Wednesday, February 25, 2009

$13.99 + (head) tax

Recently I attended a bookstore event for a debut author. (I'm going to be sketchy on specific details to protect my fragile ego.)

I knew the editor and the book sounded fun, so I figured I'd stop by and show the flag. Sometimes debut author readings can have limited turn out. I was very puffed up at my amazing generosity, so full of myself that I was just lucky a passing umbrella didn't poke a hole in my swelled head.

When I arrived at the event, it was standing room only. Chandelier hanging room only. The author was in his milieu. He was funny, charming, and when he read from the book, I knew I had to read it.

I hung around till the end, snagged the last copy and stood in line for a signature. The author hailed from the West Coast and I wanted to say hey, hurray for the home team.

When I handed him my book and said my name for the signature, he looked up at me.

"I know you," he said.

uh oh.
This is almost never a good sign.

"Really?" I asked, hopeful he was a blog reader, had perhaps read a client's book, or perhaps had me confused with Donna Reed, Lou Reed, Calvin Reid, or any one of the myriad Janets at the recent contest on DogFact9 blog.

but no, oh no.

"You read an early draft of this book," he said.

Ahh..this book. The one I'm holding in my hand. The one I'm getting ready to pay hard earned cash money to take home. The one that didn't have Janet Reid (or Donna Reed, Lou Reed, Calvin Reid, or in fact any Janet at all on the acknowledgements page)

That one.

"You rejected it," he said unnecessarily.

"Clearly I was out of my mind," I replied, also unnecessarily.

"Well, it was a much earlier version, not really ready," he replied graciously.

"Go Blazers," I said, hoping for the home team advantage.

Then, I slunk out of the store. With the book of course.

When I returned to my lair, I looked up his name on my list of queries. I had in fact rejected it.

Here's what I said:

"Thanks for sending me (title) which I read with interest. I’m sorry I have to tell you it’s not right for me. In fact I really hate to tell you that cause I think you’re a really good writer and this is funny and charming. I just don’t think I can sell it."

And I was right. I didn't know how to sell it.

But someone else did. To a major publisher. For money. Real money.
To a GREAT editor.

So, when those rejections come in, and they will, keep this in mind: one agent's rejection is not only unimportant, it's really just a chance to find the RIGHT agent. The one who can sell it, and will.

I have the bookstore receipt to prove it.
And my hats seem pretty loose to boot.

61 comments:

Deb Vlock said...

What a great story!

Susan Adrian said...

Janet, you rock.

That is all. :)

Merry Monteleone said...

You know this is every tortured writer's fantasy, right? Kind of the way a ten year old's fantasy is, "I'll show them! I'll make millions of dollars and never use a lick of algebra!"

Thanks for sharing this. You're going to make a lot of writers smile today.

BJ said...

A story every author should read. Thanks!

Jenn Nixon said...

Did you finish the book? Did you like it?

Doug said...

Janet,
Great post. I know it probably was difficult for you to write, but it does help lessen the sting of rejection for those of us still trying to find the right agent. I know that there is an agent who will love my work, I just haven't found him/her yet.

twitter.com/thenextwriter

Tiffany Schmidt said...

Janet, this was a little dose of sunshine on a day that really need it. I'm printing this out to re-read after my next rejection (or maybe I'll get lucky and not have to read it again!). Thanks for sharing and I hope you enjoy the book.

Gina Black said...

Thanks. I needed that. Rejection is tough and it's easy to get disheartened.

Susan said...

What a story, and even better is the perspective on rejection at the end.

My favourite bit is imagining what the author's evening was like afterward: how wonderful to go home and soak up such a day! The thought of that would keep any of us writing through the disappointments.

DebraLSchubert said...

Janet, Amazingly wonderful story. Keep those cards, letters and rejections coming! Well, not really, but you know what I mean. This is my first time here, and I'm glad I made it. Thanks for the reality check and for that ever-elusive, ever-useful glimmer of hope.

T. Anne said...

What a ray of light! Thanks!

Anita said...

Rejection turned inspiration...I love it! Thanks for going out of your way and swallowing some pride to share this story.

Also...I'm fascinated you kept the records long enough to be able to look up the rejection.

Sean Ferrell said...

You do rock.

jill said...

Thanks for sharing this story. Go Blazers (and Beavers)! (I should know who this author is - seems like there was a recent article on a new author in town.)

mkpelland said...

In this economy and the downslide in publishing, your post is like a beacon. Thanks for reminding us to persevere.

mkp
ontext.com

mari said...

Wow. Thanks for that insight into the flip side of things. Should I ever submit to your agency I would be grateful for such a rejection letter, knowing now perhaps the reason for it. (Note I'm quietly not mentioning the other more plausible reasons for rejection.)

Kristin Laughtin said...

I love that you posted this. It's a great, real-life example that shows aspiring authors that a rejection from one agent doesn't mean your book is bad, or that it can't be sold. Sure, lots of people say that, but this proves it.

Janet said...

Nice thing to read after my first rejection. :o)

Taire said...

What a great story. You are a totally cool agent. Oh, and you are human, too! I thought that big head thing was an alien blending technique.

Melissa said...

Awww, we love you Janet! Even if you reject our future bestsellers.

I've started participating in blog contests and offering to help edit other writers' works and what I've realized is how subjective this entire business is.

I mean, I knew it before, but now I really know it. I had a situation recently where I was asked to give feedback on a writer's work and I just couldn't. Not because the writing wasn't good, it was really polished, the writer clearly talented, but I didn't click with the story and didn't want to give feedback on something I didn't believe in (it was too happy and well-adjusted...apparently I don't do well-adjusted).

I imagine agenting is something like that. The manuscript doesn't just have to be great, you have to click with it, believe in it 110% before you can sell it.

Julie Butcher-Fedynich said...

Thank You for this. I needed really bad, just this second. Can I give up queries for Lent?

Other-Julie

Elissa M said...

I love this post. It's great for us writers to be reminded that finding an agent isn't as important as finding the RIGHT agent. And that perseverance pays off.

kyler said...

It's stories like this that make me keep clicking back here. Thanks, Janet, you're tops.

Julie Wright said...

This is a wonderful post of hope to all those who get so close with those personalized rejections that almost ache worse than the form letters. You made me smile and feel a little better about similar letters sitting in my "don't slice your wrists just yet" folder.

The Unbreakable Child said...

Your a good sport, Janet and nice to boot!

Pati Nagle said...

Oh, dear! I can't help but laugh. If I'm ever in that situation I won't rub it in.

Thanks for sharing that!

Hilabeans said...

Wow. Thank you so much for posting this.

Pati Nagle said...

Oh, dear! I can't help but laugh. If I'm ever in that situation, I won't rub it in.

Thanks for sharing this!

Joanne Levy said...

You're lovely.

Tara Maya said...

Aw, man, I can just imagine what that must be like. It's good to remember the agent's side of things.

I remember a Big Hollywood Agent once who told this story. A young agent who had passed up on some actor who subsequently became a star, came to him in tears, beating herself up about her missed opportunity, her bad judgement, etc. He said, "Look, I want to show you something."

In his office, he had a filing cabinet of all the headshots of aspiring actors who had auditioned for him, including the ones he's rejected. He opened the Rejected drawer and showed the young agent a photo.

It was Barbara Streisand.

So, hey, it happens to the best of 'em. :)

Model1911a1 said...

Thanks for having the brass ones to share.

Robena Grant said...

I love your storytelling voice, and I cringed right along with you. Thanks for posting it.

Tara Maya said...

A Big Name Agent from Hollywood once told this story.

A younger agent came to him in tears one day. She'd passed up on an actor who had just been "discovered" by someone else and become a star. He said to her, "Look, I want to show you something."

In his office, he had a filing cabinet, which contained the head shots of every aspiring actor who had ever auditioned for him. He pulled out a headshot from the Reject drawer.

It was Barbara Streisand.

He told the younger agent, "If you're in this business, it's going to happen."

At the time I heard that story, although I wasn't an actor, I had mever before considered the matter from the agent's point of view. It really puts things in perspective.

Thanks for sharing this.

Tara Maya said...

Hm, I rewrote my comment because it seemed to have disappeared. I hope I didn't post the same thing twice.

If so, sorry for the repetition!

Melanie Avila said...

Janet, this is why I like you. You don't mince words, you stick to your beliefs, and you let us know when things like this happen. :)

Indigo said...

Definitely nice to know. Thanks for the heads up! (Hugs)Indigo

Silicon Valley Diva said...

ah, I'm sure many of your rejected writers can only dream of such a thing happening to them LOL!

What a wonderful story.

Clearly you knew the writer was talented though, since you mentioned he was a great writer in your rejection letter back to him. Shows you can recognize talent at least.

Southern Writer said...

It was a nice rejection you wrote. I would have been over the moon to have you say that to me.

Do you think there might be a time in the future when you might persuade the author to share tips on a successful reading?

A.S. King said...

Janet was late. She often became so engrossed in reading, she forgot the time. Since she was a child, she valued books more than people, claiming they were superior company, so being late wasn’t necessarily a bad thing for her.
Tonight it was dinner with Dellah. Last week, it was the dentist and the week before that, the physical therapist.

When Janet finally arrived, Dellah snapped, "Janet! WTF?"
Janet held up her copy of D100D.
“Who gives a crap about a stupid book about pirates?” Dellah whined.
And Janet nodded, because of course, she was right all along.

(Love this story Janet Reid.)

Zawir Al-Hamidi said...

What a great story. Maybe you could make the sequences.

Edie said...

I love that you told us this story. Thank you!

Julie Weathers said...

Janet,

I am so glad you posted this story.

I believe the right agent out there for my book. (wink) It's up to me to make it the best it can be and then start that hunt.

Rejections are part of the dues. Writers should know this. They should also want an agent who is passionate about their book and welcome agents who are honest and say when they aren't.

I would so much rather have an agent send me on my way rather than waste my time and build up false hopes.

Julie--waving at other Julie.

moonrat said...

The perfect story.

writtenwyrdd said...

Thanks for sharing your awkward moment. It does give hope indeed. :)

inthewritemind said...

Thanks for telling us this story! I'm glad the author had such a great attitude about it and I'm glad you did too :)

Charles Gramlich said...

We all make mistakes. I usually try to hide mine. Wonderful story and you have a good heart to share it.

Amber Lynn Argyle said...

This made me so very, very happy. Thanks so much for sharing. :)

Crimogenic said...

Great story Janet. Those of us with rejection under our belt long to hear these stories.

p.s. When I'm published, I would never call an agent out like that. I would just be too embarassed to.

Davin Malasarn said...

Thanks, Janet. Yes, this is a feel good post. You look good, the writer looks good, and all in all everyone ends up happy and right.

Suzanne Young said...

This is such a great post! I loved your point of view on it. Thank yoU!

Vicki said...

Thanks for sharing this with us. It's sometimes hard to understand when you receive a rejection where the agent loves the book, but it's just not right for them. I think you've given us a great insight as to why that happens.

cruizen4u said...

It took real guts to get this in print. I commend you and will always remember this story. Thank you from a struggling future author.

Cynthia Hernandez
http://cindyzcreations@blogspot.com

Cathy in AK said...

Kristin Nelson also blogged about getting a soon-to-be-out book (from an editor) she had passed on and said she still would. Interesting how your two posts came out on the same day.

Also, the Blazers haven't been the same since Clive "The Glide" Drexler held court. Just saying.

aries18 said...

Great story and great encouragment to those of us on the front lines. Thank you.

Kim Kasch said...

So nice of you to share this light in our writing/publishing pursuit. It gives us hope.

V Bored said...

Ah,
how inspiring.

That must've been really embarrassing, but thank you for sharing that.

Lisa Yarde said...

Thanks for sharing that story. For many writers who aren't sure whether to take "not right for us" at face value or as a personal rejection, I think this scenario makes it clearer.

Nina Pierce said...

A writer friend steered me over here and I'm so glad she did. That's an awesome post. Thank you so much for sharing.

katrinastonoff said...

This is a really beautiful post, and it shows exactly why we all follow your blog. It's encouraging for emerging writers, it's written really well, and it's funny.

Most of all, it shows you as a genuine, warm and wonderful human being.

Thanks for sharing it. And for sharing yourself.

Faith said...

This gives me hope, Jet.

I have two novels making rounds in NYC. My agent and I are ready to pull our hair out. Readers who have never read my work before rave about how wonderful the books are, and I have blurbs from such authors as J.A. Konrath, yet the rejections from NYC editors are glowing ones or ones that make no sense at all.

Maybe the next one who reads my novels will see what the others are missing.

Thanks for posting this.

Tahereh said...

wow. this post gave me goosebumps.

amazing.

thanks so much for sharing.