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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Living Your Best Life North of Forty and Fifty Plus

Baking for inspiration with a side of information for aspiring writers

The call of inspiration comes at various times and in many different forms. Artists can find inspiration in nature, while others find it by people watching on the streets or in a park. Some artists are inspired by a muse. Muse is defined in two ways; Looking to Greek and Roman mythology, a muse was one of nine goddesses, who the daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne, who preside over the arts and sciences: In the modern form, a muse is a person or personified force who is the source of inspiration for a creative artist.

Artists also have to strike while the iron is hot. Some of my best ideas happen once I disengage from writing and move on to something else. These ideas are not limited to my own creative works, they also relate to the authors I represent as a literary agent.

It’s important to be able to think on your feet when you’re in business. Decisions regarding the mechanics or day-to-day operations, are more linear in nature, and therefore, easier to handle, comparatively speaking. However, for me, crafting a pitch that best represents the essence of what my client’s manuscript is about. Whether it’s fiction or nonfiction, it’s important to have a well-crafted pitch. While the matter of mechanics in terms of grammar and structure counts, the main focus is to draw the reader in.

For me, it begins with a great synopsis. Writing a synopsis can be very daunting for most writers, but it’s necessary. You must be able to communicate what your story is about in a short synopsis, which is like an extended logline. Then there’s the more in depth long synopsis, in which you have show what the book is about, describe the characters, plot, sub-plots, and the ending. A long synopsis is anywhere from three to five pages. I won’t tell you it’s easy, I know it isn’t. You spend months or even years creating a story, only to find out that you need to provide a Cliff’s Notes version. It seems unfair, but that’s the way it’s done. So, keep that in mind while you are writing your great American novel.

  • Think of your story synopsis as an extended logline. A logline is a one-sentence summary or description of a movie. A short synopsis should distill the main elements of your manuscript into a concise paragraph.
  • You can also look at your story like a movie trailer with words instead of moving pictures. I recently read something an article that said everything sounds better when Morgan Freeman narrates. That’s sort of true, so imagine Morgan Freeman is doing the voice over for your book.
  • Relax. Wracking your brain doesn’t help. Do something else creative or go to the gym, or whatever you need to do to get your mind off of the synopsis. . Most of the time, you’ll figure out what to write when you’re not thinking about it so much. 

Believe it or not, but the writer isn’t the one with the short stick. It’s the agent. We have about a paragraph or two at the most, to make out case as to why an editor should read our client’s manuscript. Moreover, our pitch is just one of countless pitches work-logged editors receive a day. So, we have to make it count.

As I wrote this blog post, I was up early working out a novel and a few client pitches. I like to refresh my pitches. Sometimes there are things happening in the world that give me an idea for a different approach, and other times I get an idea while I am stirring, folding, and baking. One of my favorite things to make is blueberry muffins. I have had more creative epiphanies at four a.m. making blueberry muffins than I can count. That will be the bonus here, a great blueberry muffin recipe.

Bakery Style Blueberry Muffins by Bromo Bakery adapted by me

INGREDIENTS

1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted (vegan butter)

1 cup granulated sugar (Swerve sweetener, Splenda granulated, coconut, turbinado, or raw cane sugar pulsed)

2 eggs, room temperature ( ¼  cup Aquafaba, ½ cup silken tofu pureed with ¼ teaspoon baking soda, 2 flaxseed or chia seed eggs, or egg replacer)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

6 Tablespoons plain Greek yogurt (dairy milk: plain whole milk, plain low-fat Greek yogurt, Non-fat doesn’t work) (non-dairy: almond, soy, rice, or coconut milk yogurt **)

6 Tablespoons buttermilk  (dairy:6 tablespoons whole or low-fat milk mixed with 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar or lemon juice. Mix and let stand for five minutes)

1 Tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cups + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (gluten-free all-purpose flour, 1 to 1 gluten-free baking blend, sorghum, oat, sweet rice or brown rice flour)

2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen

turbinado sugar, optional

INSTRUCTIONS

Preheat oven to 425°F. Grease 10 standard size muffin tins and line with cupcake liners. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl combine the melted butter and granulated sugar, beating until combined. Add the eggs in one at a time. Add the Greek yogurt, buttermilk, and vanilla extract.

Add 2 cups flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix until it begins to come together (not fully incorporated). Toss the blueberries with the additional two Tablespoons of flour. Fold the blueberries into the batter, mixing only until combined. Batter will be thick.

Scoop batter into prepared muffin tins, filling about 3/4 of the way. You can use a large cookie scoop or a 1/4 cup measure to keep things consistent. Sprinkle tops with Turbinado sugar, if using.* Bake for 5 minutes at 425°F, then turn oven down to 375°F and bake for an additional 15 minutes, until muffins are golden brown and spring back to the touch. Remove from oven and allow to cool for at least 15 minutes before eating!

Notes

** To get the same consistency found in Greek yogurt for both dairy and non-dairy yogurts, line a sieve with cheesecloth or a paper towel. Add the yogurt and refrigerate at least 3 hours or overnight to let the excess water drain before using.

Do not overmix, particularly if you’re using frozen blueberries.