TODAY’S BREW: Target brand anything. It’s my favorite morning coffee.
This week begins the dreaded querying. This is the process by which a writer boils down the book they’ve poured their heart into for a bunch of months into a letter that is one part storytelling, one part ass kissing, one part making yourself sound like you somehow enjoy writing query letters.
Yet, this is not what writers seem to overall hate about querying. That actual letter, that is the thing that makes me cringe. For most others, it’s the inevitable wait of six to eight weeks as you watch a thousand other books be born, all to be told nine times out of ten (or more appropriately 59 times out of 60) that:
- while your storytelling is unique, I didn’t quite connect with the character
- the story seems too much like XYZ book
- in a crowded genre, the story and character would not stand out enough
- it sounds wonderful but isn’t the right fit for me at this time
- I wish you the best of luck
Rejection is the reason why writers generally hate querying. It’s disheartening to say the least. It’s not only a matter of “I didn’t like your book,” it feels like, “I don’t like YOU.”
I feel like a jerk saying that rejection doesn’t bother me. It really doesn’t and it never has since I began querying RUNNING HOME years ago. I’m not bragging. I hope to give you some of the same outlook for when you get that sonofabitching email in your box. This is my mindset:
I expect it. Rejection is part of the game. Just is. It’s low-level hazing. But know this as the rejections continuously roll in…..it only takes one agent to love it.
I wrote the strongest possible book I could write. This is more helpful when it comes to getting reviews. I just got a one star review a week ago. I harbor zero resentment. It wasn’t that reader’s cup of tea, but it is mine. If I wasn’t confident in my book, I’d hurt over every bad word said against it, but I love the book, know that it was the best book I could have put out then, and that’s why I write. Not to please everybody else. (Sorry, everybody else.) Now, when it comes to querying to agents, you really want them to love the book. Not just any ol’ reader but this specific person who you’re trusting with your life’s work. With that in mind, I submit the strongest book I can, and I listen to alllllll the feedback I can get. I take what works for me and I apply it. And what I don’t find useful for me, I discard. This isn’t a yes/no test. You won’t ever just GET IT RIGHT. There’s always something that can be tweaked in a concept, the delivery, the writing style….it’s evolution for every writer. But in the end, same rule applies…..the book is YOURS. Make it to suit you, nobody else. Be confident in what you’ve done and that means knowing when to listen to how it could be better as well.
Querying is a process of elimination. This is the most important element for me. This is the one thing I remember above all else, to the point now that I don’t have to remember it, it just IS.
MY BOOKS ARE COMING OUT. ONE WAY OR ANOTHER. REJECTIONS JUST MEAN THAT IT ISN’T THAT WAY WITH THAT AGENT OR PUBLISHER.
The agent is round one. If I don’t pick up an agent, or if I don’t find the right one for me, I go to small press. If I don’t find a small press (highly unlikely, as I love small presses and one in particular WINK WINK), I will self-publish. The book is coming out. All of the books.
BE DETERMINED TO GET YOUR BOOKS OUT WHEN THEY’RE UP TO YOUR STANDARD, AND REJECTION BECOMES PART OF THE PATH, NOT THE END OF IT.
Having an optimistic outlook doesn’t just mean that you think, “This is the agent that’s going to love me and they’ll land this publisher that I’ve wanted all my life and I’ll get the biggest deal and I’ll be on the red carpet in two years.” That’s the dream, and don’t get me wrong, LOVE THE DREAM. FANTASIZE ABOUT THE DREAM, STRIVE FOR THE DREAM. But I don’t make my dream my measure of success. If it happens, it will be the most lovely thing that I can ever, well, dream of. But success comes in steps and it comes in hard work. It comes with mistakes. It comes with burnt bridges. It comes with trouble and sadness and small victories and excitement and exhaustion. To me, success means I worked for it until I was absolutely satisfied with what I’ve made and I feel as though I’ve grown. Rejection can’t touch that feeling. The best part? You can feel that over and over and over again until you achieve the dream, or the dream changes.
Don’t reject yourself. Looking at that rejection letter, do not take the words “not for me” and make them in your tired little mind into “not for anybody.” Don’t turn “crowded genre” into “not a chance in hell, little person.” Don’t make “characters I couldn’t connect with” become “I couldn’t connect with YOU and nobody ever ever will.” Be honest with yourself IN BOTH DIRECTIONS….if the criticism is that the characters seemed one dimensional, ask yourself if it’s true for you. Do you think they could be deeper, really? If it’s not quite a standout concept, is there something you could do to make it MORE STANDOUT? But also, be honest in your own favor, too. Maybe the characters are deep enough by your standard. Maybe the concept is solid enough, and this just isn’t the right agent or publisher for you. Be a good friend to yourself. Be honest.
The triple bitch. I use this in everything that has to do with a book. IF I HEAR THE SAME CRITICISM THREE TIMES, I WILL FIX THE PROBLEM. If I hear it once, unless it really rings true, I don’t change a thing. I made the mistake before of listening to EVERY opinion and catered to them. It violated my honesty rule: I didn’t honestly think the changes made the book better and so I ended up going back to my original plan. And yeah, the majority can still be wrong, you could still feel absolutely the same about the way you did whatever the thing is that nobody likes. Again, be honest with yourself….would it hurt you to change it to be more appealing to the masses? Maybe. Maybe you want it your way and you’ll defend it. Or maybe it’s a little thing and if you change it, it might mean one less rejection and it didn’t affect the story or the characters for YOU in a bad way. I might be repeating myself here, but THE BOOK IS YOURS. MAKE SURE YOU’RE HAPPY WITH IT OR YOU’LL NEVER BE HAPPY WITH WHAT HAPPENS WITH IT.
Now get out there, writerlies. Be brave. Be ready. Be awesome.