An Author's Life, View from the inside of a Literary Agents office

An Author’s Life- Dealing with Rejection

For this blog post, we are going to talk about something we hate, rejection. In life, we are prepared to hear the word no. Our parents get us started on learning the meaning of the word. However, hearing the word no when it comes to something like a manuscript you poured your heart and soul into, that can sting. Therefore, to help take a bit of the burn away, I’m going to address rejection from a publisher professional’s perspective.

You can barely put a finite number on the number of manuscripts publishers receive every year. Some estimate the number to be between 3,000-5,000 a year. Regardless of whether it’s a small or large agency, literary agents receive thousands of submissions a year as well.

In terms of the number of books published, Forbes estimates there are 600,000-1,000,000 books published in the US alone. In 2014, a report from Digital Book World and Writer’s Digest Author Surveys used the data from 9,000 respondents and concluded that those who completed a manuscript. 23% succeeded in becoming traditionally published, which is 13.4% of the total panel, All of that aside, there are things you can control to help increase the odds of agents giving you a serious look.

 

  1. Target the right agent.– If you’ve written a sci-fi fantasy novel, you don’t want to pitch it to an agent that handles contemporary women’s fiction. Literary agents are like doctors, while all doctors know the basics of medicine, they have specialties. You can research agents to see what genres and/or sub-genres they represent. If you can’t find anything online, query them directly. Most are happy to respond.
  2. Make sure you deliver the story you pitched. I once received a pitch for a romantic mystery that blew my socks off. It had all of the elements and the pitch looked like it belonged on the inside jacket of a trade paperback. I received nearly 500 pages, and after reading ten chapters, nothing I was promised in the pitch was there.
  3. Make sure your writing mechanics are up to snuff. Agents give fiction writers a wide berth. Dialogue reflects the way people speak, which isn’t proper English. That’s a given. However, grammar and sentence structure is important. If you didn’t grow up with uncles who were English teachers, you would do well to invest in a grammar software program such as Grammarly. You might also want to consider hiring an editor to go over the manuscript to tighten it up before submitting it.

Even if you have checked all the right boxes, sometimes agents aren’t taking on new clients. Sometimes being offered representation is purely a matter of timing. If you’ve queried and submitted several partial or full manuscripts, take a little time to re-read your work and make adjustments if you need to. If you’re not part of one, join a writer’s workshop group. Getting other perspectives and feedback can be very helpful. If you don’t want to go that route, get in touch with a community college or university’s English department and talk to a professor. I know many authors who have worked with English and American Literature grad students to get their manuscripts in shape. The last thing I recommend is to put it away for a week or even a month. This will allow you to come back to it with fresh eyes and a refreshed perspective.

Lastly, don’t give up.  Some of our most lauded literary names received countless rejections before they broke through. Keep writing as long as it makes you happy.

 

Our Next Post Will Cover Self-Publishing, Traditional Publishing, and Hybrid Publishing, what they’re about, and how to determine which works best for you.

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