We’ve all heard the fairy tale-like stories, right? You know the ones I mean, the one where some author is giving an interview and telling the world how easy it was for them to get published? They were picked up by their first choice agent who got them this killer book deal and they lived happily ever after?
If only it was that easy…
My first book was rejected eighty-seven times. Yep you read that right. Eighty-seven ego-bruising, tear-inducing times that expanded my rather colorful vocabulary to levels I didn’t even know existed. I saved every single one of those rejections. Every. Single. One. I still have them today and there are times when I look at them and wonder what would have happened if I’d given up.
But I didn’t. Hell, I don’t think I even know how to give up.
Rather than cry in my Ben & Jerry’s, I filed those rejections away and started another book. By the time I got the last of them, I was done with Something Witchy. Since, as I said, I’m the most stubborn human on the planet, I turned right around and started another round of querying and submissions for Witchy.
And there for one whole minute, I thought I was going to get the fairy tale instead of the horror story.
Only a week had passed before I got my first request from an agent for a full. Two weeks later, I got her email rejecting it. A real blow to my ‘Shrug it off and keep going’ philosophy? Oh, you have no idea. Still, I had other projects to work on, so I sucked it up and just kept writing.
Then, the second request for a full came through! And from the agent I really wanted to work with! Woohoo! Happy dance time! I just knew, knew, she was going to take me on and all my hard work was finally going to pay off.
After a month of waiting and checking my email every ten minutes like I was waiting for instructions on how to disarm a bomb that only had eleven minutes left on the clock, I got another rejection letter. Ember wasn’t what they were looking for, she didn’t have the ‘teen-centric’ voice the agent had been expecting, perhaps if I made her older, blah, blah, blah.
In all, I actually had three requests for full manuscripts from three different agents. It’s bad enough to get that form rejection from your query, but to get three rejections after getting your hopes up so high is just plain devastating. I won’t lie, after that third one I didn’t write anything for a month. And, yeah, I kind of got depressed and cried in my Ben & Jerry’s.
For the first time, I thought about just giving up the whole thing and writing just for fun. I honestly just didn’t think I could take anymore rejections. I might have done it, too, but then something happened that changed everything.
Sara King sent out an email to let everyone know about a new novel she had coming out. I didn’t know anything about Parasite back then, but I did know Sara was an amazing author. Out of sheer desperation, I made a move I still can’t believe I made.
What possessed me to do it, I will never know. I sent Sara an email begging her, one author to another, to just look at my query letter. Just my query, nothing else. I just wanted to know what I was doing wrong. And because Sara is one of the coolest people on the planet, she agreed to help me out.
Which has led us here today.
Am I suggesting you hound your favorite authors for publishing advice? Uh, hell no! I shudder every single time I think about how bad that could have backfired. No, I’m suggesting you not give up. So, your first choice agent didn’t like your novel? Okay, suck it up and polish your manuscript again. You’ve been querying agents and submitting to publishers for two years with no success to show for it? Move on, work on something else.
I’ve had people ask me over and over how I handled getting all those rejections and the answer is simple. I can’t imagine doing anything else. I love what I do. I love to write. The question you have to ask yourself is…