Monday, June 21, 2010

So you want to get an agent....Part 3

It doesn't matter how many of these you get, or how well they're written, they all mean the same thing. "No."

If you've started your querying to agents, one of the first lessons you'll learn is how to handle rejections. From the start, I learned that not everyone learns how to deal with it the same.

The first writers conference I went to back when I had only barely learned what a literary agent was, I sat in a discussion where an agent fielded questions. That was the first encounter I had with bitter writers. The argument was that the writers wanted their manuscripts back so they could figure out via finger prints and ruffled paper just how many pages the agent actually read.

Even before I had started the process I picked up on the not-so-subtle angst the writers felt.

And I wondered if I would become a bitter writer too.

How you handle rejections is a decision. I don't think there is a specific formula that will work for everyone, but here's my thoughts on it.

*Whether the rejection comes via e-mail or snail mail, don't spend very much time reading it.

*Only re-read rejections that are clearly not form letters and then, read it after you've had enough time to not be upset with the agent/editor.

*Tell yourself it's going to hurt. I think acknowledging the hit of rejections helps. If you pretend it doesn't matter, you're lying to yourself. They do matter, but you will get past it.

*Stay busy. You're a writer. Write. If you spend all of your time waiting for the next rejection letter it's going to be a painful life.

*Remember that all decisions are nothing if not subjective. Just because your work isn't right for some people, doesn't mean it's not right for someone.

*Keep submitting. I submitted in waves. A bunch in a couple days, then waited a while for the next wave. Submitting can start to feel mechanical when you send things out to a lot of agents.

*Keep track of who you've submitted to. I wrote names on a calendar. Best idea I've ever had. When someone requested a partial or full manuscript, I wrote it next to their name. If someone rejected, I crossed their name off. By doing this I soon came to realize that I had almost as many requests as rejections.

*Take a break. When you're stressed up to your eyeballs in rejections, figure out something that will take your mind off of it for a little while.

*You will feel a lot better by the next day. I promise. Tell yourself that.

*Don't respond to rejections. Don't hit "reply" on your e-mail and tell them how wrong they are. If your work isn't right for that agent, you don't want that agent.

*If you never get any requests and you've submitted to every single agent in your genre, write something else. You managed to write something in the first place and chances are, that experience has made you a better writer. So go write.

*Then again, if you have a deep-seated belief in your story that refuses to go away in spite of hundreds of rejections, wait a while and try again. I never thought I'd say it, but I met someone who did exactly that. She changed her pen name, changed the title and not only found an agent a year later, but secured a contract with a big NY house. It's possible.


Mary Campbell said...

Great info - especially sending it in waves so it feels more mechanical and less painful. Also keeping track of who we sent it to and when on a calender is a great idea.

Cholisose said...

Thanks for the tips, Laura! And nice comics. =]

Laura said...

Glad you guys could enjoy the worst part about writing with me. Just for the record, I got two more rejections today.

See, it doesn't matter if you sign with an agent, you'll still get rejections.... and requests.