Well it’ll be the last rejection for a while at least.
Today I got the form rejection letter from the last agent I queried. I’m not going to query again straight away. I know that the standard advice is to query 100 agents and not to start panicking about your work until you’ve been turned down at least 80 times but I’m not sure there are 80 agents representing Urban Fantasy in the English speaking world. Good agents, anyway. And what’s the point in pissing off potential agents by querying them with a broken novel?
I don’t know if my novel is broken. I’ve had conflicting feedback. I need to think about it for a while. I probably need to sell a kidney so I can afford a development editor to tell me what’s wrong with it.
Or I could stick the whole thing out somewhere for free. Give up on the idea of ever earning anything back for my effort.
Or I could give up on it. Just stick it in a virtual drawer and try something else. I really don’t want to do that because I have plans for the characters and for the world. I have other novels that I’m working on that are linked to it. I wouldn’t just be giving up on that one story but on literally dozens of others.
At the moment I’m trying to work on one of the other stories in the hope that I can pitch that as the first in the series instead. If that one doesn’t work there’s maybe one more that I could use as the starting point but it’s a lot more work and maybe the whole thing is just doomed. Maybe these are stories that would never sell.
Perhaps it’s presumptuous to assume that there is a solution. That would be to assume that I can succeed at something and so far there’s no evidence to support that assumption. I’m not going to stop writing. I have to fill my time somehow. But I might give up on the idea of trying to get anyone else to read what I write.
Yesterday I posted about my latest rejection from an agent. It never gets any less painful but I did manage to query the next agent on the list before the day was out.
I don’t know how many more times I can manage to query. There is a finite number of agents in the world and eventually I will run out. I’m also running out of fucks to give and it’s starting show in my query letters. Is there any point in sending a query if the letter is only going to piss off the person reading it.
The latest submission included the following paragraph:
You’d probably like working with me. I’m funny, hard working and resilient. Also my life is just so horrifically awful that it will make you feel great about your own life in comparison. I know this isn’t the sort of thing I should put in a covering letter but this way I can blame your inevitable form rejection on my terrible letter and not on the novel. Which is great.
That’s not going to help but I I no longer believe that there’s any point in trying to get an agent. I’m just doing it because that’s the path I’m on. I’m querying the next agent on the list because I don’t know what else to do.
I’m trying to change course. It feels like trying to turn a supertanker against a strong current and a high wind. I’ve been working on another novel so that I can start querying that but I’m starting to feel like that’s pointless too. I’m trying to get up the enthusiasm for the move to self publishing. Once I’ve found the enthusiasm I’ll have to find the money.
Anyone need a kidney?
And so we close out the year with another email from an agent who isn’t passionate enough about my novel to represent it. More than a year of querying and I haven’t even got a detailed rejection yet.
I know that there are famous writers who got rejected a lot before they got their first agent/publisher. I also know that there are a lot of deluded people sending terrible novels to every agent and publisher on the planet and wondering why no-one is backing a dump truck full of money up to their house to publish it. It’s getting harder to believe that I’m in group one and not group two.
From here I think there are three options. Keep querying this novel in the hope that further down the list there might be an agent who’d be interested. Give up on this novel for now, finish something else and query that. Give up on traditional publishing and self publish it.
There are problems with each of these options. I’ve already queried most, maybe all, of the agents who’d actually be interested in such a weird novel. It’s the first in a series and most of my other novels are in the same story universe. If I can’t interest people in the first one they’re unlikely to care about the rest. I really don’t want to self publish and once I’ve self published the first in a series I’m unlikely to find representation for the rest unless the first one is a huge success. I don’t have the resources to ensure that success.
Am I nuts? Could it be that I’m just not very good at writing? Are my novels bad? Have I been deceiving myself? How do you know if your novel is bad?
Check out the new theme. I liked the old look but I felt that it was a bit bare bones now that more people are visiting and I have multiple pages. I’ve also updated the About page since I think it’s more likely that people will visit it with the new layout.
In other news I sent off another query email. Since that’s almost certain to fail I’ve lined up the next Agent that I will start procrastinating sending a query to just as soon as the current one emails my rejection. It’s important to chain your rejections for maximum damage. I swear this paragraph made sense in my head.
NaNoWriMo is almost upon us and I really haven’t done enough prep. I’m about to spend a couple of days in Edinburgh with my Mother, which is great, but it does get in the way of the traditional last minute scramble of outlining and research. It could turn out to be useful since the story is partly set in Edinburgh. I just have to remember to take lots of photographs.
I got the form rejection email today from the last agent I queried.
Once again I find myself asking if I’m mad to even try to find an agent. Even if the novel is as good as I think it is that doesn’t make it sellable. If no-one knows how to market it no-one is going to want to publish it. If no-one is going to want to publish it why would an agent want to represent it?
I am so bad at dealing with rejection and I’m not going to get better at it. As I said previously this is just the way I’m made. I’d give up on the dream of publishing if I could think of anything else to do but I just don’t have any other saleable skills. Writing is starting to look like just another one of my non-saleable skills.
It doesn’t matter how good you are at something. If no-one wants to pay you to do it then it’s not a sustainable life choice. I can’t afford for writing to be just another one of my hobbies and I can’t stand putting all that work into something that no-one will see. I don’t want to die knowing that all I did with my life was to occupy the time between cradle and grave.
Last year I took part in a pitch event at Xponorth in Inverness. I only sent in the initial submission as an exercise in getting used to rejection. I was surprised to be selected to pitch and and even more surprised at how well it went. I was shocked and stunned to be asked for a full manuscript by a publisher. It didn’t work out but that is the lot of the writer.
Next month I am getting back on the pitching pony again. A friend (Vanessa Robertson) bugged me into applying for Pitch Perfect at Bloody Scotland. It’s kind of a big thing. It’s been going for years. People have been published as a direct result of it. I got a phone call today (Thursday) saying that I’m pitching.
I just hope that my weird novel doesn’t piss off a panel that’s looking for the next big thing in crime fiction.
Yes it’s another post about rejection. If I have to suffer through multiple rejections so do the rest of you.
One of the problems with making any kind of art is that the maker is usually too close to it to tell if it’s any good. So you need to look to others for feedback. But if other people don’t like it then it might be because this is not the sort of thing they like or it might be because your art is not very good. And if they do like it then they might be lying, or have terrible taste or low standards.
I know that some of the things that I like are not very good. There are some films that I’m very fond of that are clearly terrible examples of film making. I also know that there are other things that I don’t like that are clearly very good. I can’t stand the UK version of The Office. It just makes me cringe but I can tell that it’s good.
So when an agent tells me that they didn’t find the concept of my novel compelling enough that leaves me with three options:
- This is not the sort of thing they like – nothing I could have done would have made them like the novel.
- The concept of the novel is bad and the novel cannot be saved – nothing I can do will make any agent like the novel.
- I have failed to properly explain the concept of the novel. The concept is fine I’m just shitty at writing query letters etc.
My instinct is that the concept is awesome but weird and I’m not very good at explaining it. I think that, judging by the other authors represented by this agent, it’s probably not option 1.
I’m dreadfully afraid that it’s option 2. I’ve invested a lot of time into this novel and its sequels. What if it’s just not very good? What if the underlying concept upon which I’ve built an entire series is just terrible and I’m too close to it to see? How would I know?
The whole thing makes me feel like I’ve been presumptuous. How dare I think that I have anything interesting to say? How dare I think that anyone professional would be interested in my shitty little stories?
I can’t be the only writer to feel this way. I just wish there was some way to turn off the internal monologue that is now telling me, over and over again, that I’m an idiot.
Years and years ago I thought the hardest part of being a writer must be coming up with the ideas. The truly good ones seemed to be so few and far between and how could you ever think up a whole plot and find names for characters and places. Invention seemed like a superpower. I thought that once you had a really good idea the actual writing must flow quite easily.
Later I realised that the hardest part of being a writer must be writing that first draft. Overcoming that fear of the empty page. Daring to risk your ideas not coming out the way you imagined. I thought that once that first draft was over the editing and the polishing must be relatively easy. After all the work was mostly done.
Then I realised that editing both sucks and blows and that you can’t even start polishing until you’ve done all the re-writing. Oh God, the re-writing. Ideas are easy, writing the first draft is fun, editing is like being beaten to death with your own manuscript. But once the thing is done you just have to send it out. How hard could that be?
Turns out – really fucking hard. First you have to find agents/publishers that are willing to admit to an interest in whatever weird combination of genres you’re writing. Then you have to come up with a synopsis of the right length and an extract of however many pages they like in whatever format they prefer. Sometimes they want a CV. And they all need a covering/query letter. How the fuck do you write those? Why can’t I just say “Here’s my novel. I worked really hard. You’ll like it if you like the sort of thing that it is.”?
By now you maybe noticing a pattern. If I ever do attract an agent then it’s going to turn out to be just the start of my troubles. Because here’s the biggest secret about writing. The hardest part is always the part you are doing right now or are about to begin doing. The easy parts are always the part you’ve just finished or the part that’s so far off in the future that it might as well be on another planet.
After waiting for what seems like years I finally received a rejection e-mail from one of the agents that I sent the finished novel out to. I don’t know if you can tell but I’m feeling a lot less enthusiastic about this rejection. Maybe it’s harder to deal with rejection when you’re in the throws of planning a new novel?
Or maybe it’s just the knowledge that there’s going to be so many more. I know that not everyone can like everything. I know that my writing is weird. But I also know that I’m writing for a niche market that’s already overcrowded with authors and under-represented by agents.
Or maybe I’m just not very good? I’ve got no way of knowing. I’m the worst person to judge my own work, every writer is. I think my prose is strong and my plot is compelling but of course it seems that way to me. For all I know the plot is completely incomprehensible to anyone who doesn’t already know what it is?
Or maybe I’m just not persuasive enough? Agents are busy. I can’t guarantee that the agent even read the whole submission. They might have taken one look at my query letter or my synopsis and just decided that I was clearly either a lunatic or a hack.
Or maybe I am both a lunatic and a hack.
So the “getting used to rejection project” which started back in May has finally come to fruition. The agent got back to me. He wanted my novel for a particular publisher that, as of two weeks ago, decided they were only looking for straight crime series novels and romance. He’s working full time for the publisher and can’t spare the time to represent me.
I have to say I am surprised by my own reaction. I’m really not particularly upset about it. I’m a little upset about having to write more fucking query letters. I’m a little upset about having to tell people who were rooting for me. I’m really not looking forward to telling my Mother because she will surely launch into another conspiracy theory about how he was only after my manuscript to steal my novel.
In a bizarre turn I’m slightly pissed off to have got the bad news so quickly. Could he not have waited for me to finish tidying the house? Now I have to use my precious spoons to chase up agents and write query letters rather than clean the house.
Well I say I’m not particularly upset but I went out this afternoon and bought (amongst other things) loads of ice cream and crisps and then came back and had to lie down for two hours but that’s probably unrelated.