Rejections 8, 9, and 10

21 03 2008

Well, I have finally hit the double digit rejection mark for One Blood, but I remain undeterred. This week I am going to post some advice from fellow writer, Sandra Lee Gould Ford,(pick up her book Faraday`s Popcorn Factory). She has been an inspiration and constant source of encouragement over the last few years.

There are some shady literary agents out there. Agents who are looking to take advantage of authors desperate to get published. Agents who will take your money, sell you a dream, and then hang you out to dry. I queried one such agent this week and received the following reply:

Dear Writer

Thank you for your email submission to BigScore Productions.

Due to the thousands of submissions we receive each year, your submission (a complete proposal) will now only be reviewed if you pay a small $50 Processing Fee. Otherwise your email will be unread and deleted.

Just as with almost all editors and agents today, BigScore does not have time to give careful consideration to unsolicited manuscripts. These have increased dramatically with the advent of the internet, the tightening of publishers’ lists, and the necessity of having to have an agent. Even many published writers are now faced with having to find representation to get their work seen.

We actively consider manuscripts that are referred to us by our own authors and editors we work with. This always leaves us wondering what potential bestsellers we may be missing in the many unsolicited manuscripts we receive. So we decided the best option would be to give you the writer the chance to know your work is being looked at.

The BigScore submission review “will not” be a manuscript critique. We will only respond with a short paragraph on why we want to further consider your work, at no additional cost to you, or why we are passing on your work. If we do accept you for representation, your work will be submitted to the best publishers. Please go to http://www.bigscoreproductions.com and learn about our successes if you have not done so already.

BigScore is not interested in looking at poetry, erotica, children’s books, or movie scripts.

To continue on with the $50 Processing Fee:

Put “$50 Processing Fee” in the in the subject line of a new email, your “email address” and “name of your work” in the body of the email, and send to bigscore@bigscoreproductions.com.
You will then receive an invoice from PayPal requesting payment with a major credit card.
Once payment is received we will ask you to resend your work (your complete proposal, not just an email query).

David A. Robie, Agent

BigScore Productions

So I sent this to Aunt Sandra and here was her reply:

Qwantu,

I had some dealings with BigScore several years ago. Beyond the fact that quality agents never charge reading fees, my experience with BS leads me to advise absolute avoidance. There are web sites that assess agents for integrity and professionalism. When I checked, BS was not listed favorably. While not predatory, I found BS under handed and manipulative.

In your search for an agent, start with those who represent books like yours that were written by successful and respected authors. Take your time. Conduct a quality search. Check the web site for the American Association of Authors Representatives. Even their membership can do unethical things, but at least you can report member agent mis-behavior. BS, as I knew them, could not hope to join.

I’m surprised BS is still in business…

“Every rejection is incremental payment on your dues that in some way will be translated back into your work.”
-James Lee Burke





Rejections # 6 and 7

16 03 2008

E-mail queries are the best. Seriously. Under normal circumstances it might have taken me 3 times as long to collect as many NO’s. But even well established writers like Jodi Piccoult and Stephen King were rejected numerous times before getting the call up into the big leagues. Not that I’m comparing myself to writers of their caliber, just using them for inspiration. Like how in high school, my friends and me of the end of the bench posse on the high school basketball team took solace in the fact that even Michael Jordan had been cut. I’m not sweating it.

This post is really all about passing on some good writerly advice passed on to me blog hand from super agent Anita Diggs. It’s about story and character building and I’m passing it on because it is a good solid gut check.

Reposted from http://www.thebookagent.blogspot.com (2/16/08 post)

Here is a very simple formula that may help you in the future. Plan your novel before you start writng it. The plan should include the following:

1. Who is your main character?

2. What does your main character want? (World peace? Romance with a special coworker? A three bedroom duplex in a brownstone?)

3. Why can’t your main character have it? (Not enough power? Too timid to ask for a date? Not enough money for the duplex?)

4. List eight things that your main character will do in the novel to get what he wants.

5. List seven ways that your main character gets knocked down while attempting to get what he wants.

6. The eighth attempt is the resolution of the novel. He either gets it or he doesn’t but the journey has changed him along the way. He is not the same person as described in Step # 1.

Numbers four and five are what makes for great reading. It is STORY. Number six is the climax. If you’ve done a good job with numbers four and five, the reader is still anxiously turning the pages. Otherwise, don’t worry about number six because the reader closed the book a long time ago.

As an agent, I should know the answers to Numbers 1-3 by the time I’ve finished your 25 page sample. I should know the answers to Numbers 1-6 by the time I’ve read your synopsis.

Pick up Gone With The Wind, The Lovely Bones, The Devil Wears Prada, The Godfather or Waiting to Exhale and read the first 25 pages. Then look at this formula again.

Thanks Anita…

“There are countless ways of attaining greatness, but any road to reaching one’s maximum potential must be built on a bedrock of respect for the individual, a commitment to excellence, and a rejection of mediocrity.”

-Buck Rodgers





Rejections # 4 and 5

9 03 2008

When I started writing my novel One Blood nearly 8 years ago, I had no idea how harrowing the process of publishing could be. But you will never hear me criticize this process because it really does force you to become a better writer.

Here’s how this publishing business works. You write your novel and you want the world to read it, right? Well, first off you have to make sure it is as polished as absolutely possible. By polished, I mean that you have to clear up all the spelling, grammatical and syntax errors in your text and get rid of all the elements that take away from the action of the story. Your first revision should focus on these unnecessary elements and your second should focus on the grammatical, spelling, and syntax. I would also recommend a 3rd revision after you have let your group of insiders read over your text and throw stones at you.

So you’ve edited and revised until your product is ready for prime time? Now it’s time to craft your query letter. The query letter is basically a 1 to 2 page “pitch” for your novel that includes a brief description of the story and characters, a description of you the author, and any publshing history you may have. Why is this letter important? Because in order to obtain representation in the form of a literary agent, you have to first convince them that your project is worth investigating. Literary agents are the brokers between you and your potential editor/publishing house. Most publishers do not accept unagented manuscripts, so either you self-publish, or you go through this process.

The literary agent receives anywhere from 150-200 queries per week from authors all of all genres. That’s why it is important to revise your query letter for maximum impact. The idea is to hook the agent with your first paragraph. If they are interested, they will request a synopsis, pages of your manuscript, or even the whole thing. The synopsis is usually no more than 5 pages long and is basically an outline of your story, including the ending. What they will be looking for as they read your synopsis and novel is a fresh voice, pacing, polish, and payoff. They want to know that your book will sell because they don’t get paid until you do.

So you wrote the novel, completed the query and synopsis, and convinced a literary agent to represent you. What now? Well now comes the really fun part. Your agent must find and convince an editor that your book is THE BOOK to buy and you are the next coming of Stephen King. And what are you doing during this process? Well hopefully you are writing your next novel and not bugging your agent as to when he or she will be hearing back from the editors. Editors are looking for the same things that the agents are, but they are more focused on the saleabilty factor of your novel. Why should an editor be concerned with saleability? Because they are going to have to sell your novel to the marketing and sales department, before your novel ever sees the light of day.

So your agent convinced an editor to read the manuscript and the editor loved it! That’s great. Now, the editor will have to defend your novel in a meeting with other editors defending their projects and marketing and sales leaders challenging them every step of the way. All the editors have to agree on the projects for your novel to get pushed forward. And sales and marketing can reject the book at any time after that.

If sales and marketing are with you, then your book is put in the publishing rotation. The publishing industry is usually a year and a half ahead of you, so if for instance, the publisher purchases your book in March of 2008, your book probably won’t see a Barnes and Nobles shelf until September of 2009, if that soon.

So now you understand that the key to this whole process is you having the most complete package possible to present to your prospective literary agent. If they don’t think it is polished enough, or sellable, or original enough, they won’t represent you. Publishers are looking for sure things. There still exists some risk taking (The Kite Runner for example) but more often than not, they are looking for guarantees.

And why is that, you ask? Because in the publishing model there is a certain level of shared risk between the publishing house and book sellers. Publishers accept 100% of all unsold books. So if Random House (publisher) produces 10,000 copies of your book, and after 4 months, only 1,000 have sold, Random House will accept back 9,000 copies. And you only get 4 months to move units, because the publishing business operates in seasons (spring, summer, fall, winter). They’ve got to make room for the next installment of new books. You have got to ensure that your book sells.

Hence the rejection notices.

“We keep going back, stronger, not weaker, because we will not allow rejection to beat us down. It will only strengthen our resolve. To be successful there is no other way.”
-Earl G. Graves