The Path Ahead


I find myself in a far different place than a week ago. Yet, even as I type these words, not much has changed. The pitch contest is over. The conference is done. The lessons are laid bare at my feet and now I must make a critical decision as to where to go next. With query letters out for the finished manuscript, I must turn the page, and move on to the next project.

I’ve already received a round of rejections. Most are simple form responses. If you’ve been where I am, then you’ve undoubtedly seen form rejections. I doubt very highly any of them actually read what I sent. Some may have looked at the word count, the name, the fact I’ve never been traditionally published before, the structure of the query letter itself  – and said no. This is what I signed up for. When you send your work out into the world, it’s more likely you’ll receive rejections than acceptance. Obviously, there are exceptions to this rule, especially for veteran writers who’ve sold things before, or come by a direct referral form other agents.

This process is tough.

If anyone out there tells you that querying is easy and you should be picked up quickly, you’re being lied to. Even the greatest writers of the 20th century got denied, and denied again, and then denied some more. One thing that separates the signed from the dejected is persistence. There’s a lot of eyeballs out there and thus a lot of ways you can deliver your work to the world. I’ve already had agents I follow on Twitter, and have the occasional back and forth with, turn me down. Agents I researched and matched up with what they had on their list. Agents I thought would be perfect for this project, because of what they already represent. They still said no. The challenge we writers have, is not conflate our own perceptions of what we’ve written with some data on Querytracker or Manuscript Wish List. There’s a difference between our perceptions, and those of a professional agent who works every day at building their own stable.

It is easy to be blinded by our own passion for a project. We want so badly to have someone else feel that same heat. I’ll readily admit when my first rejection reply came in a mere 5 hours after I sent the query I felt a bit annoyed. I felt like they hadn’t read it, hadn’t cared, and just pushed me away. In truth, that’s probably exactly what happened, but it’s not personal on their end. It’s a business decision. As writers, we draw on emotions to move a reader, and those emotions work against us in this process. We are invested. We are the ones who believe. We must make the agent feel those emotions – sometimes through a cold online fill form – and connect with what we’ve created.

It’s tough, but it’s the path ahead.

Addendum: The craziness of SFFPit this past week was fun. I enjoyed watching what others were submitting for review. I got a lot of support from close friends, twitter peeps, and even got some love from Bruno Gunn. Truth is though, I got a single request from the contest, and even though the agent gave me some feedback, she also has passed on the manuscript. It was nice to get a request, but I guess I was hoping for more. This upcoming week is the July 4th holiday and I’m going to do some more fleshing out on a different project. I’m trying to stay positive about the whole thing and keep my head up. I’m reminded it’s a marathon, not a sprint, but that doesn’t mean the race itself gets any easier.