I’m busy writing book3 but in the meantime, I sending book1 out into the world. I’ve polished my manuscript, I’ve hand-crafted my cover letter and honed my one-page synopsis. My critique partners, beta readers, expert publishing professionals, even the odd agent here and there have given me excellent feedback.
So, you think, why haven’t I got 99-book deal?
Several things, actually…
– numbers: there are an awful lot of people out there nourishing, cherishing and polishing their oeuvre. Publishing gurus (e.g. How Publishing Really Works) say many are poorly presented, badly written, punctuated, have a poor plot, implausible characters. Of those which are perfect on those counts, there are still quite a lot competing with my beautiful book;
– agents’ lists: many agents have a full list of clients, so obviously spend 98% of their work time looking after them (as you would hope to be). Sure, they all keep a weather eye out for The Next Big Thing. I mean, who wants to miss the next Harry Potter? Or Lee Child? But when that eye droops with tiredness at a 32 hour day, then perhaps we can understand;
– publishers’ lists: some do a wide spread of book types, others narrower, so your well-written, innovative and exciting book may not fit in with the rest of their catalogue. They may also have full schedules for a good period in the future. And they have the same problem with the 5,000 manuscripts they have to read each week.
But I think the big one is failure to resonate, also known as ‘I didn’t love it enough.’ As a wannabe author, it’s such a teeth-gnashingly irritating answer and something entirely out of your control. But set aside the anger and despair, have a think about it.
Picture yourself in your favourite bookshop. You have 30 minutes before the other half comes back from selecting your Christmas present. You browse the best-sellers, the tables, the 3-for-2, the new stuff, the ‘We recommend’ books, you look to see if your favourite author has brought another one out. But how do you choose what to buy? You read the blurb, you admire the cover, you read the first page or so, then you decide. Why? Because it calls you, it has a certain something that pulls you to it, that resonates. So I often get to the cash desk with a thriller, a historical, a fantasy adventure and the Booker Prize finalist. No logical pattern, just what attracts me.
So despite your beautiful oeuvre and perfect package (if you see what I mean), an agent or publisher may not ‘get’ your book. A very difficult thing to accept, but something writers need to swallow when submitting and reacting to rejections.
I was given a hard piece of advice. When you get a rejection, get another submission out the same day. If your book really is ready for market and your package so good, it should only take a few tweaks. This takes a bit of the sting out and you feel more in control of events. Another writer friend who has several books published says to submit widely (not to the agent not taking your genre, obviously!). You just never know who your idea is going to resonate with.
And lastly, all writers get rejections. Don’t take it too seriously, but here are some famous ones. You’re not alone. It’s never easy, even for the best writers.