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Guest Blogger Jessica Lei: Turn Rejections Into Acceptances

Happy Friday! Please welcome guest blogger Jessica Lei who's here to offer some tips on turning rejections into acceptances. She has a great writing advice blog with fellow writer Devin Bond at Show, not Tell. Please offer your thoughts in the comments and then check out her blog on the way out. Enjoy!

Turn Rejections into Acceptances

I’ve read a lot of agents’ opinions on what can help writers get representation and turn their rejections into offers of representation. Usually, the problem lays in the genre, writing, the concept of the book, or the query itself.

1. Genre

How could the genre be the problem? That’s a really good question! There are two explanations.

· Your book really isn’t the genre you thought it was and so you’ve ended up querying the wrong agents. Get a second opinion on the genre or try broadening the range. Instead of YA paranormal romance, try just YA paranormal or YA romance. Query agents who represent one or the other.

· Maybe, for some reason, you aren’t querying the agents in your genre. Always do your research and make sure the agents you’re querying represent your genre. A lot of agents will pass on a MS because they don’t know the right avenues to sell it.

2. Writing

This can be a hard thing to fix, but I don’t believe it’s impossible. I don’t even think ‘fix’ is the right term!

· Read everything you can about revising. A lot of agents and authors have tips on what to look out for. Sometimes it has to do with extraneous words or overwriting, and other times it just has to do with grammar and style. Writing is a craft and just like everything else, you do have to learn it.

· Revise your work–even if you’re on your twentieth draft. Sometimes you’re missing a piece that you overlooked beforehand because you were just too close to the work to see it. Especially take a critical look at your manuscript after learning new things about writing. It’s surprising how much you can find to change after taking a few weeks away from it.

· Find someone, or a lot of someones, to critique your manuscript. This can be pretty scary, but it’s also really helpful. It’s very hard to see your own flaws! It’s not so hard for other people, though. Find people who can look at various aspects of your story–grammar, spelling, characterization, pacing, plot–to make sure everything is well-rounded.

3. Concept

Yes, sometimes people’s ideas aren’t quite as hot as they thought they were. A lot of people spend their first few books writing out all of their ideas, all of the things they’ve always wanted to write…and a lot of times all of it turns out to be a great pile of cliché done-befores. There is a cure.

· Write it all out and when you can organize your thoughts, you might produce something that is determinedly you and yours. Write this!

· If you’ve always wanted to write a cliché or retell a fairy-tale, that’s fine. Yes, the market is saturated with paranormal right now, but that doesn’t matter. There a lot of agents that like vampires, but if you’re writing about the same old vampires as what’s already out there, they won’t be interested. The trick is to add a twist–kind of like spiking the punch. Give your story and your vampires something that the rest don’t have and set it apart.

· A lot of times I think the problem is the story’s concept only because the writer didn’t know where to start. What do I mean? I mean that the writer probably started from the beginning. What’s wrong with the beginning? It’s boring. Where do things start to change for the protagonist? Try starting exactly from that point and notice how things change.

· Finally, find someone to look over your entire plot. Someone who enjoy sit and likes to pick things like this apart. There might be plot holes, missing links, or things that just don’t make sense that you hadn’t noticed. These things could’ve left your manuscript weak and a lot of times these things show through in the query.

4. Query

Your query is the (typically) the first thing an agent sees. It represents you and your work. If it’s not top-notch then an agent is going to think less of your manuscript. They may pass by reading your manuscript altogether just from your query. If you’re getting a lot of rejections, you may need to simply revise your query to better represent your story.

· Research, as always. There’s a lot of content out there that addresses the ways to write a good query. A lot of agents will post successful queries, offer query critique, and even post guidelines and advice on how to sculpt the perfect query. Read anything and everything you can get your hands on. Just like writing, querying is a craft you’ve got to learn.

· Always, always start with the conflict. Start where things change for the main character. This will ultimately, hopefully, be what draws the agent to read further. A query is an agent-attention game: it’s all about how long you can keep their interest.

· Make sure you read up on as many agents as you can. Make a list of the agents that you want to query and research them. Personalize your query and follow each agent’s individual submission guidelines.

· Critique! Always, always find someone or someplace where you can get critique from someone on the outside.


Natalie Aguirre said...

Thanks for the great suggestions. I agree with you researching agents and getting your work critiqued are so important.

Right now I'm struggling with that pesky query. Going to get it critiqued this weekend at the SCBWI conference.

Trisha Wolfe said...

Great advice Jessica! Research is key, I agree whole heartily with you. I know after I finished my first book I was revved up to get it out there, but you have to pace yourself and spend as much time on your query as you do on your MS. I'm a big fan of show, Don't Tell also! Good stuff =)

middle grade ninja said...

Good tips. Thanks for sharing.

Dana said...

this is encouraging and helpful, thank you!

Amie Kaufman said...

Great breakdown, allows for a really strategic plan of attack!

Beth said...

Thanks, Jessica, for your thoughtful tips. I loved your comment that "just like writing, querying is a craft you've got to learn". That's so true -- I'm always surprised at how long it takes to put a query package together.

Hilary Wagner said...

This is great advice!

Great post Jessica and Casey!!!

xoxo -- Hilary

Leigh said...

Excellent advice. Another great post. Well done guys.

Unknown said...

I really liked the advice to start the query with the conflict in a book. A nugget to remember.