Sunday, 4 February 2018
Dealing with Rejection – Part 3
In Parts 1 and 2, we looked at the reasons why work might be rejected and what to do if you receive one. In this last part, we’ll look at ways to avoid rejection and improve your chances of an acceptance.
As writers, we can help ourselves in the submission process. If we don’t, then we only have ourselves to blame when things don’t go our way.
There are a number of things you can do to help your chances of acceptance. By far the best way is to write a solid, quality novel that really engages the agent/publisher and it makes them sit up and take notice.
The ability to tell an exciting, coherent story that is well written and researched is rare. A lot of writers don’t take the time to learn the craft of fiction writing, and become pugnacious when they receive rejection after rejection because their work isn’t up to scratch. The ability to write doesn’t happen overnight. It takes years. The sooner writers understand this, the better.
If you write a novel that has all the right ingredients – it captures their imagination, it’s well written with faultless grammar and spelling, has plenty of characterisation, pace, action and a believable story, then it’s a huge positive, because it shows them how capable you are at constructing a story.
Failure to Follow Submission Guidelines
Submitting to literary agents can be a time-consuming business. That’s because every agent has their own submission guidelines. These can be found on their websites, and one of the best ways to avoid rejection is to stick to these submission guidelines to the letter.
Your ability to pay attention is being tested, so it pays to read the guidelines carefully and understand exactly what they want, because the submission package differs from agent to agent.
So, if the agent requires a cover letter, the first three chapters and a synopsis, all done in 12pt Times New Roman and double line spacing, submit exactly that. If they want a letter, a one page synopsis and the first four chapters, in 11pt Arial and single line spacing, then do exactly as they ask.
Always carefully read what they require. Don’t deviate from these requirements. If you do, then you’re showing them that you can’t even follow simple instructions or pay attention to the little things. And it’s the little things in creative writing that really do matter, the very things they are looking for.
This process may mean you have to tailor your letter, sample chapters and synopsis countless times, but unfortunately is has to be done.
Write an Amazing Cover Letter
One of the things writers hate most, apart from writing a synopsis, is writing the cover or query letter. That’s because it’s hard to encapsulate your entire 95,000 novel into one paragraph. And there are hundreds, if not thousands, of web pages telling writers how to do it, leaving the writer thoroughly confused. And how to you capture the right detail and make it amazing?
There is no magic formula. That’s because it’s so subjective – what works for one agent might not work for another. One cover letter might look terrible, yet works, while another might look great and yet doesn’t work. It is so difficult to get it just right. (This will be covered in a future article).
That said, there is every chance the letter will work if writers stick to what’s important: the sales pitch. And that is all the letter is about. It’s a pitch.
You have around three of four paragraphs to make an impression. That means there isn’t room for your life story or how brilliant an author (you think) you are. The agent wants to know A) what the story is called and how many words, B) what the story is about, who the protagonist is and what happens, C) a little something about you and D) a courteous sign off.
Do not tell them how fantastic your book is. Don’t compare yourself with famous authors and don’t go into huge detail. The letter should be concise, informative and stylistic enough to entice the agent or publisher, to give them that twinkle that your manuscript is worth the time and effort to read.
How you write the letter should be indicative of the writer you are. A rubbish, poorly-written letter means they may be dealing with a poorly written novel. A well-constructed, thought out letter may tell the agent there is huge potential.
And it goes without saying – always carefully read exactly what the agent/publisher wants in the submission package. Don’t rush the process. Take your time to get it right.
Tell a well written story, follow the guidelines and ensure you have a solid covering letter. These three factors should be the difference between outright rejection to a positive maybe, or even an acceptance. It’s a slow, time consuming process, so it requires patience and determination. Just remember that a rejection isn’t personal. It’s business.
Next week: The magic ingredients of a novel.