I didn’t think anything could feel as rewarding as writing the words “THE END” on my manuscript, but sending out my first queries was right up there with it. I picked out my top two favorite agents (just in case one of them decided to pass on my submission though why would they when my entire family loved it!) In their websites, the agents mentioned that they get tons of submissions every month, so to make mine stand out, I copied and pasted little red hearts all around my query letter before hitting “send.” That first day, I sat at my computer, waiting for the acceptances to fly in. At midnight, with my eyes a bit crossed, I staggered to bed. The agents were probably out of town or busy signing contracts. Surely, tomorrow would be a better day. I set my alarm for five o’clock.
A week later, I received both rejections. AAARRGGG! The following day, I went to our critique group meeting and learned a few things about submitting, so I devised a new strategy:
1. No hearts around the query.
2. No mention of family, friends, neighbors or pets loving my novel.
3. Keep it to one page (I guess I’ll have to cut out the whole part about the prize I won in fourth grade for my short story on slugs).
4. Include a very brief synopsis about my story (which I’ve learned is harder than writing the whole dang novel!)
5. Send out more than 2 queries. Using resources the group suggested like Writers Digest, Publishers Marketplace, and agentquery.com, I made a list of agents that represented stories similar to mine, and this time I’m sending out a few more, like maybe 50.
6. I found out that there are good rejections and bad rejections. I know, how can a rejection be good? It turns out that the worst kind of rejection is where you don’t get any response…ever…from the agent. Almost as bad is when you get an automated response which basically means that they had absolutely no interest in any part of your submission, but took the time to push a few buttons on the computer. Things begin to look up when an agent actually sends you a personal letter, telling you why they are rejecting your novel (at least then you know what didn’t work for them and what might need some revision). The best rejection is the one where they actually say they like your manuscript, and offer to look at it again if you’re willing to work on some things.
By the time I left the meeting, I’d managed to lift my chin a few inches above the floor. I’d learned more about rejections, like the fact that they aren’t unusual, and in fact, nearly every successful writer has had to go through them. There’s one thing I’m very worried about, though. If two rejections nearly crippled me, what will 50 do?
Oh, and I learned one other thing…submitting is HAARRDD!!!