Thanks, but no thanks

I received two more email rejections of my SINGLED OUT submission this week.

thumbs downAs always, both literary agencies let me down gently and politely – but both were clearly standard format replies this time. One gets to tell the difference between the standard thanks but no thanks emails and the ones where someone has taken the trouble to insert a personal line or two. You can’t expect it, but it’s nice – even in a rejection – when someone adds a personal touch.

One of my standard email rejections advised:

“We receive over 300 manuscripts a week and can only take on a handful of new writers every year. The result is that we have to be incredibly selective, so please do not be too disheartened. Another agent may well feel differently.”

Over 300 manuscripts a week!

I think SINGLED OUT is a solid piece of work – it’s an original setting with distinctive characters and, even if I say so myself, a pretty decent plot. It’s gripping and grizzly in parts and laid-back and sunny in other parts. Perhaps that’s a fault, but if it is, no one has yet homed in on it. It’s not perfect, but that’s because it’s my first attempt at a novel. It’s as good as my (lack of) experience can make it, and I imagine I’ll find I can do better with subsequent manuscripts, given how much I’ve learned through writing this one.

The question for me is, is it good enough to rise to the top of a pile of 300 manuscripts in one week, let alone an annual pile of over 15,000 manuscripts. Is SINGLED OUT good enough, original enough, compelling enough, well-written enough… to rise to the top 5 or 6 in a pile of, what… 15,000 on any literary agent’s desk? Even I have to admit, this seems slightly more unlikely than winning the lottery jackpot whilst being simultaneously struck by lightning – and a meteorite.

I’ve blogged before here about whether I should simply chalk it up to experience and bottom-drawer SINGLED OUT before moving on to the next. But with so many other options available to today’s authors, struggling for recognition through traditional publishing avenues, would it be a waste, simply to bury it?

In truth, I’m coming round to the idea of self-publishing…

11 thoughts on “Thanks, but no thanks

  1. I went to a meeting of romantic authors the other day, and most of them were really keen on self-publishing, and had done very well out of it. A friend of mine who is into all this stuff, from the techie point of view, said that often if you publish electronically, it can encourage sales of hard backed books. And these days, producing hard copies from e-publishing is no problem at all. If you are going to go down that route (and really I know nothing about this) I would strongly recommend that you first of all pay for a really good editor to go over your stuff. Good luck!

    1. Good advice, Elaine – thank you! I haven’t yet begun to go down this road and I know there’s a lot to learn about how to make it work and produce a quality novel. First thoughts are taking root.

  2. I agree with Elaine – look closely at self-publishing. It’s not the poor relations of real books that it used to be. And if you go down that route, make sure it’s the best book you can possibly make it. Think about how much you can invest in it – an editor, copy editor, cover design – it’s possible to do it all yourself, but I’ve never regretted one penny I’ve invested in professional help.

    1. Good advice again, thanks Jo. I wouldn’t want to try and do it all myself, but I have to get a feel for costs before deciding what professional help I can invest in. I totally agree that if I do this, it needs to be the best book I can make it.

  3. I just started reading a book by Pat Schneider and she said that most of the time we don’t know there is a tradition lying behind our writing and also the editor’s taste, what he/she thinks it’s good for publication. I don’t know how you feel about this comment. I haven’t got too many experiences like what you described here, but I try to imagine it as being in a job interview and from my experiences of that, I often take “no thanks” as the expectation from both parties does not match. So maybe really the next one will be better, and self-publishing is definitely worth considering. I have followed your blog for a while and reading your blog post is a great experience for me. Thank you and hope you keep on writing!

    1. Each agent will have criteria which determine whether a submission gets their attention and if it does, whether it makes the cut. They won’t sign an author unless they can see long-term potential. Even then, they won’t sign any but the best of the best of those, simply because there are so many good authors chasing a very few publishing opportunities. What one agent likes, or what another agent likes is also very subjective.

      Once at a seminar, I heard a publisher say that books which would readily have been published 20 years ago no longer even get looked at, because the standard of the debut novels which publishers are prepared to take on is now so very high – the economics of publishing simply don’t permit them to take on any but the ‘dead certs’ for huge sales. So the lucky few get the deals. But that leaves a substantial volume of very good books unagented and unpublished – and that’s why the self-publishing options are looking so much more attractive these days.

      I’m so glad you’re following and enjoying my blog – and thanks for joining in the conversation! 🙂

  4. I have just begun to stick my toe in the literary waters…deathly afraid of editorial sharks…but I’ve picked up a neat book by Noah Lukeman that addresses some of the failures of a first-time author in trying to connect with a publisher or agent. I have just started it, but it is an easy read and I thought the first chapter outlined some very good points on how to avoid beginner mistakes. The book is called The First Five Pages. Warning, it comes with assignments, but they are geared toward making your manuscript better. If I make it all the way through (the very succinct 197 page book) I’ll give it a much more detailed endorsement.

    1. I’ve read a couple of Noah Lukeman’s books and I agree they’re very easy to read and offer pertinent advice in a very digestible way. Once you’ve read The First Five Pages, try The Plot Thickens too.

  5. A good deal of interesting information in the comments. I agree as well you should give it a go if you can. I hope you do. I posted a blog last night about a friend who just simply disappeared from my life and will no longer return my calls or emails. Looking at Facebook accounts I found she has moved on with her life, changed locations and seems to be doing very well. She has a blog, and also has written a book on Tarot. I wish we were still in contact as I would ask her about her book and how it was published. And I would not be surprised if she did it herself. I understand your struggle with this but you can never just chuck it all away. You have completed your work with the book and some day it will get published some how. Perhaps it’s best if you start the next one. Who knows maybe down the line you will have ten books written. You are a great writer. You have style and humor and a great understanding of the language (you are English of course) and your vocabulary is simply wonderful my lady. Never, never stop what you are doing.

  6. I agree with you – lots of useful information and food for thought in the comments.

    I do plan to self-publish early next year if I can’t get an agent interested this autumn (after I tend to some ‘improvements’ in the coming few weeks). As soon as I feel I’ve gone as far as I can with these latest edits, I will go back to the submissions process and also begin ‘My Second Novel’. I thought I’d finished with this editing business months ago, but I put a few more test readers and agent feedback into the mix, and things looked different. Live and learn… live and learn.

    I read your blog post about your friend and I’ve been thinking about what to say. I will put a comment your post very soon.

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