her second query. Her agent also said he pitched HP to about 12 different publishers before one took on the project.
E.L James is another who supposedly was rejected by at least two agents before she decided to put Fifty Shades of Grey on an e-book site herself.
John Grisham was supposedly rejected by 16 literary agent and 12 publishers.
Meg Cabot’s Princess Diaries is also said to have been rejected by “nearly every publishing house in America.”
And besides going the traditional publishing route of a literary agent to a publishing house, there are tons of success stories on self-published authors too.
Most notable, Colleen Hoover, who self-published her debut novel Slammed before Atria Books contacted her to republish it.
So, I say this to myself and to any inspiring author out there. Rejection does not mean failure…
“Trust that when the answer is no, there’s a better yes down the road.”
I thought I’d ‘completed’ this thing several times before, but rewrites and revisions are no joke. I’ll be honest, I started writing the beginnings of Halls of Ivy when I was in college—that’s, gulp, almost 11 years ago. Of course, there were large breaks of time in between that I didn’t touch it at all, but the revisions this thing has gone through have been massive. For starters, I began writing my book as a memoir, then a few years later I realized my life wasn’t that interesting so I scrapped that idea and started deleting, deleting and adding in more exciting scenes and storylines. I needed to step away and create a character that wasn’t me but was someone I’d want to be friends with.
My next mistake was writing in all these different stories that weren’t well connected and didn’t exactly move my MC along. Looking back, I should have created an outline so I knew what the hell I was doing. I eventually created a chapter outline that helped me get out of some of the cobwebs I’d created.
I eventually found some beta readers (through #Nanowrimo beta forums, Ladies who critique and a local writers group I joined) and got some feedback on my first ‘new’ draft… Then when I was happy with that draft I decided I wanted to hire someone to give it a creative review… and that’s when I realized I needed more cuts and rewrites… My “reviewer/editor” was not a fan of my MC and had notes about continuity all over my MS. I was upset, angry and felt incompetent and hopeless. After all that time, effort and money, the one person I paid to read it didn’t like it. I must be a bad writer I thought. But then why were my betas lying to me?
Fast forward to draft #2. I made more friends read it and asked a few of my betas that read the first draft to read my newest version… I deleted major scenes, added more inner dialogue and tweaked the ending. I thought, yes this is it, this is good. I would want to read this… but something was still bugging me… I had to know if my original editor/reviewer, the one who didn’t really like it, would change her mind about it now that I’d revised it.
Well, I’m happy to report that after I changed my ending again, she liked it! Gold star… I hope. She even complimented me on how far it had come! Ha, didn’t I know it!
So on to the next step….querying, stay tuned for how that goes…
My resolution this year is to speak up and say what’s on my mind more. I don’t like confrontation, who does? But too often, I stay quiet when something is either on my mind or irks me. Maybe it’s a part of this whole women power movement going on, but I’m tired of caring what someone will think of me if I say this, or who might be a little annoyed if I say that. It’s what I’m feeling (and thinking in my head) so as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone’s feelings, why not shout it out loud.
Like the other day, I was really unnerved about a headline a writer at work chose to use. They used a cruel word to describe a doctor—who I might add was only in the news for speaking her mind. The word had absolutely nothing to do with the story or the doctor being described and was clearly only being used for theatrics… so instead of being quiet, I emailed a manager and told them my opinion…. granted, this person didn’t email me back or take down the offensive word, but at least I got to speak my mind and I felt better for it. Maybe the writer didn’t change what he’d written but perhaps next time he’ll refrain from using such language.
So whether your male or female, let it be a resolution for everyone to stand up for what you believe in, no matter who is listening or watching.
Every year you see the same headlines… “5 steps for keeping your resolutions”… “3 resolutions you MUST make this year”…. They go on and on with empty promises, just as empty as the promises you make yourself this time of year. But here’s a thought, instead of making “resolutions’’ why not begin new habits. You don’t necessarily need to say, ‘Okay this year, I’m going to lose weight,’ just try to make a new habit out of either going to the gym once or twice a week or eating a salad for lunch a few times a week and see how that goes.
Here’s another one... I want to be better at finances or I want to save more money this year…BE more specific and create a habit out of that financial-bliss idea you have in your head. Like I’m going to put a higher percentage of my paycheck directly into my savings account every week or I’m going to buy wine that’s under $15 dollars instead of under $20. Whatever small habits you know you can make, give it a try.
But most importantly, don’t feel guilty if your habits don’t pan out. Just take a stab at a different one. Guilt can quickly spiral into a whole array of unwanted feelings; sadness, anger, resentment etc…tell yourself there’s no room in 2018 for guilt, only change.
We may be creatures of habit, but you can teach old dogs new tricks.
Making Connections is not an easy thing for some people to do. Putting yourself out there can feel awkward, intimidating and even scary. But in publishing, if you don’t try to make connections with someone, even an assistant your left with the only option of cold pitching/querying. Which is not the worst thing, but if you have any opportunities to get an email or make an acquaintance with someone in the business you could get lucky with a lead. A lead can be big or small, and both are good to have.
I’ll give you an example. I was speaking on a panel about how to get publicity/booked for media gigs and knew a book agent was going to be on the same panel. He was a very successful agent, but mostly represented non-fiction authors, which I am not. But, you never know. I introduced myself, told him I was writing a fiction NA/YA novel and we exchanged cards. The next week, I got an email from him saying he met me on the panel and would like to hear more about my book. I emailed him back immediately, saying how he had beaten me to the punch (I wanted to email him first, and should have but work was crazy with breaking news and I never got to before he did). I wrote how I’d be so appreciative for any and all advice and understood that he typically worked on non-fiction books. I attached my query letter and synopsis and haven’t heard back since. That was only a few days ago, so I’ll have to update this post if I hear back. The point is, I spoke up about my book and my goals for it, followed through with my query documents and have one more connection than I had before. Maybe nothing comes of it, but it was still good practice. I still have our email chain and plan on following up with him by the end of the week. You never know who works where or who knows who, so don’t be shy about your work, spread the news even if you’re in the beginning stages.
It’s one of those things leaders and life coaches always say, ‘If you never ask, the answer will always be no.” And Oprah said it perfectly, “You get in life what you have the courage to ask for.”
I remember a time when I was just starting out in TV. I was a production assistant making crap money and living in NYC, so the combination of the two made me borderline poor. But I was up for a promotion. I had been doing the job of a PA and a booker and wanted the title (and salary) of a booker. A booker, as it sounds, is someone in TV who books the guests who come on to their programs to talk about X,Y,Z. It’s not the most difficult of jobs, but you have to be fast, persistent and diligent to be a good one. And I was a good one. I worked the phones on any story I got assigned to and was constantly glued to my blackberry, responding to producers and emailing guests. Crime and breaking new stories were my fortes. When our yearly reviews were coming up, I wrote a nice and structured email to my boss, pointing out why I deserved a promotion. He never responded (which felt like a nice punch in the gut) but on the day of our review meeting he told me he wanted to promote me to a booking producer, same job but more money and the title change. I was more than thrilled-- finally I would be making a decent amount of money. When you have friends who are lawyers or work in finance, you always feel like the poor one, ‘help me I’m poor,’ my favorite line from Bridesmaids. He told me my new salary and all I saw were money signs. I said, thank you so much, I’m so appreciative bla bla bla…. But then he looked at me and said, “I’m not supposed to say this, and I’m not saying this (wink wink) but you should always negotiate. Let’s try this again, I’m going to offer you an increase and you should ask me for more.”
I was stunned. More? Why would I ask for more when I was already happy with what he offered me? I’m no business wiz but I understood then that negotiating was part of the deal. Women often don’t negotiate. I recently read that when women were offered a salary only 7% said they negotiated the offer, that’s compared to 57% of men who said they did. Business execs will give you advice on how when negotiating you should assess, plan, ask and package the proposal, but my one and proven tip is, don’t be afraid to ask. You never know, until you do.
I will admit. I can get defensive when someone criticizes my work. Whether it’s my writing or producing skills or hell even my cooking! It’s not the best trait to have and over the years I’ve tried to acknowledge my bad habit and stay positive when criticism arises.
One definition of the term defensive is; a war mentality to a non-war issue. When someone doesn’t listen with an open heart and instead responds with metaphorical shields up and weapons drawn. When people copy edit my articles at work and on occasion change my intro, I’ve notoriously rolled my eyes, sighed loudly and retaliated by leaving the intro I originally had. It was my byline on there, right? It was all a matter of opinion in my mind. But my defensiveness rears its ugly head especially when it comes to my novel. I’ve had handfuls of beta readers, some strangers and some friends. But after I sent my full manuscript to a potential publisher who asked for it (after reading my first five pages) I was back to my old ways. Cursing the publisher for saying my characters were ‘one-dimensional,’ how dare you! Do you know nothing about story telling?? After a day or two of steaming and screaming in my own internal dialogue, I realized…nothing. F that jerk I said.
But then… when I paid an editor who has worked on some successful books in the same market as mine, to review my book and received more criticism, constructive, but still criticism, I knew I had to take another look at my MS. I went back, deleted complete scenes, added new ones, added more inner dialogue and cut out useless descriptions; I revised and revised all 90k words. And at the end, I felt gratified and more excited about my novel than I ever have. Sometimes you need a little push of criticism to steer you in the right direction, even if it pisses you off.