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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Has anyone ever said, you’re so knowledgeable, you should write a book? Or maybe you were watching a movie or television show and thought, if I was the writer, I would have taken it in a different direction. Maybe it’s time to put your money where your pen is.

As an author and literary agent, I’ve heard something like this countless times. The only other question I hear more than that one is how do you start writing? As much as it pains me to say it like Nike, but it’s apropos, just do it.

Fiction or nonfiction, it’s up to you

The first thing to consider is what do you want to write about. If you’re a person who loves to read particular genres like mystery, romance, science fiction, and fantasy, to name a few, then you’re interested in fiction. Think about what kind of fictional story you’d write, then outline the characters, setting, and extrapolate what the overall story will be about in a paragraph. I know it sounds like a lot to do, but it will pay off big in the end.

Perhaps you’re in business, maybe you’re an educator or just someone with a hobby that you are passionate about. Nonfiction can open doors for you to grow your business, demonstrate and market your expertise, or share your love of knitting, cooking, restoring cars, etc.

You know what you’re going to write about. Now what?

This is when discipline is key. Recently PBS aired Hemingway, a documentary by Ken Burns. In addition to being perhaps America’s second literary treasure alongside Mark Twain, the documentary explored Hemingway’s talent and how disciplined he was when it came to writing. Now, he didn’t have to deal with a house full of children. His wife created a space for him to work. Find a way to create one for yourself.

https://stillachicklit.com/2021/03/13/writing-and-baking-to-find-my-creative-zen-place/

Just as your body recalls movements through muscle memory, your mind will do the same once you develop a routine. Design the routine around the time of day or night that works for you. Don’t try to make a schedule that doesn’t jibe with your internal flow. That’s a recipe for failure.

Once you have figured out the particulars of when and where you’re going to write, comes the hard part. You have to get others to respect your space. If you are like most women who lead full lives with spouses, parents, children, grandchildren, coworkers, bosses, friends, boyfriends, and partners, this may prove to be tricky. Writing is a very solitary thing and writers may be islands in and of ourselves, but it will take diplomacy to carve the time you need without hurt feelings.

When do you need a professional editor

If I had a nickel for every time someone said they were good in English, or had a relative who is an English teacher, or someone who reads a lot edit their manuscript, I’d be wealthy. The fact is there’s a difference between editors readers who edit (proofreaders)

What is an editor, copy editor, or proofreader?

An editor focuses on the meaning of your content. They focus on your writing to be sure your ideas are being communicated clearly. Editors ask the questions authors might forget to think about. Conversely, the also keep writers from inundating themselves with unnecessary lines of dialogue or description. They are all about the meat of the project

A copy editor proofreads text and corrects spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors. For nonfiction, they verify the factual correctness of the information, Additionally, they check text for style and readability.

Proofreading almost always happens for the final copy of the manuscript or proof. If you are still in the submission stage for agents or publishers, this is the person who makes sure the manuscript is clean. In every case, proofreaders do some light editing to be sure the final text is homogeneous.

I do encourage you to have people you trust read over your manuscript and give you some feedback. As writers, we are too close to the project. Therefore it’s hard for us to be objective. Another pair of trusted eyes is very helpful.

Ask yourself if you are one of the few, the brave, the non-onion skinned

A common anxiety dream is one where you walk into a public situation like work or a classroom naked. I don’t know anyone who would want to make that dream happen in waking life. However, writing is sharing a piece of yourself with others who may or may not understand. While it is true that everything is subjective, it doesn’t mean it won’t sting. Make sure you’re ready to hear criticism as well as compliments. Rejection and critiques are a part of any creative’s life. Some of today’s top selling writers faced their fair share of rejection and critical ire.

If you are ready to make your dream of writing the next great American novel, or a reference book that will launch you as an expert and raise your profile, then start writing. Good ideas are always welcome, but remember to try to strike a balance between persistence and patience. It will be worth it and I can tell you as an agent, it’s appreciated as well.

Want to learn more?

We’re beginning a series about writing on the Still A Chick-Lit podcast. A new episode will be available on May 3rd. Check back for updates. Email us with questions or ideas at stillachicklit@gmail.com

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This week’s bonus Baking, Blogging, and Writing recipe is Blueberry Streusel Muffins

Blueberry Muffins by Baking A Moment adapted by Chamein Canton

Streusel

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted (vegan butter)
3/4 cups all-purpose flour (gluten-free all-purpose flour, 1 to 1 gluten-free baking blend, sorghum flour, sweet or brown rice flour)
1/4 cup granulated sugar (Swerve sweetener, Splenda granulated, coconut, raw cane, or turbinado sugar, pulsed fine)
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 tablespoon lemon zest

Muffin

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (gluten-free all-purpose flour, 1 to 1 gluten-free baking blend, sorghum flour, sweet or brown rice flour)

1/2 cup granulated sugar (Swerve sweetener, Splenda granulated, coconut, raw cane, or turbinado sugar, pulsed fine)

1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted (unsalted vegan butter)
1/2 cup sour cream (Greek yogurt or buttermilk* can be substituted) (dairy; light sour cream, plain low-fat yogurt, Plain Greek yogurt) (non-dairy: almond, coconut, and soy milk yogurt)
1/8 cup milk (dairy: whole, 2%, 1%) (non-dairy: almond, soy, rice, or light coconut milk)
1 large eggs (2 tablespoons Aquafaba, ¼ cup silken tofu pureed with 1/8 teaspoon baking soda, 1 flaxseed or chia seed egg, or egg replacer)
3/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cups fresh blueberries (or 1 1/2 cups frozen wild blueberries)

Instructions

TO MAKE THE STREUSEL CRUMB TOPPING:

Toss the melted butter, flour, sugar, salt, and lemon zest together with a fork, until crumbly.

TO MAKE THE BLUEBERRY MUFFINS:

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F and lightly mist a muffin pan with non-stick spray.

Place the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl and stir with a whisk to combine. Set aside.

Whisk the melted butter, Greek yogurt, milk, eggs, and vanilla together in a large liquid measure until well incorporated.

Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry, and stir together with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon, just until ALMOST combined (you should still see streaks of flour).

Add the berries, and fold carefully. (Overmixing will cause the berries to bleed and the muffins to be tough.)

Divide the batter equally between each well of the muffin tin, and top with the reserved streusel.

Bake for 5 minutes at 425 degrees F, then turn the oven temperature down to 350 degrees F (without opening the oven door) and bake for an additional 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the thickest part of a muffin comes out clean.

  • Parenthesis- Ingredients are for substitutions to make the recipe gluten-free, sugar-free, no sugar, or vegan/dairy-free
  • This is a small batch recipe that makes 6 muffins
  • This recipe is easily doubled