Today I'm going to talk a little about my experience with being rejected by agents and publishers. To keep it on the professional side I won't name any specific group or give actual text from letters. But I figure it has to help someone to know about the process during the submission period.
To give you some stats as of today, 6/29/13:
12 for THE ICE ENCHANTRESS'S PLOT
46 for THE PSYCHIC STORY
27 for THE CHOSEN FOUR (ON THE DAWNING)
~15 from publishers, 70 from agents
Requests for More Material
5 total (for THE PSYCHIC STORY)
2 full manuscript requests
Revise & Resubmit
1 total (for THE PSYCHIC STORY)
2 total (agencies)
1 scam weeded out by P+E (since then, I've checked before sending out)
1 conditional on R&R (didn't pan out)
Cool story, right? Well, let's elaborate a little more on that. Eighty-five rejections, that's legit, right? I think so. Do you want to know more about how they were? Well, unfortunately, I can't tell you that much about what the actual text says, not only because I'm trying to be "professional", but also because I didn't keep them. Any of them.
Yeah, I know. You hear lots of stories about how different authors kept records of their rejections, put them on walls, kept them in files. But the things is, most rejection letters are the same: form letters. They all say pretty much the same thing: "We're sorry, but we cannot accept your submission at this time. Good luck with your further endeavors."
This is a pet peeve of many writers, who want more personal affectation. Agents, though, argue that they can't spend all the time on personalizing letters. They have a point, honestly, and I think it's easier just to have it said and done. When someone actually adds something, something they liked, something to fix, or speak in a way that seems more kind or open, it's really quite nice, of course. I've gotten a few of those letters, but only a few. It's easier for agents to just say "Nope." And I'm OK with that... except for when they send the "nope" letter a day after you sent the query. Then it just feels rude.
Another reason why I never kept the rejections is that the majority of them have come through e-mail. Printing all those out would have been ridiculous. And most notably of all, many rejections don't even come in a form that can be "kept." Many are the kind where the agent/publisher doesn't reply at all. I call that an "OIL" rejection. "Only If Liked" will they reply. Those are honestly annoying. I can see why they have to do that, but it's awful to wait around for weeks or months only for nothing to come.
The worst rejection letters I've gotten, however, were the ones where they insulted my age. Yes, when I began sending out, I was twelve. I don't blame them for rejecting me. But why (and this happened for years) did they find it necessary to outright tell me I was too young to be published? It's not true. Young writers get published. Rarely, but it happens. I spent all of my childhood in my writing career as an advocate for young writers, for our publication and acceptance and growth. This was an issue completely vital to me, and yet, at least three of my rejections specifically said I could not be taken on because I was too young. Not because my writing was bad, but because I was young. That hurt, and it made me mad.
I would like to note that when I started out querying, I didn't understand the concept, let alone the importance, of a literary agent. All 12 of the TIEP queries were sent to publishers, as were a few of the PS ones, before I figured out that most publishers--especially the major ones--don't look at your work unless you're represented by an agent. I did follow the guidelines on the websites and I figured out how to write a query and everything. I can't say it was a good query, but I did the legwork. Again, I might have been young, but I was serious about this, and I was doing my best to do it right. I think I deserved to be treated as such.
But to move on to my requests... yeah, I don't have a fantastic rate there. Although it's gratifying to see that the book where I got the most rejections is also the one with the most requests. Bigger numbers gives you bigger odds, right? Anyway, requests for more material, especially full manuscript requests, are exciting. It means you've broken through a little. But they, too, lend themselves to rejection...
Once, I was accepted by a scam company. That got obvious real fast, what with their oddly written letter and the random animated talking head on their website. Preditors and Editors, as I said, ultimately revealed that one, and from that moment on, I went to P+E before I sent out to an agent.
Then, another time, an agent "accepted" me on a conditional basis, which basically lent itself to what's known as an R&R, or revise & resubmit. Basically, we went back and forth on editing, with her sending me a chapter at a time to edit based on her suggestions. Now, the whole thing was a little wonky. Usually R&Rs are for the full manuscript all at once--they tell you changes they want to see, and you do it all (usually across the span of at least six months), and when it's ready, submit the full manuscript to them again. In this case, we were editing chapter by chapter, and the agent told me that she would accept me--she just wanted to make sure I was capable of handling critique.
You see, I was fifteen at the time. Now, maybe it's just me (I am only nineteen now), but that doesn't seem so young to me. I mean, it's young, but it's not young, like when I started. But the agent kept telling me over and over that editing is hard, that she would be ripping into my writing and asking me to change things. And I kept saying over and over that yeah, I knew that, what did she think I thought would happen? I'd been in a critique group for over two years at that point. I'd edited and sweated and worked and blah blah blah over my novels. I knew how it worked. I was a professional, even at fifteen.
We edited three chapters of THE PSYCHIC STORY, and in those three chapters, I learned a whole freaking lot--that Mandy needed more depth and voice, that you're not supposed to use the Tab key in manuscripts, and most of all, that I have serious passive voice problems. The word "was" is my enemy. I learned that it is very common to question what the heck your agent is doing, because you feel like they're destroying your artistic point. And I learned that it's a thin line to walk, but an important one.
Then the agent stopped replying to my emails. I waited a long time--maybe longer than I should have--but I finally moved on and started sending out to other agents again. It wasn't until this year that I discovered her agency had closed. Nice of her to inform me, although, to be fair, we didn't have an actual contract yet. Still, basic etiquette would call for it, I'd think.
In retrospect, I'm not sure how reputable that agency was, and I'm glad we never got to the contract stage. The agency didn't have any bad marks on Preditors and Editors, but it didn't have any good marks either. The website was a little weirdly built, and the way she "accepted" me is sketchy--although it could have been much worse. It's not like she got anything out of it. Plus, I never had a phone call with the agent, she took a long time to reply to my e-mails (until she finally stopped), and though she let me talk to one of her clients, he came off a little weird himself in our interaction. Not to mention the whole agency-shutdown and not-telling-me thing. I am grateful for everything I learned through that experience. It really helped me to improve my writing, especially when it comes to the passive voice. But I'm also glad it didn't go to far.
So that's the summation of my querying story thus far! Here's to the future.
Cheers. Come back next time for our humor post!
I'm an unpublished novelist, primarily of YA fantasy, and a freelance editor. I love psychology, cats, social justice, and love! I'm also a huge fangirl. Basically, stories are my life.
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