Category Archives: querying process

Subjectivity isn’t code for ‘you suck!’

You know all those form rejections that talk about how subjective the publishing business can be?

You know the ones: They’re the short-but-sweet notes that remind querying authors to query widely because what’s not a specific agent’s cup of tea may well be another agent’s dream come true. Now, I don’t know about other folks, but my mind tends to just skim through all those semi-encouraging words and fixate on what my stupidly fragile artistic ego considers the bottom line (never mind what my rational self tells me about subjectivity and personal taste and blah blah blah…) Point being: When I see those rejections, all I read is, “We don’t want you. This is a form rejection and it could well mean we think you suck. In fact, yes, you probably do suck. Please go away now.”

Well, today I had a lesson on how stupid that frame of mind truly is. First thing in the morning, I got a personalized rejection on a requested partial. While I really appreciated the brief, but thoughtful personalization, and could even kinda tell where the agent was coming from, it still stung a little, because of all the work that’s already been poured into my little book. She did add that her take on it was probably just her own opinion/taste (I’m paraphrasing), but in usual Gloria-fashion, I barely paid attention to that disclaimer.

I went off about my day, thinking I could definitely work a little more on the book to address Ms. Agent’s concerns, even though I had already done JUST THAT two weeks ago (I did offer Ms. Agent an updated manuscript, since she had a slightly older version, but she didn’t seem interested). Still, I thought even the updated version could use more work, right? After all, this is “only” Draft Eight we’re talking about here (Ms. Agent’s opinion referred to Draft Six, in case anyone’s wondering). My thought was (is) no manuscript is ever truly, truly in final form, is it? I bet even after some books hit the shelves, their authors are still stuck in the “I should’ve done/not done that there!” once in a while. But I digress…

My point is, I went about my morning thinking I could either address the shortcomings according to Ms. Agent… Or I could just throw in the towel, declare The Experiment a soul-sucking failure of epic proportions, and resign myself to a life of frustrated dreams because–you know, I suck and all that. Right?

So, while those thoughts wrestled in my mind, I took The Lab for her morning walk, then drove her to the vet for her annual check-up, had lunch, got another form rejection on query only (no pages)…

And then, lo and behold… What should arrive in my inbox as I ate a grilled cheese sandwich and pondered the future (or lack thereof) of my writing career? TWO full requests. TWO. Both based on submitted partials–one on the older (Draft Six) version Ms. Agent had just rejected; one on the stronger, better (IMHO), Draft Eight version. Both spoke about intriguing beginnings and cool language and imagery–the very things Ms. Agent flagged as unappealing to her.

Conclusion: Yes, subjectivity is not just lip service. It happens. Some people like flowery language. Some people like short, snappy sentences. Some people love descriptions. Some want to jump straight into the action. Some need a bit more setting right off, or an immediate emotional connection with a character. Others love words and imagery and poetry.

Someone once said that becoming a traditionally published author is 1/3 talent, 1/3 hard work and 1/3 luck. And the longer I’m immersed in this process, the truer that rings.

Now I just hope my luck is finally starting to pick up. It does only take one ‘yes.’


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I’d say it’s time for our quarterly report… erm… post… But that might imply there’s some sort of regularity, rhyme and/or reason to my posting (or lack thereof) on this blog.

Still, it having been four months or so since my last update, I figured it was about time to check in with news… Except there aren’t any, other than I’m exhausted, and emotionally/psychologically drained thanks to the brutal cycle of querying-and-rejection.

Warning: This is a rant. The whine-minus-cheese kind. If you’re not up for it, I urge you to leave while you still can. If you’re brave enough (or curious enough) to keep reading, I recommend popcorn, dark chocolate or your choice of alcoholic beverage. Heck, have all three. God knows I might.

Did I think I was going to have insta-success in publishing, back almost a year ago now, when Wonderful Husband and I decided I should take some time off work to focus on my writing?



The truth is, shopping around my current young adult novel is not my first rodeo. Not exactly. A few years ago I finished, revised, beta-ed, re-revised and submitted a sprawling historical novel which is currently shelved in the ‘to be reworked someday’ section of my hard drive. Back then, I had no idea of the dismal odds for a debut author to be able to entice an agent in this day and age to read (let aloneĀ represent) a 120,000-word manuscript. Yes, you read correctly: 120,000 words. And that was heavily edited already, because originally, that puppy clocked in at just over *mutters* xxx,xxx words. Ahem. Let’s just say it was almost twice as big as its current size. So, after a few form rejections (and a lot of research on the publishing industry), I decided to shelf the mega project temporarily.

So I knew about rejection. And I knew one hell of a lot more than when I started shopping around the monster manuscript.

So when I decided to start a brand-new project, I went in with eyes wide open. I took my time. Came up with an idea. Developed it. Self-edited. Had an alpha reader go through it. Revised. Shelved to gain some distance. Re-revised. Shelved to gain distance again. Had several beta readers go through the latest version. Revised. Revised. Revised. Polished to a friggin’ shine.

In the meantime, a lot of life stuff happened, crowding my life so much (in a good way), that I found myself unable to devote the time, energy and effort that serious writing required. Enter The Experiment–or what I like to call my Writing Leave, in which with all the support of Wonderful Husband, I have the opportunity to take at least two years off the day job to focus on my personal goals. Namely, to see my name in print.

Did I think I’d just finish my “last” round of revisions, submit and get an agent within two weeks/months? Nope. I might have thought so back when I finished my original mammoth historical, but not this time. From my previous experience (and the still dismal odds), I knew it was going to be hard. I expected rejection–plenty of it. I expected it so much, at first it didn’t really bug me all that much. I workshopped my query letter, revised, re-workshopped, came up with a few alternative versions. I figured, eventually, at the very least, I’d start getting some sort of personalized rejections–something that would at the very least hint at what I was doing wrong, so I could have something to puzzle over and have a fighting chance to fix. After all, more often than not, I took pains (and tons of friggin’ time) to research potential agents well, painstakingly personalizing every query letter. Innocently, I thought it would be just a matter of time before someone would reply in kind and a personalized rejection would hit my inbox.

To date: NADA. That’s querying from April – June, halting to re-workshop a new version of my query, and restarting in August.

We’re talking about hours upon hours upon HOURS of work here, from idea, to draft, to revised draft after revised draft after revised draft, for both the manuscript and the query letter(s). Then more hours upon hours upon HOURS researching potential agents, making sure they sound like a good fit for myself and for my book.

And what have I got to show for it?

Form rejection galore–from the super nice ones, to the ‘go away’ equivalents, to the deafening silence of the non-responders.

Partial requests? Three. One was form-rejected, two are still out there, weeks later. I will be nudging on those, because they were both requested at a conference, but at this point, I swear I’m no longer holding my breath.

Forums and Twitter feeds and success stories all over the Internet say to not get discouraged, to never give up, to keep writing. I’ve been trying desperately to follow this advice, but the truth is, I’ve finally hit the point of utter exhaustion.

Since I started querying what is actually the first in a young adult trilogy (heavily tailored to stand on its own), I’ve finished drafting the last book in that series. It’s still very, very, extremely rough, but it’s there. I also started a brand-new, completely unrelated project, too. So, yes, I’ve made a point of keeping writing. But lately, I find that I sit in front of my computer, and even though I kind of sort of already know the story in my head, the words are just not coming.

The truth is that, no matter how much I get a kick out of playing with words, how much I love making stuff up and developing characters that start to feel real in my head… It’s really hard to carry on when you don’t have even the slightest hint of validation coming your way. And note that, at this point, I’m not even talking about The Offer. I’m just plain aching for just a personalized rejection. Something that says to me, “your idea is cool, but work on the writing” or “your writing is good, make it great” or ANYTHING, really–even a “I can’t sell this. It’s maudlin/over-written/wordy/too voicey/not voicey enough/fill in the blank.”

Thing is, I know I can write. I did make my living at it for almost a decade. And if I, my past employers and recent beta readers are wrong and my writing, in fact, sucks, it would be nice to know and figure out how to fix it. But you can only fix something so much when you don’t even know what’s wrong anymore. It might be the idea/concept. But, again, I’m just guessing here. I mean, I think my concept solid, taking a known theme in a completely different direction. (I know it’s different, because I made it up. Also, I read a lot and I know there’s nothing quite like it in the market right now.) I’ve tried about a gazillion different things to highlight to make the query stand out. Clearly, not one of said gazillion things is working, because, beyond the silence, all I keep getting is form rejections. So maybe I’m wrong and the concept sucks. Again, just taking a wild guess.

So, now I’m at the point of not really knowing what else to do. I will continue querying with bettered and modified query letters for a little while longer, but at the end of the day, I’m starting to seriously consider self-publishing–not because that’s what will be best for my book (or for me), but because it increasingly seems like the only viable answer. And while not ideal, what’s worse? Having my characters just languish in my hard drive after all the hours of work and all the heart I’ve put into their story? Or send the book out into the world, even if it has to go all alone, with no one but myself to champion its cause?






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The non-writing part of writing

And so. The dreaded, soul-wrenching, ego-flattening, must-not-despair phase of this writing biz is upon me.

Welcome to the Querying Phase.

Beware: This is not for the faint of heart. Or the large of ego. Or the thin of skin.

Enter at your own risk.

Quite honestly, if I could skip this phase altogether and just magically have my book published and making me just enough of a living that I never have to work full-time in an office again… Well, you get the idea… If I could skip this all, I would. There are few things I can think of that are more terrifying and potentially dream-crushing. Rationally, I know the rejections will come and that’s ok. Because my book will not appeal to everyone. And, again, that’s ok. To each his own. On to the next one. Etcetera.

The thing is, while I know all this through Reason, I know myself, and I know that once those rejections start trickling in, it’s going to be really effing hard to keep myself motivated, focused. And not depressed. While rationally I’ll just do my best to plod along, I know that inside, my self-confidence will be taking quite the pummeling.

And while I tell myself over and over and over again that Plan B does not carry the stigma it once did, I hope hope hope I don’t have to use it. Hope that the right agent sees my query at the right time and I don’t need to use Plan B to get my work out there. Enough time and soul has gone into it and I just refuse to just let it fester in my hard drive, I’ll do what needs to be done… But it’s early times yet.

For now, I’m just starting to send my bookbaby into the world, one query at a time… Bookbaby steps…

And so, it begins. First, the agonizing over the query itself. Then, researching agents and choosing a few. Then… Clicking the dreaded “send” button. And waiting. And trying to not hope too hard or obsess too hard because–rationally, again–I know it’s pointless. But will thatĀ really keep me from hoping and obsessing? Yah. A lot easier said than done. At least I have a trilogy conclusion to write and a middle book to edit (and a puppy to cuddle), so hopefully I can keep my mind off things as much as I can.

Gawd. I hate this part.

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