Guest blogger Christine Trent landed a two-book deal with Kensington Books. Her debut novel, The Queen’s Dollmaker, a historical with strong romantic elements, is due to be released in January 2010. I interviewed Christine September 3, 2008. Three weeks later, she sold, and on October 31, 2008 she shared her exciting story of receiving The Call.
Christine has learned a great deal as she’s traveled the path to publication, and I’ve invited her to pass on some of her tips to you. Join us as we explore four topics so important to those eager to receive a contract offer:
April 13: How to . . . Complete a Manuscript
April 16: How to . . . Submit a Query Letter
April 20: How to . . . Interpret a Rejection Letter
April 23: How to . . . Get from First Sale to Publication Wisely
Be sure to follow the comment trail, where Christine will stop by to respond to your questions. As usual, there’s a drawing. Find out about my biggest giveaway yet at the end of the post.
And now, here’s Christine . . .
A Writer’s Tool Kit: Part 3
How to . . . Interpret a Rejection Letter
by Christine Trent
“I have kept the faith”
Interpreting rejection letters; staying strong during the low times
For those of you who have received rejection letters: Do you remember your first one? I do.
I had attended a conference and met with an agent. She enthusiastically responded to my very first pitch. “That was well done! Send me your first 50 pages!” I walked out of my eight minutes on a cloud. Not a week after I sent in my partial, an e-mail from the agent popped up on my computer screen. “This is it!” I thought. “She loved it. Of course, who wouldn’t? It was simply the best manuscript, sent along with the best query letter after giving the best pitch ever!!”
Five seconds after opening the e-mail I burst into tears. Truly, I did. It was a very polite rejection, stating that she wasn’t as excited about my characters as she hoped she would be. What? She was rejecting me and my literary masterpiece? How could this be?
So, after thirty minutes of remarkable self-pity, I figured I had best pick myself up off the ground, lest I drown in my own salty tears.
Trust me, once you get past your first rejection, the rest are a piece of cake. In fact, I started my own binder of them. I would carefully staple each rejection letter to its accompanying copy of the query I had sent. The binder got pretty full, pretty quickly.
But I learned something from all those rejection letters, and I’d like to share my thoughts with you. They seem to fall into five categories, in advancing tiers of promise:
The Form Rejection
This rejection is generally addressed “Dear Writer” and generically describes the rejection as “not fitting our list” or having been sent because “we are overwhelmed with submissions.” Don’t take it personally. Agents and editors are busy people and may only have time to perform a surface skim of your query. They may be seeking Civil War-set historicals this month, and your historical takes place in the Renaissance. It is no reflection on you, the writer.
The Copy of a Copy of a Copy Rejection
To me, these are the most painful rejections. They are not only Form Rejections, but they also suggest that your submission meant so little that you didn’t even rate a fresh sheet of paper from the printer! However, I encourage you once again not to take it personally. You aren’t the only one to get this rejection (I’ve had them, too). Again, agents and editors are very busy, and they may keep a stack of generic rejection letters just so they can keep up with their mountain of submissions.
The Polite Rejection
Congratulations! You’ve just climbed a rung on the rejection letter. It might say something like, “Although I liked your voice, I did not engage with your heroine.” This is very encouraging. It means your manuscript caught the agent/editor’s eye and got more than a skimming. You’re starting to get some notice.
The “Make These Changes” Rejection
When an agent or editor suggests that you make revisions to your manuscript with no offer to contract with you, THINK TWICE before doing it. I once got a Form Rejection, but across the top the agent had written suggestions for how to improve my manuscript, stating that she would love to see it again if I made the changes.
I spent a couple of weeks on the changes, sent my partial back in . . . and promptly got a Copy of a Copy of a Copy rejection. Eeep! And as I made those changes, I didn’t feel like they were right for my manuscript; I was just hoping to sell.
Don’t get me wrong. If you think an agent/editor is making a valid point, or if more than one agent/editor has made the same comment, you might think about making changes. Just consider it carefully. However, it is another indication that your manuscript has serious promise of selling.
The Detailed Rejection
This is the best kind of rejection you can possibly get. It’s clear the editor/agent has thoroughly read your manuscript, instead of just skimming the first few pages. He made detailed comments on your characters, setting, or plot, and made specific notes about what just didn’t work right for him.
Friend, you are very close to a “yes” at this point. Your manuscript was interesting enough to get a complete read, and that is very promising.
But it begs the question: now should you make changes based on his comments and send it back? I’m sure there are lots of opinions out there, but my own advice is no, do not do this. Instead, keep that person at the top of your list for after you do sell. He might be willing to take a chance on you in a different genre, or in a second book deal, or for some other future venture. If your manuscript was good enough to get a detailed rejection, it’s probably good enough to sell as is.
As I said in my last blog entry, you can sell your manuscript. Obviously, you take your career seriously because you’ve read this blog to the end. 🙂 Keep the faith, and keep your eye on the end goal.
Next time, in my final article in this series, I’ll talk about what to do in the interim between selling and publication.
Any questions about handling rejections?
Leave a Comment for Your Chance to Win
I have a plethora of prizes to give away while Christine’s posts are active. This time I’m keeping the prizes a secret. Yes, each winner will receive a package with a minimum of three mystery items that range from note cards to necklaces or memo pads to magnets.
I’ll choose eleven winners from those who leave a comment for Christine between April 13 and 23, one each day, and will post the winners’ names as they are drawn.
To be entered in the drawing, please include an email address when prompted, which I don’t share. Each comment counts as an entry, and you may enter as many times as you’d like.
Winners: #1 Leslie Carroll, #2 Leigh, #3 Jessica, #4 Eileen Astels, #5 Karen Fraga, #6 Sherrinda, #7 Margay
You could also win a First Sale Scrapbook!
If you’d like to have a chance at winning a First Sale Scrapbook created by your blog hostess, Keli Gwyn, leave a comment on any post between now and April 30. Make sure to include your name and email address when prompted if you want to be entered in the drawing. (Your information will not be shared.) Click red link above to see samples of covers and pages.
On May 1, Keli will choose one person who will have her choice of five covers on an 8×8 inch, twenty-page scrapbook in which s/he can document that long-awaited first sale. The pages will cover various milestones including The Call, signing the contract, receiving the first advance payment and holding your “firstborn” in your hands.
(No scrapbooking skills required. You just add your photos and journaling.)
Learn More About Christine
Visit her Web site: www.ChristineTrent.com
Learn More About Her Debut Novel
The Queen’s Dollmaker
Coming January 2010 from Kensington Books
“An exuberant, sparkling debut. Beguiling details of doll making are a joy in this rags-to-riches romp. Brims with Dickensian gusto.”
–Barbara Kyle, author of The Queen’s Lady and The King’s Daughter
A young woman, struggling to expand her London dollmaking trade, finds a surprising customer in Queen Marie Antoinette, an avid doll collector herself. This seemingly innocent exchange puts Claudette’s life in danger when she is lured to Paris under false pretenses. Money and jewels are being smuggled in dolls destined for the Queen, and have now been discovered by the fledgling revolutionary French government. Her only hope for escaping the guillotine is a man she pledged not to love, who has no idea she has even been imprisoned…