On querying and rejection

Photo by Judit Peter on Pexels.com

So you’ve written your book, tidied up the grammar, fixed the plot holes and added some literary sparkle to catch an agent or publisher’s eye. What next?

Old hands at this game already know the answer to this one – established best-selling authors no longer have to concern themselves – for the rest of us it’s time to submit. Writers lucky enough to be represented by an agent will (or should) receive detailed feedback with suggestions that usually involve the dreaded editing and re-write. Then your work is sent off to carefully selected publishers who are in the market for whatever genre or style you have produced. If all goes well, an offer is received and you sign away your opus for money and fame. (Note: your financial advance comes out of predicted sales so expect anything between £100 and £1m. I’ve heard £10k is reasonable for a fairly new writer with potential but these figures will vary considerably). Do not expect to get rich on the back of your writing unless you’re a celebrity or incredibly lucky/talented.

Unrepresented mortals have to pitch to agents or a diminishing number of publishers accepting direct submissions – usually the first 3 chapters, synopsis, brief bio – and, if you’re lucky, you’ll receive a boilerplate response after a few months stating ‘a lot to commend but not what we are looking for at the moment’. In many cases you’ll hear nothing.

Agents/Publishers are busy people – I get that. They also drown under the weight of submissions so it’s not entirely surprising that rejections far, far outweigh any requests for the full manuscript. It’s also not surprising that the occasional gem slips past unspotted (at least, that’s how I like to console myself). What I would ask is that they respond to everyone, even if the local IT guru comes up with an auto response saying ‘keep at it’ or similar. It’s basically unprofessional to leave submissions hanging in the void and it’s not a difficult problem to fix. It also means they have more chances at receiving the book they’ve been looking for rather than have writers putting them in a no-go list. End of mini rant.

To précis, you can expect rejection more often than a request for more. That is only to be expected. How you deal with that is of more concern. The usual knock back contains no useful information that you can use to improve your skills. Again, perfectly OK. The publishing industry is a business and it is not cost-effective to provide every writer with a detailed critique. The key takeaway from this is to keep going.

Writing shares a lot of attributes with bread making. Take a disparate mix of ingredients, mix them together, give it time and then expect to have the hell knocked out of it. It’s a poor baker who throws the result into the bin at this stage. There is a caveat though, and that’s to appreciate when you need to give up and try a different recipe and method.

Slightly more depressing is when you’ve had your full request declined. Hopes have been raised, so as the writer you’ve further to fall, but like the trapeze artiste you have to climb back up and perfect your art as best as you can.

That’s it, in the end – you can only do your personal best. If people like what you do – then it will sell. Yes, you can improve. You can learn techniques, style, plotting, characterisation etc and see for yourself how other writers tell a story. If writing makes you happy then you’re already winning. Sales are great, good reviews can lift you but write because it’s what you want to do – and don’t let anyone stop you.

What about the bad reviews? My own approach is to look at the average, on Amazon or Goodreads, and use that as an indication of how well/badly my work has been received. Bad reviews can come for many reasons, not necessarily connected with your writing. If they come with a written review then you have a chance to learn from them, if not then I think they’re best ignored.

Happy writing!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create your website with WordPress.com
Get started
%d bloggers like this: