Blogger: Rachel Zurakowski
Location: Books & Such main office, Santa Rosa, Calif.
Yesterday we discussed an agent’s response to receiving rejection letters that essentially say, “I loved this book, but I’m going to have to pass.”
Thank you to those of you who shared what your responses would be. It’s true that these types of rejections are more encouraging than rejections that point out that something is wrong with the project, but at the same time they leave you without any direction on how you can improve your project and pitch. As Robert shared, you can run out of places to send a project, so you definitely want to be sending the best possible draft.
So my question for you today is, how do you, as a writer, take a rejection like that and make it into something that helps you toward publication?
I have some ideas, but please add to my thoughts.
1) When you receive a positive rejection, take your book once again to your target audience to collect feedback. Ask them to answer specific questions after reading; don’t just ask for an overall feeling. Come up with a list of key issues you want to be sure to get feedback on and include the list with the manuscript when you show it to your readers.
Sample questions: How did the book affect you on an emotional level? What did you gain from reading the manuscript? Why would you or wouldn’t you read this book again? For fiction: How did you connect with the main character? How could this connection be stronger?
(Remember to phrase your questions so the reader can’t answer with just a yes or a no.)
2) Write another book. If you’ve received positive rejections but no contracts for a particular project, the timing is most likely not right for that book. The editors like your writing style, but the book isn’t quite right. Try your hand at another idea. Your writing should be stronger the next time around, and perhaps the new idea with strike the right chord with the editors.
3) Consider attending a writers’ conference. It helps to meet editors and agents face-to-face. Sometimes that personal touch can be all your project needs to be set apart from the rest.
4) Consider seeking endorsers, especially for nonfiction. Having the right name associated with your project could make the difference. This can be a tricky business because you don’t want to overwhelm published authors with endorsement requests, but sometimes these connections can be made in an organic way through writers’ conferences, writing groups, mentoring clinics, etc. Never force these connections, let them come about naturally, if at all. And don’t you dare use the line, “Rachel Z. told me to ask you for an endorsement.” 🙂
5) Enter your manuscript in a writing contest! Some contests even offer publishing contracts if you win. If you’ve received that much positive feedback, your chances will be pretty high.
Do you have anything to add? How can you be proactive in response to rejections that don’t offer any suggestions for improving your project?