Forget your book. Rewrite your attitude
I like helping unpubs. I was one once, rejected by every publisher in New York before someone took a chance on me. I know the heartbreak. I know how hard and utterly confusing this all is. But I also know -- learned this through ten years experience publishing books now -- how important having the right attitude is. In fact, attitude might be more important than talent in this game. So when I meet an unpubbed with a bad one, I have learned not to waste my time or breath trying to help.
Back to the two unpubs I met this week. I had agreed to give some advice over coffee. We talked about their writing, and I answered questions. I had read the first 30 pages or so of their manuscripts ahead of time. But I didn't really need to. I could tell from just talking to them which one is going to get published and which one never will. See if you can figure it out:
- Wrote eight books.
- Tried writing both romance and mysteries.
- Has had all eight books rejected by editors.
- Just finished a ninth book.
- Queried 12 agents and got one to take her on.
- Agent-submitted ninth book was rejected by five New York editors who all said book had promise but was too slow and lacked suspense.
- Is still working on Book 9 trying to fix pacing problems.
- Is reading books on how to write suspense
- Has enrolled in the upcoming SleuthFest Thriller workshop
- Is thinking she should submit the book to small presses instead of the biggies just to get her foot in the door.
- Is working on a new idea and outline about a series PI just in case an editor wants a series instead of a standalone.
- Finished one book.
- Bought an established author's critique at a writers conference charity auction. Established writer sent back critique of the first 50 pages with suggestions to improve book.
- Didn't change a thing.
- Sent queries to agents. Was very offended by the "lack of personal tone" of the rejections.
- Got an eager Florida-based agent to take on him on.
- Didn't change title after agent suggested it wasn't very marketable.
- Book was rejected after multiple submissions.
- Didn't change a thing.
- Is looking for a "more connected" agent.
- Had book published POD. Sent a copy to the established author asking for a blurb.
- Didn't like my suggestion that he hone his story down to a single POV and make his plot linear, cutting the confusing flashbacks. Said the book "needed multiple POVs because of the story's complexity demanded it" and that his book was "not really genre fiction but more literary, like Mystic River."
- Thinks there is a cabal in New York publishing designed to keep POD authors from participating in the distribution system.
- Hasn't started a new book...but has lots of ideas.
I think you get the idea. Too bad unpub B never will. Yes, you can still write the book you want to and get it published. No, you don't have to sell out. But you have to be smart.
Being smart means learning your craft and walking before you run. (I'm guessing Unpub B never read the five Pat Kenzie Angie Gennaro books Dennis Lehane churned out BEFORE Mystic River).
It means listening to good advice when you are lucky enough to get it.
It means not taking every rejection personally. An agent or editor sends out a hundred SASEs a week and when they say no they aren't rejecting you. They are rejecting your work. There is a difference.
It means writing maybe ten books before you get it right.
It means not automatically expecting the "big" writers to reach down and pull you up. If it happens, consider yourself blessed and give back when it's your turn. But don't whine if it doesn't happen.
It means increasing your chances by making your work as marketable as you can without being false to the writer you are.
It means not not looking for short cuts.
It means not giving up.
It means having the right attitude.