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The mathematics of rejection - litchick?

(101 Posts)
ninah Sun 03-Oct-10 10:58:05

I am at the point of sending out my ms to agents. I have been through the process before and am uncomfortably familiar with rejection letters. My question is, how many agents should you approach before you give up? I have finished this project to the best of my ability and begun the next one. I can understand you need a certain persistence, but when do you accept the project in question is actually dead - 10 rejections? 20? In the past I have given up after about 5.
The book I am starting on now is my fifth. The first three were unpublishable. I think the fourth is OK. I am getting better all the time, but I don't want to delude myself.
Getting published is important to me, I need the validation. I don't want to kid myself, there is nothing more embarrassing than a bad story that the author believes is the dog's.

belledechocolatefluffybunny Tue 05-Oct-10 22:18:27

Hi ninah smile
Have you though of getting someone to proofread it for you?

I wouldn't give up, I am obsessivly persistent though.I think it's difficult if you are not getting feedback though. Is there a writers group that you can join? (there's one here but it's in the evenings and I have DS)

Litchick Wed 06-Oct-10 11:51:34

Hello Ninah - sorry for the delay.

This is a very tricky area - the old thorn of rejection.

First, it goes without saying that we writers have to put up with it.
First from agents. Then from publishers telling our agents that while they love our latest work 'it doesn't fit the list'. Then when our work is published no-one buys them. Or the bookshops won't put the in BOGOF.

Then some fucker on t'internet will say 'yawn, Litchick's latest is crap...don't bother.'

So the one thing we know will happen is that we will have to deal with rejection.

How much each person can take and how persistent each writer can be in the face of it, is personal, I feel. Some writers are very raw and find it makes them depressed. Others, like me, let it roll off them. The former probably are better writers, the later are porbably more successful and /or happy in their life.

I know writers who have been unable to cope after one or two rejections. They gave up.

I also know writers who had several books that never saw the light of day and are now very successful.

As for each specific project, and how much you should persist with it...that is a different and very good question.
I would say that after ten pro forma rejections, you need to take another look at your sub package. Could it be better?
Then try another ten.
After twenty, if I had no feed back whatsoever, I think I might question the project itself ( as opposed to your skill as a writer).

ninah Wed 06-Oct-10 21:03:34

Thanks litchick that's very sensible advice (again) and has been very useful to me in forming a plan of action. I will do as you suggest and review after 10. I've given up earlier before but I believe this project is OK. So, one down, nine to go! grin
This is quite a lot of chances actually. Then I will review and revise.
I am definitely thinking in terms of moving on to next project rather than giving up altogether. I am OK with rejection and with blunt feedback.
I feel quite encouraged now, thanks smilebelle I have three friends reading it for me at the moment, all well read individuals who appreciate structure and flow, and will call a spade a spade. I have thought about a writers' group but I think it might be a bit too well mannered for what I want iyswim. I am not really a group person. If I ever came into serious cash I'd apply for one of those MA's ... but as things are I need to support dc, so most activities that require a babysitter are worthy and practical for now. One of these days I may invest in one of the paid editorial advice services. But you know how it is, the car MOT comes first ...

belledechocolatefluffybunny Wed 06-Oct-10 21:21:04

They look expensive those editorial things. I've finished another 2.5k one, I'm very happy with it, grammar is good, it has a message and it flows. I am very biased though grin

Litchick Thu 07-Oct-10 12:39:11

Editorial reports are a mixed bag - most of the editors are writers who don't nake enough from the books.
Nowt wrong with that - many successful authors make bubbar all actual cash.

However, I question whether auhtors are best placed to give editorial advice. Also they only get paid a couple of hundred quid for doing them - the rest goes to the agency - so I question how much time they actually spend and how much is cut and paste.

As for subbing - ninah, don't do one at a time. It will take forever. Send out three to five. Then as one rejection comes in, get another one off.
After ten come back here and breathe. Regroup. And perhaps fiddle with your sub package.

Best of...

Oh and definitely start a new project - the first question any agent or publisher will ask you is what you're currently working on.

And it's good for a rwiter to always have a pot bubbling.

belledechocolatefluffybunny Thu 07-Oct-10 14:45:46

Is it advisable to send the same book to lots of different agents/publishers or should you send different ones (assuming you have written more then one) to different agents/publishers so they don't all have the same one? (if you can see what I mean? blush

Litchick Thu 07-Oct-10 16:25:07

I don't think there are any hard or fast rules..but if it were me, I would send out one book on multiple submission. Say five.

Keep a track of what was sent to whom and when.

When a rejection comes in, send another sub out, aiming to have five on the go all the time.

You can then decide to sub again to the same agents with another book, if enough time has elapsed.

On abother note, I think it's wise to decide whether you want to sub to agenst or publishers direct. What you don't want to happen is to secure an agent, only for he/she to discover that you've already subbed directly to publishers.

That said, some of the smaller publishers do perfer unaganeted authors as it's cheaper grin

belledechocolatefluffybunny Thu 07-Oct-10 18:05:12

Ah, I see. I've only sent one to Egmont, this was a couple of weeks ago and have not heard back. I will look into this a bit more. smile

belledechocolatefluffybunny Thu 07-Oct-10 19:39:25

I have decided to by myself a bottle of wine and a cake every time I get a sod off rejection. What are the chances of me being an overweight alcoholic by christmas? grin

ninah Thu 07-Oct-10 21:30:14

Litchick, thanks. I am trying agents because so many publishers now don't seem to want material unless via an agent. I will keep trying! good to hear your info re editorial reports. My instinct is that you have to learn to be best judge of your own work. But I have had some useful insights from friends who are discriminating readers.
Belle I am a bottle of wine and a cake ahead of you. Actually I'll raise you a CD, how about a CD, a cake and a bottle of wine? and can I swap cake for a packet of pringles.

belledechocolatefluffybunny Thu 07-Oct-10 21:37:18

Pringles you say? BBQ flavour?

I have read a book which has said that they say this to stop the torrent of submissions going through their door and there's no harm in submitting to them anyway. Worth a shot hey!

Litchick Fri 08-Oct-10 09:53:44

I think if the nesxt HP fell through their letter box they wouldn't send you away wink.

However I still wouldn't be without an agent.

1. He has contacts in the industry which means he can sell my work when I can't. Plus I'm no salesman.
2. He gets a lot of froeign deals which I could never do - don't speak the languages.
3. He dives in for me whenever I disagree with my publishers so that I can retain a good relationship wiht my ed.

belledechocolatefluffybunny Fri 08-Oct-10 10:51:07

I've sent it to Cornville and Walsh. I do need an agent really, mainly because I have no idea what I'm doing and because I want as stressfree life as I can get. I do hope they like it, it's about a bullied pig and how he finds his hidden talent. There's a few twists and giggles so fingers crossed. It should make them laugh regardless grin I suppose it depends on whether it is the next HP though, I wouldn't know. I just don't like waiting as I think I'll never get a reply.

ninah Wed 20-Oct-10 17:54:15

I had my 3rd rejection today. Am I totally sad and deluded to find this enouraging ...
'You write very well and I enjoyed reading th chapters but in the end, the plot was a little far-fetched ..'
something to work on I think
belle where's the pringles?

BelleDeChocChipCookieMonster Wed 20-Oct-10 20:38:26

sad Here you go. It's only 3, it's just their opinion. Remember that JK Rowling got alot more knock backs then this.
Is this an agent or a publisher? Have you signed up to Twitter as there's a couple of agents/publishers on there. wink

ninah Wed 20-Oct-10 21:38:24

belle, no I wasn't upset, I was pleased grin because at last I got some feedback! is that pathetic?! it's good to know what the problems might be
and if I can write well, I can write something more plausible
(as for JKR, her plots are on the far fetched side lol - but i thought she only had one rejection?)
was an agent, really glad she took time to actually read it
will have a look on twitter, nice one, you have given me some great pointers, also the Pratchett thing, thanks so much
going to rethink the new novel and maybe simplify it, take out some of the gratuituous shock factor stuff
shame my imagination seems drawn to the sordid, really
hope you are still going, too
real life has intervened for me a little at the moment, but I am still committed to writing

BelleDeChocChipCookieMonster Wed 20-Oct-10 21:46:32

JKR had loads! Feedback is good, I can't get any other then 'genius' 'it's fab, can I have another one?' I want to know why it's crap. The agent that was too busy was incredibly helpful, it's too 'british' and wouldn't do well in an 'international market' which has steered me in another direction.
Twitter is useful, I've been shmoozing an agent for a little while and have sent one book to his agency. I'll have to wait and see. I think (not that I know) that the key is to make your reader believe that the events in the book could actually happen to them. Every kid wants to be Harry Potter, they all want to go to boarding school, this is why it works.

I'm still going, I have Space Chimp Joe on the go now grin

ninah Wed 20-Oct-10 21:54:24

Yes, I have had standard rejections but this one was SO helpful!
I liked that one you had that was so specific, too.
thing is, agent only got the first three chapters, so her opinion of the plot would have been from my synopsis. I'd like to think the actual writing makes what happens something that, as you say, the reader can believe (or suspend disbelief) ...
but it has made me think I should scale down on the schlock factor
I LIKE the sound of Space Chimp Joe a lot ...
don't forget I have a random bunch of 3-4 year old testers should you need them!

BelleDeChocChipCookieMonster Wed 20-Oct-10 21:58:51

I think you are after the 'thank fu*k it's not me!' response grin

I will send you something, I have a little library going on. blush

ninah Wed 20-Oct-10 22:20:53

in the book you mean? Yup, i like feeling the hackles rise grin
good to hear you sounding so positive, keep me posted re your twitterer agent!

BelleDeChocChipCookieMonster Wed 20-Oct-10 22:32:03

Fingers crossed. I could do with some good news. I sent them the pig story, poor piggy is bullied by his sisters. He tries to make himself bigger then faster so he can beat them but things don't quite work out.

BaggedandTagged Thu 21-Oct-10 07:41:34

Ninah- there are a couple of books which are incredibly useful to the unpublished writer

- The Writers and Artists Handbook- published annually and contains details of all the publishers and agents with their likes and dislikes and how they like submissions (so you avoid pissing them off before they even read your MS)

- "Thanks, but this isn't for us". Great book on the first time errors that writers make and along the same lines "How not to write a novel"- actually v funny but good points on avoiding pitfalls in plotting, dialogue, back story, structure etc etc

The point the author makes is that agents and publishers get a ridiculous amount of subs and when they pick up your first three chapters, they are looking for an excuse to stop reading, and it doesnt have to be a major thing- just some clunky, contrived dialogue, or too many diverse speech tags.

ninah Fri 22-Oct-10 16:08:23

Thanks I have used the handbook in the past, but mostly go direct to agents' websites these days. Also have read 'thanks but it isn't' etc, did a lot of reading about writing at one point, mostly as an exercise in procrastination!

BelleDeChocChipCookieMonster Mon 25-Oct-10 17:14:48

Am I right in thinking this is a bo standard reply?? (opens the pringles)

Dear belle,

Many thanks for sending us this. I very much enjoyed reading your work;
however I'm afraid that ultimately I didn't feel sufficiently confident
that it had the necessary edge to find a place in what is an
increasingly competitive market. You may well of course receive a
different response at other agencies, and I would certainly recommend
that you explore other avenues.

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