Tuesday, April 24, 2012

We All Have Different Tastes: So do Editors and Agents

Hi Seekers and Seeker friends.

Sandra here and first off let me SCREAM!!!!! YAYYYYYYYYYYYYYY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Congrats all of you Seeker friends who finaled in the Genesis. I was thrilled to see so many familiar names. And if you didn't final congrats to you also because you took the plunge and ENTERED. That is HUGE.

I myself only entered one contest this year so we'll see how it goes. But hey. I feel good about having something to enter. woohoooo


So those of you who finaled and who didn't, today's post is very appropriate. Because the fact you finaled or didn't may or may not depend upon your writing ability. Whether you win a contest may or may not depend upon your writing ability. Whether you receive "the call" or a rejection may or may not depend upon your writing ability.

Granted, the writing must be stellar, but every individual has different tastes in what they like to read. It goes back to their own personal interests, backgrounds, and preferences.

Have you ever had a friend hand you a book and say, "You have to read this. It is the best book ever." You dive in expecting a wonderful read and YOU HATE IT???? Or you shrug your shoulders and say "So, so."?

That is because we all have different taste in what we enjoy reading. The same goes for editors, agents, contest judges, etc. Their own preferences are going to play into the mix.

For example, in my published novel, PRICE OF VICTORY, the heroine is a bicycle racer. The first scene takes place in the middle of a race. That manuscript placed in several contests. But it also received bad comments from judges who stated there was "too much bicycling." I even had that comment from agents and editors. However, Lia Brown, the editor who bought PRICE OF VICTORY loved it and it turns out her husband bicycles so the subject interested her. She enjoyed all the bicycling.



Another yet to be published wip I have was rejected because it was set in a wilderness. The New York editor did not like the work because she said the setting was too unbelievable. Being a city girl herself, she didn't believe people still lived in such a remote community and didn't believe things like propane refrigerators existed. Well I could argue the point that people do live that way, but it didn't suit the editor who is the one buying the book.

That particular wip was liked by another editor, but the story didn't quite fit her line. So not only do editors have their own tastes and preferences, but so do publishing houses. That is why they always recommend you read their line thoroughly so you get a feel for the type of books, the settings, the slant on the genre that they prefer.

Agents are the same. They have their preferences of genre and style also. I had an agent who represented a book I sold, but she only agreed to represent that book. She flat out told me she didn't like my writing style and therefore didn't think she could sell it to publishers. Well Duhhh. How can you sell something you aren't excited about yourself.

Rejections can be due to other factors besides taste. I received a rejection a few years ago from an editor and the following week I had an appointment with her at the Desert Dream conference. I was horrified because I had planned my pitch around that wip. But the good that came out of that meeting was she remembered my work and stated she really liked my writing style but they had just purchased a book set on a remote island. (That was the same wip that the other editor thought was too unbelievable).

That rejection turned out to be very enlightening and encouraging. This editor liked my writing style and asked me to send her something else.

The lesson to learn here is that just because you receive rejections doesn't necessarily mean your writing is bad. If you have been winning contests, if you have valued critique partners that insist your writing is good, if you have editors who write you a rejection letter instead of sending a form letter, then you are now to the point of needing to find that editor who loves your writing style.

Editors and agents are extremely busy. If they take the time to write personal comments in their rejection letter, you have hit gold. They would not take the time and make the effort if they did not like your writing style. So maybe the work you sent didn't quite fit. Send them something else. If you don't have another work to send, get started. You have found someone who likes your style so keep sending them one proposal after another.

So how do you find that agent and editor who likes your writing style? The best way to meet them and hear them speak. That is why I love to go to conferences. Most conferences offer an agent and/or editor panel where all those present talk about their likes and dislikes as well as what they are looking for. This information is invaluable.

When I know what line I'm targeting and what agents I'm interested in, I try and find all the places (especially ones close by) where they will be speaking. I find listening to their presentations gives me valuable information about whether my work will interest them. For example one time I went to a presentation by a major agency that represented many Christian writers. But when I heard her speak about how much she loves the paranormal and she even said straight romance didn't interest her, I knew she wasn't going to be the agent for me. So I didn't waste postage or time sending my work to her.

Attending a conference isn't always possible, but most major conferences offer CD's or tapes of the workshops and presentations. I know that if you preorder the tape before the conference, it can be cheaper. American Fiction Christian Writers offers CD's. Romance Writers of America offer preorders also. At both of these major conferences there are many editors representing many publishers. It is very advantageous to listen to the Spotlight Presentations from the publishers you are targeting. They give you the most up-to-date insights into what they are looking for. Many local chapters purchase these CD's and make them available to check out.

If you can't attend a major conference, look for the smaller local conferences. Those are much more affordable because you don't have the travel expenses. We are fortunate in my area because all of the local writing groups have Christian writers in them and they lobby for Christian editors and agents to attend.

Speaking of local conferences, I'll be attending Desert Dreams Conference in Scottsdale this coming weekend. And Glynna will be there. wooooo hoooooo I'm so excited to see her. Waving at you Glynna.

They say working with an agent is like a marriage. That being said, I want to know who the agent is personally. As much as you work with an editor, I especially like meeting them. But actually meeting editors and agents isn't always possible. In that case, look at their websites, read articles written by them, talk to people who have met them and try and get a feel for their preferences.

So the search is on. The proverbial needle in the haystack. The perfect match for an agent. The editor who thinks your writing is terrific. That is every author's dream.

In the meantime, keep writing those manuscripts and keep sending them out. Constantly work to improve your craft.

For a chance to win another Seeker book, tell us something you learned from a rejection letter. And of course, a rejection letter ALWAYS gives us permission for comfort food. We had our first triple digit temperature last Saturday so I invited a caterer (Capannaris) to serve us. We have several flavors of ice cream, a variety of syrups including hot fudge and then bowls of nuts, sprinkles, and whipped cream.



Happy writing.



116 comments:

Jan Drexler said...

Mmmm, ice cream. Nothing soothes wounded egos like ice cream.

Sandra, your timing is impeccable! I received my Genesis scores today and they were all over the board - from the mid 50's to the high 90's! Yes, different readers have different tastes!

I'm blessed to have an agent who loves my writing. Now, when she finds an editor and a publishing house who love it too, we'll have a winner!

Until then, I keep plugging away :)

Helen Gray said...

There's plenty of coffee to go with your goodies, Sandra.

I've had the personal rejections as well as the impersonal ones. I guess the big lesson here is perseverance.

I didn't enter the Genesis this year, though. I had a new wip started, but I wasn't far enough along to feel comfortable entering it.

Helen

Melissa Jagears said...

I learned to make sure the growth of my POV characters are explicit in the synopsis.

Vince said...

Hi Sandra:

I learned that you have to show what a speaker’s body is doing. No talking heads.

BTW: I could have used a little more racing in “The Price of Victory”. The racing moved the story along. It was a great vehicle to show character growth.

I think it is true that we all tend to see what’s behind our eyes. That person saw too much racing. I saw the racings as an exciting way to show the story unfolding. Of course, I really like the hero. He was the type of hero I would like to be.

It gets down to pleasing the individual reader.

Vince

Carol J. Garvin said...

I haven't entered any contests recently, but I know I need to push myself to do so. I also "keep writing those manuscripts" but I'm not very good at the "keep sending them out" part. I'm psyching myself up to remedy that, too.

Thanks for the ice cream, Sandra. Ice cream and chocolate ... now that combination has to be the ideal comfort food! Plus maybe the addition of a peanut butter topping. Heavenly!!!

Ausjenny said...

Im not a writer but have been rejected. I have learnt rejection letters are worded better now than in the early 80's. I have learnt not to count it as a rejection but when I do get a letter that they at least acknowledged my application even if I didn't get the job (unlike some who never respond).

But to add to your blog as I read I was thinking we readers also have different tastes. I would love to read a bicycle book but I like riding and use to do a lot of it. As for the propane fridge I know there are places that still have them too. I also notice some publishers are publishing alot of amish books and while I dont mind them I am at the point unless its a different story like Amish meets Cowboy which Lori Copeland and Virginia Smith did I dont really want to read them as much now. But someone else would love them.

I love cyberfood. Why cos it doesn't make me sick! I have been having issues with some foods and still trying to work out what but think chocolate is a major problem. I should just not eat it and after last night feeling bad I may not for along time! But the ice cream looks amazing.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Seeing those ice cream toppings reminds me of eating Sundaes for supper with Sandra in Downtown Disney at the Ghirardelli Ice Cream shop...

Oh. Mylanta.

The best HUGE sundae ever. I'm smiling, thinking of it.

Great post, Sandra. Rejections don't stop because you get published.

And that's why we've developed the online branch of the THICK-SKINNED AUTHORS CLUB!!!!!

Wave those rejection letters with pride. Strike a pose! You have entered the legions of rejected authors and that is an esteemed league of men and women!

Rejoice O Jerusalem!

Embrace!

And enjoy your ice cream and then...

Oh, then!!!

Get back to work!!!!!

Jackie said...

I'm embarrassed to say this, but after my first rejection I set it aside. I was down for days. But finally I decided God's got me doing this for some reason. If only to pray for people on ACFW prayer loop. But I keep writing.
About nine months later, yeah I realize that's how long it takes to have a baby, I've pulled that out and have begun to look at it more objectively.
Last week I contacted another agent, and we'll see if I hear from her. I've also entered two contests.
I appreciate this post SO much, it helps give me a better perspective.

Thanks! I needed this!
Joyfully,
Jackie L.

Debra E. Marvin said...

I just got my non-finaling scoresheets back and laughed. As predicted I had hugely opposing opinions and scores. I have apparently learned the 'everyone has different tastes' and other contest truths, because I only laughed. Five years ago I would have been devastated to learn that someone did not like my story.

Thank you Tina for your valuable help in the form of a critique - someone did love it a lot and I'm forging on.

Thank you Sandra - perfect timing as usual! Enjoy the conference. I went to Desert Dreams once in Tempe--I think I told you. Lovely conference!

Niki Turner is talking about the history of OREOs over at the inkwell, so it looks to be a high sugar day, having ice cream for breakfast...

Debby Giusti said...

Sandra, lots of sage advice today...perfect from a desert girl! :)

Melissa, good point about the importance of a synopsis. I believe editors put a lot of emphasis on them while authors tend to paint over some of the points of the story with too wide of a brush.

Jackie, so glad you're working on your WIP baby...and Deb, you are a fantastic writer!!! Do not listen to negative critiques. Okay! :)

Early on, rejections often mentioned my less than compelling characters. I didn't even know what made a character compelling in those days. Fact was I didn't have enough -- read any -- internal conflict. Thank goodness for rejections and contest critiques that kept me searching for ways to improve my work.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Morning everyone.

Yayyyyyy Jan for seeing the positive out of those scores.

You do have an agent. That is a BIG step. And finding the editor is part of the process. So hang in there.

Regarding the scores, Look for the things that were mentioned by more than one judge and then just file the rest.

Congrats on entering. That's a major step also.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Helen, Thanks for the coffee. I set some aside to cool and I'll make ice coffee. yum That will go great with the sundaes.

Perseverance is a great lesson to learn. Hang in there.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Melissa, Sounds like you have a specific incident in mind. But what you say is sooooooo important. I have heard writers say they don't want to tell the ending or give it away, but it is imperative to explain right away to the editor the character arc, the character gmc and the moral premise. This will let the editor know you that you know what you are doing.

Thanks for sharing that.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Vince, You made me chuckle. I'll have to send you all the chapters I cut out of the story. Great racing scenes. I liked them also. smile

It took me a long time to figure out what they meant by "talking heads". I'm so glad you figured that out.

Have a great day.

Sandra Leesmith said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sandra Leesmith said...

Morning Jenny,

You make a great point along with Vince. both of you gave great examples of the importance of individual reader taste.

Vince loved the bicycling.

You're tired of Amish.

Both factors had nothing to do with writing ability.

Editors get tired of reading the same thing also. That is why they always say they are looking for a "fresh voice"

Anyone want to venture on what THAT means?

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Carol J, Thanks for adding the peanut butter. Yum.

I'm glad to hear you aren't giving up. I'm glad you are persevering with the writing.

Don't be afraid to send them out. Did you read Debra's comment down a bit. She now laughs at the results.

And we can learn valuable information from the contests.

Hang in there. You're doing great.

Sandra Leesmith said...

RUTHY, Oh what a wonderful memory.

Those sundaes were HUMONGOUS. And so YUMMY.

And so decadent to have sundaes for dinner. See folks, what a fun influence Ruthy is?

And she's right. Rejection letters are something to be proud of. They prove we are serious about our writing. They prove we are persistent. They do in fact thicken our skin.

Thanks Ruthy and folks, you better follow her advice to get back to the writing because trust me, her kick in the behind carries a wallop.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Jackie,

Don't feel alone. We all were devastated by those first rejections. That is why we right blogs like todays to remind ourselves that we need t press on.

I'm glad you are writing and sending things out again. You're on the road to the "Tough Skin Club" Ruthy was talking about.

And don't discount those prayers. That is the most important thing you are doing. smile

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Debra, Are you zinging along with a sugar high? That makes me smile.

Thanks for sharing because it helps to know we will eventually laugh at those rejections.

I remember how upset I was about the editor who said there were no such thing as propane refrigerators. But now it is something I can laugh about. Its funny really and does show us how important individual taste is.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Debby dear, You are too corny for this early in the morning. But good job. chuckle.

Yes, all those cryptic remarks from rejection letters are the instigators for investigation and learning more about our craft. Great way to look at it. Thanks.

Kirsten Arnold said...

Thanks for the great post, Sandra!

I think rejection shows us just how much we want something, and how hard we're willing to work to get it. If you can throw in the towel after one or even one hundred rejections then it really wasn't your dream, and who knows one hundred and one might have been "yes."

--Kirsten

Julie Hilton Steele said...

Sandra, oh, thanks for this post. I remember a rejection I received from a magazine I contributed to for several years. I had received rejection letters along the way but this one said the magazine was going a "different direction." New editor! The editor that loved my work had left for other pursuits.

Did I attribute this rejection to the change in editor? I knew my writing style was the same and well-received from readers. But, no, I contributed it to my own perceived short-comings and lashed myself but good. Sigh. It took me a while to get a different perspective.

Someday, we will need to discuss our "style." I am still figuring mine out.

Ice cream! I am screaming. I am also adding homemade strawberry-vanilla sauce and fresh strawberries for the less decadent among us.

Peace, Julie

Joanne Sher said...

I have learned SOOO much from judging sheets and rejection letters. I learned I need to put more emotion in my stories. I need to do more research. I need to rethink the structure of my NF MS. And on and on. :)
Enter me. Great post, Sandra - thanks :)

Cara Lynn James said...

Sandra, you're certainly right about editors and agents having different tastes! Some like my writing, others not so much. But readers are the same way. Some think a book is 5 star, but others think it only deserves a 1 or 2. Ouch!

Jeanne T said...

Sandra, loved this post. You gave some great suggestions. I especially like the idea of finding where an agent is speaking, hopefully near you, and going to listen and learn. What a great idea. :)

I haven't received any formal rejections yet, because I haven't sent anything out yet. :) I know I'll learn a lot when I do though. Thanks for the chocolate, too!

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Kirsten, Oh what a great comment.

101 could be "the one". You're so right.

Hang in there.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Julie HS, Oh yum. Fresh strawberries on our sundaes. Thank you. They do go great with chocolate by the way which brings us back to decadent. sigh

You so learned about the reading taste with editors. The hard way. yikes. But a great lesson to learn. You just have to roll with the punches and start the search all over again for that wonderful editor who loves your stuff.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Joanne, Wow, you've learned a lot. Great going.

Hang in there. There's always more to learn. As Ruthy pointed out, we still get rejections even after we're published.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Cara,

I think you're FIVE STAR. Yep, I sure do. I loved your books.

Audra Harders said...

There is nothing I like better than a hot fudge sundae for breakfast, LOL! I anyone disses this morning's fare, I'll simply say Sandra made me eat it!

You are so right about the unpredictability of editors, Sandra! Just a couple years before I sold, I had an entry final in a contest where the final round editor issued so many 1s and 2s on the scoresheet, I felt like I was back in my infancy of writing. She even suggested I find a critique group to help learn the craft.

Wow. Certainly a humbling experience.

That same ms finaled in the Genesis that year and my heart just tanked when I found out the editor who dissed my so badly was the final round editor for my category. Oh well, I figured my contest fee was a great donation to a great contest.

Blew my mind when she placed my entry first.

First place. A manuscript that had undergone NO EDITING since the bruising, nay scathing comments of a few months before.

She requested a full and we had a great chat during an impromtu meeting in the lounge area.

Goes to show your perfectly good ms could be the casualty of an editor having a VERY BAD DAY when he/she reads it.

Don't give up. Have some chocolate (or indulge in the goodies Sandra has buffeted before us) and try, try again.

NEVER GIVE UP.

I'm off to work, but can't wait to catch up this evening!

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Jeanne,

It is so eye opening to hear agents and editors speak. It helps to understand this crazy business of publishing.

I hope you find some nearby.

If you can't, be sure and check out the CD's offered by ACFW and RWA.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Oh Audra, What a frightful experience. And so typical for this business.

Yes, one can be having a bad day when they read your manuscript. yikes.

But what a lesson we are learning from your sharing. We have to so not take these rejections that seriously.

And we have to trust that we will be published when it is the right time.

What a testimony. Thanks for sharing Audra. And you can blame Ruthy for having a sundae for a meal. She is the one who taught me to do that. LOL

Melanie Dickerson said...

This is a really encouraging post, Sandra, and it's what I always say, too. It doesn't mean you're a bad writer, or that your writing is no good, if you get a rejection. It just means that particular editor didn't like it, or it wasn't right for that particular line, or it just wasn't what they happened to be looking for at the time.

Helen said, "I guess the big lesson here is perseverance." YES! That's it! You hit the nail on the head, Helen. You just have to keep submitting, keep writing, and keep learning.

I can't really think of anything I learned from a rejection. But I learned a lot from contests, especially when one judge would love my style and my characters, and another would hate them. It's all so subjective. But hopefully we will all find our audience if we just keep persevering.

Pam Hillman said...

Oooh, Sandra, ice cream, yay! First, I hopped over to the Inkwell and grabbed a handful of crushed oreo's, topped them with ice cream and that chocolate stuff that hardens, THEN added a generous helping of whipped cream.

Yum! Yum!

What were we talking about again?

Oh, yeah, tastes. (You HAD to use taste in the title, didn't you?)

There is no accounting for taste, as evidenced by Sandra's story about Price of Victory. Perfect example.

Melanie Dickerson said...

BTW, I am still getting rejections on my adult books. I can't imagine why! :-) But I have faith that some day they will find the right editor/publisher.

Melanie Dickerson said...

I mean CHRISTIAN adult books. I don't want you to think I was talking about ADULT adult books. LOL!

Glynna Kaye said...

WAVING BACK AT YA, SANDRA! And can't wait to see you at Desert Dreams! Wonderful small conference with some BIG NAME workshop presenters--authors, agents & editors. I always enjoy it--and the setting is wonderful when you've been cooped up for along, snowy winter!

You're SO right about preferences. Which, I believe, is why we need to be so careful when reviewing books on our blogs or on Amazon, CBD, and Barnes & Noble. Should EVERY book have to conform to OUR personal tastes? Be written the way WE would have written it?

Thank goodness there is such a wide variety of choices in the world and that editors and agent recognize that. Something for everyone!

Glynna Kaye said...

WAVING BACK AT YA, SANDRA! And can't wait to see you at Desert Dreams! Wonderful small conference with some BIG NAME workshop presenters--authors, agents & editors. I always enjoy it--and the setting is wonderful when you've been cooped up for along, snowy winter!

You're SO right about preferences. Which, I believe, is why we need to be so careful when reviewing books on our blogs or on Amazon, CBD, and Barnes & Noble. Should EVERY book have to conform to OUR personal tastes? Be written the way WE would have written it?

Thank goodness there is such a wide variety of choices in the world and that editors and agent recognize that. Something for everyone!

Melanie Dickerson said...

Audra, your story makes me wonder if it was actually an editorial assistant that judged your entry in the first contest. Maybe the editor was so busy she passed it off to someone else. I just can't imagine one person could have such divergent opinions about the same entry!

Pam Hillman said...

Joanne, speaking of emotion. I'm listening to DiAnn Mills CE (that's like 3 hours teaching) class from ACFW 2011.

She's really challenging listeners to dig deep into our emotions in order to write more effectively.

She's asking some hard questions: like, "What was the most painful experience of your life?" "What was the happiest event?", etc.

She actually challenges writers to use that personal experience and make their characters go through it. That's tough!

I highly recommend listening to it. It's lesson 2 of the recordings.

Pam Hillman said...

Audra, that is...just...wow. Maybe Mel is right and it was an EA that read it the first time.


Mel, good save on the adult books.

(Yeah, right.)

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Melanie, What great insights you have this morning.

yes, yes, perseverance is the key.

And you're right about Audra's incident. They do have reader assistants that read submissions first and if they like them they pass it on to the editor. That shows us that her book was meant to be. smile

I'm glad you clarified Christian adult books. chuckle.

Thanks again and have a great day.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Pam, Isn't that ice cream great in the morning? I love it, especially on a hot day.

We certainly have had plenty of experience with editorial taste haven't we?

Have a great day.

Sandra Leesmith said...

HI Glynna,

Yes, As I heard in a movie once. "God loves variety." I always treasure that quote. Can't remember which movie though. LOL

See you SOON.

Jamie Adams said...

An Ice Cream buffet!!!

From my favorite rejection letter (my favorite because she asked me to send another project) I learned it's not a good idea to let secondaries overshadow the romance.

Right now I'm in a waiting pattern. Three editors are considering different projects and an agent I adore is reviewing my business proposal. As much as I hate waiting it dawned on me I could get four rejections in one day.

I think I'm gonna need a bigger bowl for my ice cream!

Lyndee said...

Great and helpful reminders, Sandra.

In 2001 I attended my first writers conference (not a RWA conference) and pitched to one agent and two publishers.

The first appt left me devastated. I won't report what he said to me, but it was essentially that I should go home and spend the rest of my life painting my nails. I left the room sobbing, but outside of those doors, a group of strangers, other aspiring writers, embraced me and told me that agent was disliked by everyone. Somehow I didn't get that memo...or maybe that was why he had so many openings available and how I got an appointment with him so easily.

So I washed my face, straightened my skirt, and donned my hard-shell to face the next two pitch appointments. Both of those editors requested fulls on my non-fiction! SO THERE, Mr. Nasty-guy! But talk about a roller-coaster of emotions in a two hour block of time!

I learned to not take comments so personally. Gotta keep on keepin' on!

Julie Lessman said...

Oh, AMEN, SANDRA, on this excellent post today, girlfriend!!! "Different strokes for different folks" is the very first lesson I learned in a contest, when one judge gave me a perfect score because she "LOVED" the subordinate characters who made the book feel "like family," then a 50% score from another judge (same contest), who HATED the focus on all the other characters, claiming it detracted from the hero/heroine's story. To be honest, I STILL get that complaint today from purists who want only one story upon which to focus, but if they lived inside my scattered brain, they would UNDERSTAND why one story is not enough for me ... ;)

What have I learned from rejection?? Well, obviously that you cannot please everybody nor will you ever, so you have to write your heart because hopefully there will be enough crazy people like you out there who will cotton to it. And then I had a male editor nix A Passion Most Pure because he didn't feel I represented the war realisticly enough (uh, it's Calgon-take-me-away romance, mister, not Patton ...) and he also felt the sister relationship was just "too vitriolic." Well, after I looked the word up, I realized this was a man who not only never lived in a woman's body, but obviously never had a sister he rolled on the floor with in a catfight, pulling hair. So I learned that you win contests and garner requests when the judges/editors are your market and when they're not? You're drowning in a slush pile without a float.

Hugs,
Julie

Missy Tippens said...

Sandra, great post!! And so true. We can't let rejections get us down. We have to keep trying to find the perfect fit.

Thanks for the sundae makings!! Yum!

Myra Johnson said...

This post is SO right on, Sandra!

I would also add that editors and agents have different MOODS that can change monthly, daily, or even hourly. Hit them with a particular story idea at a bad time, and no matter how good the writing is or how well the book might fit their line, your submission is already doomed.

Another tidbit from my personal experience. Immediately after I sold my first book, an agent I'd met with before who'd expressed interest in my career turned me down for representation because she said THAT book (even though it was already sold!) didn't resonate with her. Only after I sold 4 more books on my own did I finally land the BEST agent for me (and it wasn't this one)!

Moral of the story--as Sandra explained so eloquently--is to just keep writing and improving your craft, meet as many agents and editors as you can, and pray for God to open the right doors at the right time.

Mary Connealy said...

I actually have a very beloved family member who raves about movies and I've learned to use her standards as a warning signal. If she likes it, it's gotta be bad.

Mary Connealy said...

You're so right about this, Sandra. The right editor, the right book, the right moment. It all has to come together.
If an editor EVER TELLS YOU SHE LIKES YOUR WRITING BUT NOT YOUR BOOK PITCH SOMETHING ELSE. Take it seriously. Get another project to her FAST and remind her 'you liked my writing but not my book.'
They don't just say that stuff, they mean it.

Mary Connealy said...

And if an editor ever starts talking to you about what they do like, what they're looking for. LISTEN TO HER. She's trying to help you.

Connie Queen said...

When I first starting entering contests, I learned most judges either love my story or despise it. Very few in-between scores. Evoking emotion, that's good. Right?

It's so funny to hear the stories about the same editor/agent hating and then requesting the same ms.

Susan Anne Mason said...

Thanks for this advice, Sandra. I had to learn (slowly) that not everyone will have the same opinion of your work - and not to take it personally. Usually 2 judges like my writing and 1 doesn't!

I think judging other people's contest entries has really helped me understand the process. I try very hard to be a fair judge, even if the story isn't something I'd like. You can learn a lot by volunteering to judge a contest! I highly recommend it!

Off to eye doctor for a test. A few prayers would be greatly appreciated!

Thanks
Sue

Sandra Leesmith said...

Jaimie, you're too funny. A bigger bowl is always a good idea -- just because.

And we aren't even going to think about four rejections in one day. How about four "calls" in one day. Wouldn't THAT be worth a bigger bowl of ice cream???

Thanks for sharing what you learned. Its amazing what we glean isn't it?

Sandra Leesmith said...

Oh Lyndee,

I'm sooooooo glad there were writers out there who took you under their wing. And yes, what a lesson you learned.

And congrats on getting those requests for fulls. woohooo. Goes to show you doesn't it?

Tina Pinson said...

Bummer, Sandra... Not the post. The post was great.

But I was considering the Desert Dreams conference and thought I was going to head to Colorado and never got back to check into going until after registration was closed.

Oh well.

Cindy R. Wilson said...

I really appreciate this post. I'm at that point where I'm looking for the right fit, and it's definitely been a learning experience. The good thing is that the feedback I am getting has been varied--so it helps to know that it's just the agent or editors taste. So...if this story doesn't work out, I'll just keep on keeping on until I write one that does :) Thanks for the encouraging post!

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Julie, Oh I LOVE all your characters. I LOVE stories rich with family and multiple characters. I LOVE your books. So there you purists who only want one.

I guess my brain rolls around like yours. HA HA But we do have fun don't we?

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Missy,

We have learned all of this the hard way haven't we. Its so great to be able to share.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Right on Myra, We do have to trust God in this crazy market. Many times I have rushed things trying to get what I thought was the best and it turned out not to be the best for me.

So I think I'm finally learning to trust and let go and let God handle things.

Oh yeah, I do that but then I run in and snatch it all up again. Anybody else do that? LOL

Sandra Leesmith said...

Mary, Mary, Mary, what SUPER advice. Folks READ WHAT MARY SAID. Read it again and again until it is rote in your brain.


Thanks girlfriend.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Connie Queen, Yes, it is funny looking back, but at the time it can be very frustrating. And discouraging.
That is why we like to share these stories so you won't get discouraged.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Praying Susan.

You're right about judging contests. You learn so much and you really appreciate what an editor goes through when they hit the slush pile. smile

Sandra Leesmith said...

So sorry Tina, I would have loved to see you. I think the local ACFW group is getting a gathering together of all of us. Send me your email and I'll send you the info if it does in fact happen.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Cindy R.W. Yes, you are wise to keep on going. And another thing editors and agents do is wait a little to see if you are going to send in other manuscripts. They do that to see if you're serious about writing or if you're just a one book wonder. They want someone who is determined, prolific and serious. Hang in there.

Tina Pinson said...

Thanks that would be nice.

tina_pinson (at) yahoo.com

Carol Moncado said...

Wish I had time to read through everything but well, my head hurts and I have a bit of work to get done in the next 20 minutes before I can leave to pick up DS...

Anyway...

I have Ben and Jerry's if anyone wants some ;). Half-Baked. And leftover birthday cake.

My first actual agent rejection* was a personal note from a proposal sent after last year's conference. She said twice she liked my writing but didn't buy part of the plot.

I've heard the same thing since from an editor at TN and from 2 of my 3 Genesis judges [that MS didn't semifinal]. Even the worst of the three scores said nice things about the writing but had a couple issues with the plot. So... if I can just get that resolved [or make his motivation stronger [Thanks Debby!!!!] I may be able to get around that.

Or find an agent/editor who likes the plot and buys into it.

I also had another agent rejection recently - she didn't send me a personal note but her assistant sent me one that was more than just a form rejection but not a request for more material etc.

I'm gettin' there ;). One of these days... :D

In the meantime, I'm working on other projects [2 in editing phases and another one barely begun]. I plan to have at least 4 ready to pitch by conference. The one mentioned above, the Genesis semi-finalist, Speedbo and one other. Then decide which to pitch to who from there...

I need to pick up DS as soon as naptime is over. Cuz I need some of that ice cream and some of that cake cuz my head hurts.

And yes. I know cuz isn't spelled right ;).

*The others were all 'if you haven't heard from us in x days/months we're not interested' rejections.

Carol Moncado said...

Okay - so scanning through comments was less headache-y than doing what else I have to do...

PAM!

I've totally done that!

In fact, Thursday I had a follow up with the guy who did my first nose surgery. While I waited I was editing a hard copy of the MS that semi'd in Genesis.

When he came in, I HAPPENED to be editing the part where the heroine had to have skin cancer removed from her nose.

He asked what I was doing. I told him. He laughed and said he totally wants to read it when it's done [okay - I added the totally, but it was implied]. He thought it was GREAT!

He then proceeded to laser my scar [you can see pics here or on my Facebook page] and asked if it was too late to add the lasering in or if she'd get to skip that part ;).

It's not too late.

And it's so going in :D.

Amanda said...

What a timely post!! Like a lot of you, I just got my Genesis scores back and they were all over the place. From 95 all the way down to 70. Thank you so much for the encouragement, Sandra and the reminder that everyone has different tastes. I totally agree!

And Julie, I had to look up the word “vitriolic” too. LOL.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Carol M., You are tooooooo funny. I hope your headache is better now that you've had some fun. smile

Those rejections sound encouraging. And when so many people said the same thing--as Mary said "LISTEN"

Its BIG that they like your writing style. So fix that plot. Plot is easy to fix. A lot easier than character development so way to go girl.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Amanda, Congrats on the scores of 90. That has to be encouraging.

Check through the comments and any pointers that have been mentioned more than once are worth taking a look at. Then let them gel and your brain will come up with a solution.

Regarding the low score, ignore the comments that weren't substantiated by other judges. Those you can count as personal taste and/or experience.

Carol Moncado said...

Thanks, Sandra!

Unfortunately, the change they all suggested would, literally, be a whole different book so... gotta sell it with this premise or not at all :/. That said, it was one of the things I discussed with Debby during our call last week and she suggested making his motivation different/stronger and then the plot could still work... Will be working on that... :D

And RUTHY!!!!! You have an article in the next ACFW magazine about the Seekers?!?!?!?! Can't wait darlin!

Sandra Leesmith said...

Wow Carol, Great idea to work on the character. I'll keep positive thoughts for your inspiration. smile

Thanks Debby for the help.

Isn't it amazing what a little brainstorming will do? I sure do find it helpful.

Maybe you could make your next project or wip that book they all are suggesting. If they are all suggesting the same thing, it must be a plot they like. hmmmm.

Carol Moncado said...

Sandra - you just may be a genius :D!!

Have been starting to ponder what I'll be working on when I go for a writer's weekend this summer with Jessica Keller Koschnitzky and Kristy Cambron. Had nothin'.

But maybe that could be it...

Not sure about them liking the other idea, just them saying they thought it was a more plausible scenario than the one I have. I've had a couple others say they liked it [an editor I pitched to at conference last year was okay with that part of the premise but had issues with another part of it] so I'm hoping it's just finding that right editor/agent combo.

Of course, now it's morphing into a time travel spec fic in my head... ;) See what you've started :D!

[Yes - Tina - Jessica did semifinal - saw you said that this weekend, but don't think I responded...]

Stephanie Queen Ludwig said...

Hi Sandra!

Great, timely post. I guess I learned to live with rejection a while back, since as a journalist, I get it all the time. People not liking a story for various reasons. Gotta develop a thick skin for that, and realize why they didn't like it.

I got my Genesis scores back, and they were all over the place! (I didn't semi-final, btw.) Some I agreed with, because I was trying to change a few things to fit the contest mode, rather than what I really wanted in. One judge didn't like my tone and dinged me for grammar, while another loved it and thought it sounded exactly how a teenager talks.

But that's OK. It's 15 pages of a 320-word story.

Mmm, this ice cream is delicious! So glad there was some left when I got to the party.

Nancy C said...

Good post, Sandra! There's so much to take into consideration about rejection, as everyone's pointed out.

One thing I learned is that the more wildly your scores vary, the stronger your voice is. By that I mean judges are responding not only to the technicals but to the way those technicals are handled. Another thing I learned is that when they say they need to know this, that, and the other with an entry that's only 30 pages, that means they are majorly hooked even if they don't know it :-)

I urge everyone to take judge's training and volunteer to judge a contest. Being on the 'other side' helps you understand that no matter how objective you are about technicals, you will still respond subjectively to the author's voice. Just like editors and agents ;-)

My one and only rejection letter so far (other than the several I generated the other day LOL) proved to me I wasn't being rejected ... what I had written was being rejected. Big difference.

Nancy C

Janet Dean said...

Excellent post, Sandra! You've given important tips for finding an agent and publisher/editor that fit what we write and who we are. But more importantly, you've reminded us that a manuscript can be rejected that has nothing wrong with the writing. A good reason not let rejection discourage us.

I loved Price of Victory and I know nothing about bicyle racing.

Thanks for the ice cream!

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Jenny, I'm sorry that chocolate makes you ill. What a bummer!

Janet

Jamie Adams said...

Ok, I just heard from one of the four I've been waiting on. It was a rejection but worded so nicely it felt like a hug. Still, not what I wanted to hear. Move over, guys I need a scoop of everything chocolate to pour over this BIG bowl of ice cream :)

Sandra Leesmith said...

Ooooh Carol how exciting. Sounds like a plan. I can hear the wheels of your brain clicking all the way across the prairies and Rockies. chuckle

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Stephanie Q. I guess you would know better than any of us about rejection. Journalism is a tough writing business. Great experience though. The advantage you have is you know how to write tight and to the point.

I always have to cut so much of my over-writing. chuckle.

Glad you're viewing the Genesis results as constructive. Let the comments gel in your brain for awhile before you act on them. Often you can see solutions that suit you and your writing style.

Have another bowl of ice cream. We have plenty and Carol brought some Ben and Jerry's. So enjoy.

Sandra Leesmith said...

HI Nancy C. You should have written this post. smile

What wonderful words of wisdom.

I never thought of it that way, but yes, if they want more info than what is in the first pages, they must be hooked. woo hoooooo

And judging is an eye opener as we've mentioned before.

Hang in there. One day those rejections will turn into "THE CALL"

Sandra Leesmith said...

Thanks Janet for reminding us that we shouldn't get too discouraged with rejections.

Keep on writing.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Aaaaahhhhhh Jamie, Did you read Janet's comment (above yours)? Don't get discouraged. Let those comments gel for awhile.

And hey, if you had comments and a hug, you had a GREAT rejection letter. Those are valuable even though they don't say what we want to hear.

That editor likes your writing. Send her something else. Quick!!!!

And then enjoy that ice cream. Lots of chocolate sprinkle and syrup and hot fudge and little chips of chocolate, shavings of white chocolate, etc.

Debby Giusti said...

Lyndee,

Sorry about the Mr. Nasty Agent. Glad you had supporting folks to hug you after you left the pitch.

I once pitched to an editor who had just gone through a bad divorce. I mistakenly mentioned my sweet hubby....wrong subject for her. Her whole demeanor changed drastically...really interesting but the pitch went quickly down hill.

Debby Giusti said...

I once received an agent rejection that came with a bit of her fried chicken dinner attached to her reply.

True story!

Mary Connealy said...

Chicken Dinner? LOL
I once received a rejection from my OWN AGENT. No, she wasn't saying 'I don't like this story." She was saying, 'your work does not meet our needs at this time."

It was several agents ago. She didn't recognize me as her client. So she rejected something she told me to send her.

Mary Connealy said...

And I once received a rejection that was a red stamp. I could just feel whoever it was just BAM, NEXT!!!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

I had to stop back tonight and see wa's sup??????

:)

Sandra, I don't think anyone will blame me for "sundae-meals"... They'll be clappin' me on the back, thankin' me for bein' that smart!!! ;)

And every June (or whenever it's strawberry season by youse...) you should have an all-you-can-eat-strawberry-shortcake-supper... HOW MUCH FUN IS THAT, I ASK YOU?????

Ruth Logan Herne said...

If anyone is wondering if Mary Connealy is smart, read her three comments in a row...

about mid-page...

And then follow the advice written there.

Oh, what I wish I'd known ten years ago...

Debby Giusti said...

Ruthy, stawberries are ready to be picked in GA! :)

Debby Giusti said...

Sandra and Glynna, have fun at Desert Dreams. Take notes and let us know the latest news from the industry professionals.

Carol N. said...

Sandra,

Thanks for the encouraging words. My first rejection told me I had potential but they weren't interested. To me that seemed that the second canceled out the first. Discouraged, I set it aside for a while. Have since had other rejections and am still working at it, but am trusting the Lord will open those doors and lead me through.

I love ice cream! Almost as much as chocolate. But if it's both, it's sheer awesomeness!

Carol N.
cnemeth@citlink.net

CatMom said...

Great post, Sandra! (by the way--love the cover of PRICE OF VICTORY). ~ Several years ago (after my very first conference) I'd had a request from an editor at a major pub. house. I was thrilled and worked hard on my story. However I still had MUCH to learn (well, I still do, LOL) so the ms was rejected. BUT, she was super kind because she sent me a personal letter offering specific tips and examples on how I could make my story stronger. WOW! I was so impressed by her kindness, and still hope that (Lord willing) one day I'll have the privilege of working with her as my editor. ~ Your ice cream is YUMMO! Since I'm joining in LATE today I've brought a Georgia Peach cobbler (just baked, of course!). Blessings, Patti Jo :)

CatMom said...

p.s. Just read Debby Giusti's comment about the fried chicken attached to the letter....Oh my!! I am definitely laughing out loud at that, Debby!! ~ PJ

Julie Lessman said...

Thanks, Sandra, for your sweet words -- and, YES, we DO have fun in our books!! :)

DEBBY!!! Cannot believe that crazy fried chicken story, girl -- what a hoot!! And I thought the rejection I received scrawled in ink on my own query letter was tasteless ... :)

AMANDA!!! Thanks, sweetie ... I knew I could count on you to make me feel better over the editor who provoked vitriol in me ... ;)

Hugs,
Julie

Natalie Monk said...

This post is so true! Several of my contest scores from the Rattler contest in February were EXTREMELY varied. From the mid 50s to 100+. Reading today's post made me feel better. :) Thanks for posting, Sandra!

Congratulations Genesis Finalists!! Way to go!

Sandra Leesmith said...

Oh Debby, Fried chicken on the rejection letter? YUK

We have strawberries here in Arizona too. Yum

Thanks Debby. Glynna and I will surely report our news. Desert Dreams conference is very popular. Lots of fun, great info, and wonderful networking.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Oh Mary, You and Debby are cracking me up. Your own agent sent you a rejection. I bet she put it in the wrong envelop. yikes.

And a red stamp BAM. whew. That is brutal.


Folks that is why we have thick skins.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Oh Ruthy, you know I'll go for a strawberry shortcake dinner. Oh my. I'm ready right now. smile

Can we have chocolate syrup drizzled on top? Please please

Sandra Leesmith said...

Great going Carol N. Hang in there.

And pass the chocolate coated ice cream, please.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Oh my goodness Patti Jo, Georgia peach cobbler is one of my favorite. By the way, peach cobbler is delightful with vanilla ice cream on top.

What a great rejection letter. That is really special that an editor took all that time to give you all those helpful hints. Don't let that editor go. Keep sending her work. She really liked something about your writing or she would never have spent that time.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Julie, I've had rejection letters like that written on my query letter. sigh That ranks with a form letter.
Doesn't it?

Sandra Leesmith said...

Oh Natalie, those scores are frustrating. But feel proud that you entered a contest. That is huge. You're making progress whether you see it or not. And 100+ score. Someone LOVED your writing style. Go with tha one. smile


Happy writing.

Janet Kerr said...

From a/several rejection letters I learned that I can try again!
Jan

Kara I said...

I've had a number of great rejection letters - but I think my favorite came from an agent who in his rejection wrote (paraphrasing) "remember this is a journey and not a sprint. It might not be this one, it might be the next or the one after that."

I so loved that manuscript that I had real trouble letting go. In fact it took me almost two years to take his advice and pick up another ms that I had put aside and also start working on a concept for a third one.

I entered all three in Genesis and, you guessed it, the second two semi-finaled :)

Kara I said...

I got my non finaling scoresheets back - they ranged from 49 to 95! Fair to say my judges had very different tastes ;)

I think I ran the full gamut of emotions in about 30 seconds but I ended up shaking my head and laughing. I figure the good news is that if I ever get published I'll know to expect a few one star reviews!

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Janet, Good lesson to learn. Hang in there.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Kara, What great insights and I'm glad you took the editor's advice and finished other manuscripts. They mean what they say and if they take the time to say anything it means they see promise in your work. They like your writing. yay!

Anonymous said...

I agree.The best way to meet the agent is through the conference.
Yes, it is a relationship. We all know that all relationships will not work. I wasn't looking for any agent, but I was looking for the agent that would fit me and my work.
And I found one that I want to work with, God willing. :)

Anna Labno

Anonymous said...

I agree.The best way to meet the agent is through the conference.
Yes, it is a relationship. We all know that all relationships will not work. I wasn't looking for any agent, but I was looking for the agent that would fit me and my work.
And I found one that I want to work with, God willing. :)

Anna Labno

Martha Ramirez said...

So very true! What a great post!
Good advice too.
I've had several friends who won contests but it took them years and years to get published. And I also had friends who didn't win or final and have agents and are published.

This business is so subjective.

marybelle said...

I think a rejection letter would just make me more determined.

marypres(AT)gmail(DOT)com

Emily Ann Benedict said...

I know exactly what you mean. I reached the semi-finals of a contest once and all judges' comments were really positive....but when I reached the finals round the comments were completely oposite. Same story, same contest, just different judges. I just had to count that one as a personal taste issue.