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.