If you thought landing an agent was the day the rejections would stop, brace yourselves–you’re in for a long and bumpy ride. From pitch to publication is a long journey (it’s an overused phrase, but it’s true) and you’ll know from querying agents that not all work is right for everyone. Like finding an agent, an agent has to find you an editor that loves your work as much as you two do. Those with thin skin do not fare well.
Use the passes from agents as a test. Can you keep pushing through? Remaining steadfast in your confidence is a must-have skill.
How do you avoid getting down about agents and editors passing on your work?
Keep writing. Never stop writing. Even if you want to hold out to see what your agent or editor will want next, you have to push through to keep yourself busy and working on your craft. What your agent and editor want is for you to keep working while there is downtime.
Work on building platform (yes, the much-addressed platform) in the form of Twitter or a blog. Guess what, you’re still writing.
If you are in the querying stage find or talk to your critique group. If you have an agent talk through your concerns. Each author is different in how they deal with rejection. Let your group or agent know how you feel about it.
Read. Read everything published in your genre that you can get your hands on. (That’s what libraries are for.) Know what’s happening in your market/genre.
This is a tough one. Every agent feels differently about this, but my general philosophy is this: if I wrote up notes while I was reading the manuscript, I’ll pass them on, but if there are so many issues in the manuscript that I can’t tackle effectively in an editorial letter while balancing the work load of my clients then I won’t write one. That being said, there are many reasons why agents don’t explain why they pass on your manuscript and they include the following:
Time. I touched on this already, but our existing clients are always our first priority. We work so hard for them and do our best to balance reading the slush pile with our other work, but that often falls to the side as I read my clients’ work, their referrals, then the slush pile. Agents take time to read the slush pile, request material, and then take a huge chunk of their day, evening, night, and morning commute to read a manuscript that they aren’t sure whether they can invest in. If it is a pass after all this time has been put into it we need to get back to work on the phone calls and emails that have been waiting for us in the meantime.
Investment. Agencies don’t get paid until you get paid. That being said, it is always worth reading the slush pile because there are always those rare gems, however it takes awhile for those gems to turn into a manuscript that an agent can represent and sell. Our time is a huge investment and it’s all we have to give. Be patient with us when it takes time to get to your manuscript, because even though you might dislike form rejection letters even those take time for our staff to email out to everyone. We do the best we can in the careful balance of our job descriptions. Continue reading Why don’t agents comment on the manuscripts they pass on?