This morning I received my 4th agent query rejection. Combined with the two no responses, that makes six rejections so far for my novel, For the Birds.
I came into this traditional publishing journey expecting rejection. It doesn’t make it any easier. While my expectations were on point, I still had my hopes that I was wrong – that one of the first few agents I queried would demand to see the full manuscript, and then sell it to one of the Big 5.
Not lofty at all, right?
At any rate, that’s obviously not happening. Don’t get me wrong, six rejections is still a baby number. But it’s also frustrating as all get out, especially when I know how to produce my own books and publish them, and could have this baby out in the world in a matter of weeks instead of the apparent years (if ever) it will take.
Yesterday, I let my frustration get the better of me, and I entertained the idea of just throwing in the towel. I’d just received my 3rd rejection, and it became apparent what a long game this is. I started questioning why I was going through all these hurdles when self-publishing is a straight shot. Sure, I’ve yet to hit the jackpot with self-publishing, but I know more now about writing, marketing, and packaging a quality book product. I have a clear concept of what genre lane I’m in, and I have a better idea on where my energy needs to focus to ensure my book lands in front of more people.
Except…I wrote this book with a very specific goal – to see if traditional publishing will benefit me more than self-publishing can. If I pull the plug and publish it, not only do I risk another failed launch for a book I believe in, but I will also deny myself the chance to truly know the best way to publish my books.
This morning, I was still mulling over what I wanted to do about For the Birds when I came across this blog by CJ, an aspiring author who is also in the process of querying agents. At the time of this blog entry, she had queried 55 agents over the course of 3 years.
But the inspiring part of her blog was how she handled her rejection. CJ ended up pulling back her manuscript, making revisions, and improving her query letter. Once she did that, agents started paying more attention. She’s still in the waiting game, but now agents are requesting full manuscripts when before she’d only received rejections.
This changed my perspective a lot, especially when I thought about the normal way I handle things.
It has been my habit to cave when things feel hard. To take the “easy” road when I reach an obstacle. Not that self publishing is easy, but critique and roadblocks are hard. I chose self publishing because there was no one there to tell me I couldn’t, or make me change things I loved about the story, or offer me criticism about what I just worked so hard on. There are no major hurdles besides the normal ones. It’s just a straight shot to publication, once you have the formula down.
With traditional publishing, it’s a path with many pit stops and detours. And sometimes there are dead ends, which can be frustrating. But these can also be clear messages: Something isn’t working, and it’s my job to discover what it is and fix it.
Would my manuscript read better in present tense instead of past? Does my query letter need a glow up? What else can I do to make agents see the magic and possibility in my novel?
In the end, my path for this book may still end up in self publishing. But if I get to that point, I want to feel confident that I did everything I could before choosing to just do it myself.