Today I'm going to talk a little about my experience with being rejected by literary 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 this could help some writer out there in some way as they face the querying process.
To give you some stats as of today, 6/29/13:
12 for #IceEnchantressStory
46 for #PsychicStory
27 for #ChosenFourStory
~15 from publishers, 70 from agents
Requests for More Material
5 total (for #PsychicStory)
2 full manuscript requests
Revise & Resubmit
1 total (for #PsychicStory)
1 scam weeded out by P+E
1 promised post-R&R
Let's elaborate a little more on that. Eighty-five rejections is pretty legit, right? I think so. Do you want to know more about what they said? Well, unfortunately, I can't tell you that much, not only because I'm trying to be professional, but also because I didn't keep them. Any of them.
Yeah, you hear lots of stories about how different authors kept their rejections, put them on their walls, kept them in files. But most rejection letters are form letters. They express pretty much the same idea: "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 would like more personal affectations. Literary agents, though, argue that they don't have time to spend on that. 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 or something to fix, 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 okay 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 came through e-mail. Printing them out would have been ridiculous. And most notably, many rejections don't even come in a keepable form. 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 annoying. I 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 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. I know my writing wasn't ready yet. But why 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've spent all of my "career" so far as an advocate for young writers. This is an issue important to me, and yet, at least three of my rejections specifically said I could not be taken on because I was too young. That 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 #IceEnchantressStory queries were sent to publishers, as were a few of the #PsychicStory ones, before I figured out that most publishers--especially the big 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 I did the legwork. 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... I don't have the best 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 became obvious real fast, what with their oddly written letter and the random animated talking head on their website. Preditors and Editors, as I said, confirmed my suspicion, and from that moment on, I went to P+E before I sent out to any agent.
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. 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 when it's ready, you submit the full manuscript again to see if they accept it now. 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.
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. Nevertheless, 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. I kept saying over and over that yeah, I knew that. 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 #PsychicStory, and in those three chapters, I learned a whole 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 common to question what your agent is doing and that it's a thin line to walk, making the right critiques without straying too far from your vision, 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 then! 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 think.
In retrospect, I'm not sure how reputable she 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. I never had a phone call with the agent, she took a long time to reply to my e-mails, and though she let me talk to one of her clients, he came off a little weird himself in our interaction. That's 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. But I'm also glad it didn't go too far.
That's the summation of my querying story thus far! Here's to the future.
Why I Hate James Pat...
The Lesser Evil: Femi...
PTSD and The Hunge...
Guest Post: 5 Fandom...
My Mayo Clinic Experi...
My 25 Most Favorite S...