No matter what Jim Hanas says about writers being caught up in the lottery of “rejection porn,” I love reading about successful writers who made it after a gazillion rejections. I’m a sucker for lists that tells me how many times authors like J.K. Rowling, Louis L’Amour, Dan Brown, and C.S. Lewis were rejected.
Why? Because knowing others found success after rejections is what kept me submitting my manuscript even though I gained a total of
forty-seven forty-nine rejections. (Update: after I sold, I received 2 more rejections from retracted queries.) Fifteen of those were on full requests. And, to make things worse, it wasn’t the first book I queried and pitched. I had two other books out there gaining noes. But I kept going.
I persevered because as I went from form letters to personalized to editorial suggestions rejections, I measured each little step in that chain as progress. And because I once heard a professional writer say that the only friends of hers who didn’t publish after receiving their first partial manuscript request were the ones who stopped writing and editing and stopped querying.
I kept going, but I also kept revising based on the feedback I received from editor and agents. Maybe I queried too early on the manuscript, but I figured it was submission ready after it placed second in the On The Far Side contest and the editor judge said she didn’t request it only because her pet peeve were stories that mixed sci fi with mythology. So, I figured all I had to do was find an agent and editor who didn’t mind a mix of those two elements.
And I did–two years later. Here’s my crazy journey from query to signed contract:
-I finished the book as part of Cherry Adair‘s Finish the Damned Book (FTDB) challenge in late 2012 and received favorable comments from the editor who read my first three chapters. This is also the year I was a finalist in the On The Far Side. After numerous rejections, and attending a Michael Hauge story structure seminar, I did a major overhaul of the manuscript in early 2013, sent the book to the Golden Heart contest and continued pitching and querying–and receiving rejections.
–October 2013, I pitched to agent Sarah E. Younger at the Emerald City Writing Conference. She requested the full manuscript and rejected me about a month later through a very nice note that encouraged me to query her on any future projects.
–Early December 2013, I submitted to Sourcebooks through their general submission system, a confirmation message said I should hear back within 8 weeks.
-Sixteen more rejections happened, six of which were full requests.
–March 20, 2014, Cat Clyne of Sourcebooks emails me. She loved the manuscript but thinks it needs a lot of work. Her email includes some editorial suggestions and an invitation to resubmit. She also wants to see an elevator pitch for the series as a whole, short blurbs for the first three books, and a synopsis of book 2.
–March 26, I get the call letting me know VALHALLA’S KING was Golden Heart finalists. Yay! One of the congratulatory emails I receive is from Cat, who says “it’s well deserved.”
–First weekend of April, I attend the Desert Rose conference in Arizona. Sarah is one of the agents attending. She too congratulates me on the GH and asks if I’ve done any revisions to the manuscript. I explain I’m revising for Cat, and she asks me to send it to her again, plus a romantic suspense project that finaled in the conference contest. I also pitch to two other agents and two editors.
–Through the month of April, I touch base with agents who are currently reading the manuscript to let them know about the GH nomination and interest from a publisher. I also query some more agents. All of this result in 5 more rejections.
–Late April, I see a submission call from another publishing company asking for manuscripts related to fairy tales and/or mythology. I send them VALHALLA’S KING.
–Mid May, I finish the revisions for Cat and send the manuscript, plus blurbs and synopsis of second book.
–May 21, An email from an editor at the other publishing company arrives. She loves the manuscript, but would like some minor changes to the story line. I complete those and send her a rewrite a week later.
–June 2, The other publishing company offers me a three book contract. I happy dance for a while, then panic and call a published friend to see what to do next. She says to email Sourcebooks and any agents reading the manuscript. I ask the other publishing company for some time and do exactly what my friend tells me. Sourcebooks asks for a week to finish reading and take the project to an acquisitions meeting.
–June 4 – 9, I chat with agents on the phone and end up with three offers of representation. A completely surreal experience.
–June 10, I sign with Sarah and am super happy.
–June 12, I’m on vacation in Washington DC and outside the Museum of Natural History when I receive a call from Cat Clyne at Sourcebooks offering me a three book deal. After we hang up, I email Sarah immediately. She asks me to call her and I talk to her in the shadow of the Washington Monument. (DC has a very special place in my heart now.)
–June 13, Sarah and I talk over which publisher would be the best fit for a debut author building her career. We lean mostly toward Sourcebooks, but it’s a hard choice because the other publisher is awesome and everyone I talk to loves the editor. In the end, a print deal with an advance wins over an e-book only deal.
–June 13 – 23, Sarah and Cat negotiate until they’re both happy with the terms. I mostly happy dance and annoy my husband with tons of questions he doesn’t know how to answer. I’m on the verge of exploding from not being able to talk about what’s going on.
–June 19, Sarah finally gives me permission to announce that I have signed with her.
–June 24, Sarah and Cat says it’s time to announce the deal. And a day full of celebrations begins!
My persistence in submitting VALHALLA’S KING in a market where paranormal romance became a super hard sale is a sign of either perseverance or craziness, but I did write another book during these two years and I sincerely hope it will be a much easier sell.