Lifting the Lid #6 “Rejection. Good for the soul.”

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9th July 2015

Ready for this week?

We’ve done it. We’ve finished our manuscript. It’s edited. This is it. The final version.

Let’s get it out there to a bunch of agents who are going to absolutely love it. Follow me along this road of making mistakes once again. I’ll tell you what I did.

I bought the Writers and Artists Yearbook. So far, so good. Then, I went through it evening after evening with my highlighter pen looking for potential agents that may like my work. How did I do this? I looked for the authors those agents represented and tried to align myself with them. So if you write historical fiction, find agents who represent authors that write the same genre of work. Easy.

I went on the agents’ websites and read a little more about them. Made a few notes. Ensured that they represented people like me.

Next, put together a submission letter. There is advice galore on the web in this respect as well as examples in the aforementioned Yearbook. If anyone needs more help finding this stuff, please email me and I’ll point you in the right direction.

I was ready to unleash The Radio on the world. Follow my mistakes below, carefully.

Mistake #1

Tailor each submission letter to match the agent. Why the hell I did all that research and then sent a generic letter, I will never know.

Mistake #2    

Try to make it sound like you are thrilled with your work. Let them know that they are holding something special. Do not (as I did) write a letter which told them:

a) that I had never had anything published

b) that my friends liked it

c) that I came from a small town in Yorkshire (hence, by inference the agent couldn’t possibly be interested).

d) yes, I actually told them, that there was nothing else I could think of that made me any different from any other author, I think I used the words ‘run of the mill’…

Mistake #3

Ensure what you send them has impact. My first novel, The Radio starts with a gentle opening. They don’t have time for this. Give them something with impact. Get them hooked from the very beginning. It makes sense. You want any reader to want to continue. If you can get them to read more than three chapters you’ve sent them you are some way there. Get them involved. Make them want more. They may have the next Roald Dahl or Stephen King on their hands.


So anyways, I sent my work to 30 agents. The vast majority rejected it. In fact, aside from 2, they all did.


Do not be disheartened.


Picture the scene: Your manuscript just appears on somebody’s desk to read one day. If they reject it, it doesn’t mean that it is not good. How many times have you sat down to watch a film and just not been able to get into it? Then, on a different day you’ve seen the same film and loved it. The same goes for all the arts. The first listen of a CD may not go so well, two or three listens later when you are in a different mood it may all make sense. The agent may be in a foul mood when they receive your work. They may have just had an argument with their partner and don’t feel in the mood for a rom-com. Their boss may have just slayed them over something they’ve not done at work. They are fuming: everything they read that day is useless to them. You have to understand that this is one person’s opinion based on their mood at that exact time on that exact day. That’s it.

Expect to be rejected. It will happen. It does not mean you can’t write. After all, how many of these agents can write anyway? Furthermore, agents are always looking for material that they can sell. Not whether it is any good or not. Perhaps the vogue is vampires or S&M stories. You will be much less likely to catch their attention if you’re not writing this genre right now. I know its harsh. But it is true.

Two agents wrote to me and said they wanted the whole manuscript. I was over the moon. I sent it in. Within a week one rejected it – “it was too British and would never sell” (I held back from mentioning the minor success of Four Weddings and Funeral). The agent however said they loved it. Loved it!

(all they asked is that I wrote out two characters. That’s all.)

As you’d expect, I was now in a position where having tried the agents, I was stuck. Of course, I didn’t write out the characters. No chance. I found it insulting. And so, with no-one to publish my novel, I did the only thing I could think of to take my mind off things. I began novel number two.

Oh, and began to research literary competitions.

See you next time – keep writing.