Tuesday, June 14, 2011

In which I deliver a little slice of reality

I guess I should live up to my own blog name, huh? Last night I had a fabulous meeting with my critique group where we talked about our fears and concerns with writing, what we're struggling with currently, and our thoughts on pursuing publication. One of our group members began talking about her current experiences with querying agents (1 book to one agent, a different book to 2 agents). She recently heard back from the first agent on book 1 with a rejection. The agent's reason? She loved the book, though it was well-written and cute and funny, but she said rhyming picture books aren't selling. Because of this, my crit partner thought she shouldn't query anymore agents with that book.

Yeah. You read that right.

Let me be crystal clear: I don't know the agent she submitted to and I don't harbor any ill will toward her. She did exactly what a good business person should do - she evaluated the prospect and determined it wasn't a good one for her. It wasn't a personal attack, it wasn't mean-spirited or disrespectful, it was actually a very friendly rejection letter. And if you're reading this, you know the reality - we get rejected. A lot. It's like a speed dating exercise - you get one letter's worth of clever to convince someone to spend their time with you. It's difficult, and it's personal opinion, and it hurts.

But I was surprised that she would take one agent's opinion as fact. I've read about the tenacity of querying so many times that it's already ingrained in me, but watching my crit partner explain her reasonings I realized why all of those blog posts exist. I imparted all the wisdom I've gleaned from you, my wonderful bloggy readers - I told her she had to have enough faith in her work to feel confident that she would find the right agent for it. Only she can really know if she's ready - if her story is the best it will ever be - and a single agent's opinion of her odds in the marketplace can't be her reason for never sending out another query letter. She's a very talented writer - and I'm not just saying that to be nice, or because she's my crit partner and I don't have a choice, or because she bribed me to (although I do accept bribes, if you're offering). I say that because I would be heartbroken to see her give up the dream without putting everything she had into it.

So my slice of reality is this: you'll get rejected in life. Whether it's writing, dating, job interviews, a court case, your kid's concept of how cool you are, people will reject you. Life will reject you. Your own cells will sometimes reject you. That doesn't mean you stop loving what you do, or who you are, or where you're going. It means you learn that not everyone likes the same thing, and that's okay. Because someone will like what you do, just as much as you do, and that's the person you were meant to find all along.

That's my nice way of saying get over it and move on.


Tere Kirkland said...

Heh. And even when you get an agent, there will still be rejections. You know how many agented authors didn't sell their first book?

Even if you do need to give up on a story--eventually, after you've exhausted every option, gotten as much feedback as you can and worked on something else in the meantime-- it's not the end of the world as long as you keep writing.

I hope your crit partners knows how lucky she is to have you. :)


Here, here! Well said and spot-on. Publishing is so subjective. I was told this weekend at a writers' conference that collections of essays don't sell unless you're David Sedaris. If these agents were right, we wouldn't have "Chicken Soup for the Soul". Moral of the story is to honestly consider every bit of feedback from all sources. Then do what you know is right FOR YOU--and DON'T QUIT!

Jamie Burch said...

Very inspiring and a great reminder, Jem! Your a valuable friend and critique partner. Glad you were there with support and such important advice!

I'll keep this in mind. :)

Bethany Elizabeth said...

This is so true. Publishing is a very fluid business, and even if the market doesn't want a rhyming picture book right now - which shouldn't be assumed because of one agent, however competent she may be - that doesn't mean it won't be ready for it in three years. I never liked the idea of putting books away because of the market, not permanently at least.

Emy Shin said...

I adore this post so, so much.

I haven't entered the querying journey yet, but I have had my query briefly critiqued by an agent -- who mentioned that my premise sounds cool but way too complicated. It was a bit heart-breaking, and for moments afterward, I honestly thought about shelving the manuscript.

Sometimes, it's so difficult to NOT take one agent's words as law. But publishing is such a subjective business, and one rejection may be because of the rejecter rather than the rejectee.