Keeping your eye on the “silver lining”

It’s normal to feel like one is sometimes on a figurative soapbox with whatever topic s/he is passionate about. My love will always be books. Doesn’t matter what format they’re in, when they were published, or what they’re about. Books are quiet little treasures, opportunitities & gateways to solitary moments (something we rarely experience).

Upon becoming an agent, one of the early requirements was being able to say “no.” Since no agent can give the necessary time and energy for every single project that comes his/her way. Plus there are only 24 hours in a day, it’s likelier that an agent will make better decisions if some of those hours are spent resting (vs. working all the time). As I’ve stated before, we can only take on a limited number of clients, as each of our authors deserve quality time and attention from us.

With the many book ideas I’ve turned down over the years, I’ve come to accept the occasional hate mail. People who take my rejections too personally, some who refuse to “accept” my response, name calling, accusations that I “don’t know anything about publishing,” and simply angry words. I’ve even gotten used to the people who’ve reminded me of how much they disagree with the rejection by requerying me again, hoping I won’t notice I’ve turned down the book idea before (btw, I will recognize it). Sadly several newer rejections have added a new “twist” to this conundrum, with a few authors sending MORE materials — stating that maybe I’ll change my mind after seeing them. I’m sorry that doesn’t work either.

However, there is a silver lining to this.  There are the authors who take a moment to think about rejections – why it happened, and what they can do in the future.

These writers will study my representative categories again, and usually realize my agency isn’t a good fit for their books.  Some will take a moment to peruse my website, and rework their ideas, as well as the method in which queries are sent out.  In the rare cases where I was able to offer advice, some authors will write back and give an update on their query process.  I like these updates, it gives me hope that at least my advice was considered, even for a few moments.

Here are three that stand out:

1. Approximately 5 or 6 years ago, I turned down an idea by a writer who was very much in the early stages of developing a writing platform.  He had a great idea, but alas it wasn’t a good fit for my list, especially with him needing to develop a readership.  I’ve now heard back from him two times since then.  He has embraced the process of building his platform, and loving it.    If anything, he seems happier.  And getting an update from him is always a treat.

2. Through Google Alerts (yes those of us in publishing use these), I learned that an author did a posting about the rejections he has received thus far.  Going to his site, I immediately remembered him, as we met through Twitter and  I made a point of giving some extra advice, once again something I don’t do very often.  On his blog, he stated appreciation for that advice, that it was one of the more detailed rejection letters received.  That he is now tweaking his idea and moving forward.  What a nice surprise to discover my inbox!

3. In November, a book arrived at my doorstep, from a fellow ‘Southern Belle,” whose idea I declined in 2008.  I had suggested she go the route of an indie publisher, in addition to taking the time to develop a larger writing platform.  It turns out her book WAS eventually published by an indie publisher, and that she has sold a nice quantity of books so far.  She’s loving the process of promoting her book, of meeting readers, and that she appreciated the advice and encouragement received in 2008.   Her positive energy about the query process was infectious, and I value the letter she attached with her book.  It goes in the folder of “letters worth saving.”   

These three individuals took their rejections and used them proactively.  They looked at the reasons for rejection, as well as the bigger picture of publishing, and have worked on developing larger writing platforms. 

Always remember:

1.  Rejections should never be taken personally.

2.  Consider why your book was rejected – Does the agency work with your book’s category? Is your platform still needing growth?  Are there other reasons? Take the time to mull over these things, ultimately it can be used to one’s advantage.

3. Embrace the process.  If you are going to query agents, who all have limited time and can only take a limited # of new clients, and this is already time consuming – also embrace the learning process when rejections come in.    This process can have a positive outcome, even if this means one writes an entirely new book that does in fact gain the attention of an editor or agent. 

Thoughts, comments?  Let me know what you think.