With conference season in full-swing, I swear that every writer friend of mine has spent the last few months formulating pitches, cranking out synopses, and strategizing about which publishing house is best or which agent they think is the prettiest. They come home from a conference PUMPED, then they send out submissions and their inbox becomes their mortal enemy. Those of you playing at home can experience the misery, too. Just query a dozen agents and wait for the fun to begin. You’ll get a ride on a rickety roller coaster, the wooden kind that rocks from side to side and makes you regret that second corn dog like crazy. If you’re new at this, you get to go on the same ride, except you get to feel like you’re getting over the stomach flu. You need advice, you crave war stories. You want to know that there’s a teeny-tiny chance that this will be worthwhile.
The first novel I wrote is Bring Me Back. That book is and will always be my baby. It is Karen on a plate. I went through months and months of querying and submitting. I did my first in-person pitches with that book, which scared the crap out of me, even though it was so exciting to have an agent say to my FACE, “I’d like to see the full.” My final tally was 89 agent rejections, or non-answers, which are the worst–you always wonder if they ever got your submission in the first place. Note to agents: YOU WILL SAVE YOURSELF AND AUTHORS A LOT OF MISERY IF YOU USE AUTOREPLY. Thank you. I had an additional 5 publisher rejections and 1 acceptance, from Turquoise Morning Press, who went on to publish the book and its sequel, as well as (insert shameless plug here) my latest book, Hiding in the Spotlight.
Most authors have an awesome rejection story (which tells you what masochists we all are). A personalized rejection that said to you, “Oh my God. I’m on to something here.” Sure, it was a “no”, but it was an amazing “no” brimming with wonderful words about your writing. Followed by a “no”. I had two of those on Bring Me Back, the most memorable of which was from an agent who stayed up all night reading my book. She said she couldn’t put it down. It was by far her favorite slush-pile submission of the year, perfectly polished, with characters that stuck with her. BUT, she didn’t think she could sell it. It was too cross-genre, I was an unproven writer, and worst of all, Mercury was in retrograde. That was that.
I thanked her in the acknowledgments of my book, because even when I felt like quitting, that rejection told me to keep going.