Friday 28 August 2009

Rejection is Hard

In all the books and websites dedicated to the daunting quest of seeking out and finding the right literary agent or publisher to suit your manuscript, it will tell you exactly what to do and how you need to do it: How to format and create a submission query or cover letter, a book blurb, a will even tell you the proper forms of etiquette that you must follow so you do not offend the prospective agent or publisher. All of this is backed up with a long list of reference materials, including publications from individuals with impressive credentials that you can source to help you on your way to becoming that next big name on the best-seller's shelf.

But when it comes to rejection, they glean over it with flowery words that hope to encourage you to 'chin up' and take it in stride. They tell you to use rejection as constructive criticism and not to take it personally because, remember, the agent or publisher wades through thousands upon thousands of submission queries. So, unless it is properly written (after all, you are supposed to be a writer and your words: shud reflekt yur wurk), or catches their eye, or holds their attention, they toss it in the slush pile, trash it, or reject it on the spot. So, don't take it personally.

Yeah, right!

Of course its personal! Your baby that you conceived, created, and gestated in your mind for long months - years, even - has just been told its ugly, the wrong sex, and probably born in the wrong place at the wrong time by the wrong mother and looks nothing like you. It's like getting the proverbial slap in the face as you blink in disbelief for several minutes while you read and re-read the extremely politely written rejection letter. In general, the most popular choice of words tend to be as follows:
'...We have received your query and first three pages of your manuscript and have reviewed it with interest. However, we regret to inform you that it is not what we are looking for at the moment but wish you every success in the future...'

Once the news settles in that you're still that same insignificant spunk bubble as you ever were, you draw out that long list of A-List agents and strike their names out in bright red ink...a little too roughly, but that's beside the point. All you can think of is the time you sat and wasted as you investigated each agent, seeking out which one was best suited to represent you and the genre of your book, reading their bios, the books they have sold to publishers, the agency's track record in the literary world... All of that time wasted!

Then, reality hits you and those annoying little encouraging words about keeping the chin up pops back into your head and you begin again.

And again...

When desperation hits after each new rejection letter or email, you begin trolling the websites of other authors - you know, those famous ones with the fleet of books tucked under their armpits that have been published by those prestigious publishers you can only dream of attracting. You read the snippets and tidbits of their early years, how they handled rejection, what they did to get through it. All it takes is one agent to have faith in you, to take a chance. You then begin to feel good again, motivated into going on.

By then, you have also re-read your manuscript twice and made more changes, hoping to lure the ever-keen eyes of an agent with your fantastic skills with the written word.

Then, the last query letter has been sent to the last name on your list of agents and the waiting game is over. You've followed all their guidelines, excluded those that do not accept multiple submissions (that's a tricky directive that needs more explanation since at first, I had not a clue what that meant), waited the required time (the usual 1-3 weeks or 1-3 months) before moving on to the next submission query. And still you've no agent who cares to represent you.

Against all your better judgment, you then create a list of prospective publishers and the whole process begins again. You tell yourself you don't need an agent, you can sell yourself just fine to any publisher out there. Boy, do you feel so wrong when the wave of rejection replies come in. But by then, you've become a seasoned submitter and you can whip up a cover letter with your eyes closed and rattle off a book blurb like a movie trailers' voice over. Rejection becomes a new tune, a background beat that keeps time with your daily creative routine.

And every-so-often, you hear the record screech off the track like fingernails on a blackboard and you look back at the vanity press option...

And go hmmm...

Thursday 27 August 2009

The Search Begins

So, spurred on by encouraging remarks, my next plan of action was to seek out agents, publishers or editors - or any one of them that would give me the time of day. All I needed, like every unknown writer of the No-Name Brand variety, was a foot in. Even a toenail would be nice. But because I was such a No-Name Brand with practically no experience whatsoever in the great big world of publishing, I did some oops' and oh-oh's.

I wouldn't so much as call them major oops, since having walked into it with my eyes wide open, I knew what to expect. Yes, like many, the temptation and the lure of self-publishing drew me in. But I have to admit, my experience with self-publishing or vanity publishers was not unpleasant at all. Aside from the fact that you had to pay them for services that traditional publishers would not even dream of charging the writer, the input and advice they offered me was invaluable. It made me look again at my manuscript with more scrutiny.

I re-read it and re-read it until I knew it by heart. Then I changed sentences, added more paragraphs, fixed grammatical errors, sentence structures and deleted unnecessary words and in some places, deleted entire paragraphs. I was now happy with it, but not sure I wanted to proceed with the whole self-publishing route. At the back of my mind, there was that niggling little voice that told me my work was not worth anything if I had to pay to have it published. So I went back online and scoured the networks for agents/publishers and or editors.

During the course of my quest, and might I stress that I concentrated mainly on the respectable and credible websites only, I came across a site called Preditors and Editors - P&E for short. Their site offered invaluable information and helped me to source many credible establishments. Then I hooked into, a forum-based site where writers can get together and share their thoughts, experiences, and aspirations with other like-minded people. Through them, I could then investigate each new agent/publisher via their Writer's Beware forum. It was like striking gold. Their knowledge and experience was invaluable! It was like having a fully-detailed map that took you to the end of the rainbow.

While keeping the option for self-publishing wide open (but the purse string tied tightly), I began my journey into the confusing realm of submission guidelines: query letters, synopsis, book blurbs and marketing strategies. For the better part of six months, my world revolved around creating the perfect query letter and synopsis after each submission was rejected. And with each rejection, you start to wonder if you've categorized yourself into the wrong genre, if the first three chapters were too dull, if you worded your query letter wrong, if, if, if...

As my list of literary agents who rejected me grew longer and longer and the agents left to tackle grew shorter and shorter, despair and dejection began to fester. I am sure I suffered as most new writers do when they start out. That thought alone would boost my spirits and once again, I'd plough on.

And on...

Self-publishing was starting to look really, really good...

Monday 24 August 2009

A Title is Born

Having a good title for your manuscript is everything!

It sells the book, it draws the reader to look at is the book. Giving the book a name is like naming your child (not that I'd know anything about that, but you get my meaning). And sometimes, its like naming your kid Cuthbert when clearly its Theopholus.

I remember buying so many books and being duped into it - solely because the name drew me in. What was on the cover belied its real name of Dull, Boring, and lets not forget: What The F Am I Reading? How many of us have gotten swindled that way?

And how many of us have found that perfect title to match that perfect book? I am hoping that my book is among those. In fact, what writer doesn't hope for that?

After writing the manuscript, I needed creative input - desperately. But not randomly. Since depending on my husband to read it was like depending on rain to fall in the desert - though I hear its been known to happen - I, instead, asked my friend who gave me that strategic kick in the first place to read it. However, her daughter used stealth tactics, grabbed it, and couldn't put it down. I remember feeling very happy about that - she practically raved about it. Talk about getting the right sort of inspiration to continue writing - and a little ego boost never hurt. With encouragement like that, public nudity didn't seem all that bad.

But the best part...she gave me the title! And so The Lancaster Rule was born.

I owe it all to her if the book sells on the name alone! Thanks J - you always rock!!

It was a fitting title, considering the content matter. Future fiction meets old world meets scary big bad world...I could go on but why spoil it, right?

I was happy with it. Very happy. And, it set the theme for the two future books I had planned on writing. Hence, The Master Key and The Eternal Knot were conceived in my already cluttered mind.

That aside, and ego nicely rubbed by J's rave reviews and - finally - my husband's (he didn't fall asleep!!), my next thing on the check list was: How to get it published?

Good question...

Thanks and back to the beginning

Hey to all who have joined me in my trek into the great big blogging and literary world. My thanks as well.

I need now to channel my random thoughts and form them into words that, hopefully, will hold your attention. A friend mentioned that I should write about the whole process of being published (I still can't say that without mentally jumping up and down and doing little restrained happy-dances) and everything else that comes with that. I suppose, that's a good enough start - and speaking of which, I would need to start at the very beginning.

Writing is something that I've always done - but never seriously thought about doing. It's like a very personal journey into yourself - and something very close to public exposure. Think running around naked in the middle of a crowded room and everyone seeing what you had for breakfast, lunch, and dinner - and that dessert you had two days ago. I never could get past the idea that if someone else read my work, they'd be walking around in my head rootling around and running amok in it. I'm not talking the mandatory works of literary masterpieces that you had to show your teacher...I'm talking those personal, brilliant sparks of light called walking into another world.

So, my random, half-hearted attempts at public nudity lasted for the better part of twenty-something odd years. And as each year passed and each new book was read, I kept thinking that I could do it too. And trust me, there were some books I read, not mentioning names, bored me to death and made me wonder how on earth it ever got published. So last year, when my desire to become an exhibitionist became so great, and to the blunt encouragement of another friend, i dived in and started writing. And writing...

Three months later, I had my first rough manuscript and I felt positively jubilant! All my half-assed attempts seemed to mould together to form into this one story. As I finished the last words in the last chapter, something repeatedly told me that I needed to needed a part two...and a three. In my mind, part two was already forming and the shadows of part three was coming together. The words trilogy kept nagging me. Before I could re-read what I had done, part two was already being birthed. I felt positively inspired! But I had to rein myself in and concentrate on getting part one ready for reading. My first draft was done a week later, printed off and presented to my husband for reading. He simply tossed it aside and said, "Yeah, okay."

I gaped in insulted horror as my manuscript plopped onto the chair with piles of clothes. But I was not deterred... My husband falls into the category of 'needs-book-to-fall-asleep' and I knew my book was not for the droopy-eyed.

It would be read!

Friday 21 August 2009

August 2009

Bear with me folks, I'm so new to this whole blogging thing but here goes...
For anyone who's interested, I've written a book (yay!!) called The Lancaster Rule. A sort of sci-fi romance deal - the first in a series of three. I've completed the second one but its yet to see the light of day as I hack through it once more. The third is half-way complete...but I'm getting ahead of myself. LR is expected to come out in the spring of next year. As things draw closer, I'll keep you all posted. For now, I guess, this will be called my intro into the great big world of blogging.