Thursday, December 29, 2011

AT: Hard Yet Encouraging Truths, Pt 1

Welcome to the inaugural edition of Agent Tweets, a weekly post that highlights and responds to
 publication-centric comments from agents and editors, gleaned on Twitter.

NOTE: I will not put up the names of said agents and editors, so don't ask who they are. 
The tweets posted here are indicative of what I am seeing across the spectrum.
These tweets happen to be the most compellingly worded variations. 


A few weeks ago I announced my intention to roll out this weekly review of revealing tweets from editors and agents, and received a tremendous amount of feedback. Based on your responses to the topics presented, I decided to begin our AT journey with the topic: "Hard Yet Encouraging Truths" for writers. I'm glad, because I think all of us not-yet-published writers could really use some encouragement right now - even if it stings a bit in the application.

So let's cut to the chase, shall we? Here is the first installment of at least two "Hard Yet Encouraging Truths" episodes for the would-be published author.

Hard Yet Encouraging Truth #1: Sometimes you still hook ‘em – even if you still get a rejection.

Sometimes when I am reading a ms, I know it will be a no but I still feel compelled to keep reading & see how it ends.

There really are times I stare at a query, totally on the fence, torn between rejecting and requesting. Make your query the BEST you can.// I just don't have the time to request everything that sounds "pretty good." I want projects that get me SUPER excted!

I find these two tweets to make interesting bookends. The second one addresses the query; the first one addresses the manuscript itself. This means that would-be writer #2 got as far as the query process and almost got a request for a full manuscript. Would-be-writer #1 did get the request for a full, and then the effort sagged.

Why this is hard: There's probably nothing more frustrating than knowing you "almost" had an agent hooked (which is probably one of the reasons behind form rejection letters).

Why this is encouraging: Both tweets indicate the book ideas were good, even excellent - just not compelling. But the very indecision of the second agent, and the fact that the first agent felt curious enough to read through to the end of an "okay" manuscript - such responses hint at manuscripts that, with a little hard work and meticulous revising, could go from "pretty good" to the "super excited" quality work they're looking for.

Bottom line: How to improve the manuscript itself is fodder for a thousand other posts, on this blog and elsewhere on the web. But the query? The secret to overcoming that obstacle lies in the second tweet - the urge to make your query the best it can possibly be. For more hints on how to manage that, you can visit Query Shark, Query Tracker, or this thread in which twenty potential queries were critiqued openly by an agent. (NOTE: This link will take you to the first entry; use the side menu to access the others.)

Hard Yet Encouraging Truth #2: There is life after failure.

Sometimes it takes a while to discover the story you're trying to tell. Sometimes it takes an entire failed book. Sometimes two. That's OK.

Persistence isn’t an issue when you’ve just started - it's needed after the 20th & 200th rejection

If you're struggling with rejection, repeat after me: I have what it takes, and will not be discouraged. People are rejected for many reasons//And as an an agent, ONE THIRD of my clients were rejected at one point.... by ME. They revised and wowed me with their work.

I'm rejecting a lot of really great manuscripts this week. Just because it isn't The One for me doesn't mean it won't find that perfect home

Why this is hard: Two failed books? 200th rejection? What? ....ouch. Just....OUCH.

Why this is encouraging: No one likes to be told up front that you might have to submit multiple bad books before unearthing your winner. Even more unsavory is the idea of getting 200 rejections without a single offer. Yet none of these agents (four different ones, by the way) say to give up after multiple flops, or 200 rejections. The fourth tweet, specifically, indicates that rejections are sometimes a matter of preference or situation - that they really are great manuscripts, but just haven't yet found the right home.

Bottom Line: The third tweet, I think, is the key. Therein lies buried four important steps for pushing past failure (real or perceived) and on to success:

     (1) Don't lose your vision, and don't get discouraged. This is easier said than done, but those who persevere are the ones who eventually see their work in print.

     (2) Remember that many factors may have played into your rejection. A rejection does not necessarily mean your work is inherently bad. It may be that it is an "out of season" text (more on that for a later Agent Tweets report). Perhaps that agent just signed someone else with a similar idea. There are other reasons, I'm sure. (NOTE: For more insights into the agent mindset, I would recommend following @agentgame on Twitter - they are an agent's assistant, but they often tweet valuable insights on the book agent industry.)

     (3) Rejection is an opportunity to grow, not to sulk. If I posted all the tweets about ill-mannered writers who responded to rejection emails with profanity-laced fury, you'd be reading from now to Easter. Dabblers throw temper tantrums. Writers recalibrate and act accordingly. And then they get published.

     (4) Sometimes you may still be accepted by the same agent - if you bide your time and do what is wise. Please note that agents generally will state specifically if they'd like you to revise your work and then resubmit. Make sure that you check submission guidelines for any agent you query.

Questions? Comments? Insights?
Feedback is appreciated!


  1. Great post! This series is going to be awesome. :-)

  2. Great idea and great post.

    I had a close call like in that first tweet. A super agent, and once of the first three I queried, went all the way to the full stage and was, according to her rejection, very torn on whether or not to offer. It stung, but I would trot it out and remind myself, in the coming months when I started piling up more form rejections and non-answers, that at least one person with a good eye had liked a lot of my book. If one person liked it that much, somebody else would too, and maybe somebody else would even love it.

    Nothing thickens your skin like rejection. When I started this game, I thought of myself as fairly thin-skinned. When it comes to rejection and critiques, though . . . not anymore.

  3. Thanks Joe - great insight! I'm rather dreading the query stage; I've only submitted a manuscript once, many years ago (fresh out of high school), got that first rejection notice, and haven't submitted since. Probably a good thing, in retrospect, as I think my current project is probably the first truly marketable idea I've had since; but it doesn't diminish the fact that I've got to grow a thicker skin for the query process. I know I do.

  4. This was really helpful and some great insight to share. I especially like the quote: "If you're struggling with rejection, repeat after me: I have what it takes, and will not be discouraged."