Getting Back on the [redacted] Horse

I got a rejection letter two weeks ago. Yay! Whatever, I get a lot of them. It’s part of the querying process, where you bare your soul and months’ (or years’, or whatever) worth of brain-melting, fingertip-blistering, sleep-depriving, dark-bag-forming, friend-losing, malnutrition-acquiring hard work, and they tell you PISS OFF! Not really, but that’s about what it feels like. If it was your grandmother telling you that. Your dead grandmother.

Anyhoo, so you send Agent Bob your query letter. He’ll say one of three things.

1.) Thanks for querying Agents-R-Us, but unfortunately your story isn’t quite what we’re looking for at this time. Best of luck in the future, blah blah blah. Sincerely, Your Dream Agent.
Meh. Next. And there’s nothing wrong with writing another book–a better book–and resubmitting. They’re not telling you no. They’re telling the book no. And as far as simultaneous submissions go, most folks will tell you not to do it, as in don’t submit multiple manuscripts to the same agent. If you’ve written a bunch of different things in the same genre, send them the best one. Send them the best damn thing you’ve ever written in your life. Different genre? Why not query a different agent with a different manuscript? Who knows what you’ll find out about yourself?

2.) [crickets]
I’d say this is the most disheartening, but honestly, I have to go back and compare email responses I’ve received to agents I’ve queried. In other words: Meh. Next.

3.) This is great! Send me all the things (or some fraction of them) so that I can validate your self-worth.
If you’re lucky enough to get this, congratulations! You said something about your book that made someone not only NOT stab their own eyes out with an expensive calligraphy pen, but roused that elusive feeling in their agent-breast: interest. High five. And once you’ve stopped squealing at your friends, waving your shiny new two-sentence email in their faces, you get to send them things. Depending on what Bob has asked for in the query package, he may ask you for pages, a full manuscript, a synopsis, an outline, or your first-born. Do this in a timely manner, because–I know, I know, but he took six weeks to get back to me, whine whine whine nobody cares–because you are asking a favor of him. Look at it like the job application process: you’ve sent him an application, he wants your resume, maybe an interview. You wouldn’t take your sweet time getting that to a potential boss, would you? Because, above all else, you are professionals. Both of you. This is his job already, and you want this to be your job. (Besides, who wants to give the first impression of taking your jolly sweet time and wait, what deadline?) Right.

And you will, of course, get one of three responses to the things you send in.
1.) Thanks, but this isn’t for me. Good luck.
2.) Thanks, but this isn’t for me. And here’s why: [revision suggestions]. Good luck. (This is the best rejection you can get. You’ve got an industry insider, a specialist and marketing professional re: your genre, telling you what works and what doesn’t about the pages/synopsis/etc you’ve sent them. This is gold. Treasure it.)
3.) This is great! Send me the full manuscript!/Here’s a contract! I love you! I’d like to shower you in cash and attractive firefighting men/chicks in the slave Leia outfit! (I’ll have more to say about the verisimilitude of this when someone actually says this to me.)

OR you can get a really snarky rejection about how everything you’ve ever wanted to do in your life is stupid and worthless and your writing sucks and that one thing you thought you were really good at, that thing that all your critique partners tell you is your biggest strength in your novel(s), well that sucks too, and everything you’ve ever thought of for a plot is stupid and overused and trite.

Well. Not exactly that. But here’s my point: No one is “good” at rejection. People are varying degrees of good at coping with it, at ignoring it and moving on, at disregarding it. But no one takes it well, and no one doesn’t care. Every one of them hurts; some, more than others.

So what do you do when you get a chest-punch of a rejection? You get back on the horse. I know–it’s fucking hard. And chances are, that mean rejection wasn’t meant as mean. Maybe she got a speeding ticket on the way to work that morning, or his girlfriend dumped him the night before. Agents are, after all, people, and they have good days and bad days.

It doesn’t make it hurt less. But all you can do is pick yourself up off the floor, dust your ass off, and get back on the fucking horse. Because this is your job, isn’t it? And maybe you haven’t earned a paycheck yet, but that shouldn’t keep you from busting your ass and putting your best stuff out there.

In other words?

SHUT UP AND WRITE.

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One Response to Getting Back on the [redacted] Horse

  1. Yep.
    Yep.
    And Hell Yep.

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