Sunday, April 12, 2009

The shoe is on the other foot and it pinches!

Some weeks ago one of the head honchos here at the FinePrint Lit Bar and Grill forwarded a query to me with the usual "is this for you?" message.

I read it, and yes indeed it was for me. It practically had my name in lights at the top of the query. Never mind that my name is now apparently spelled RUBIE not REID.

But, I digress.

As usual when I get something I think is yummy, and might have already been snapped up by any of my more slithery colleagues, I give the prospect a ring on the phone.

Me: Hello, this is Janet Reid at FinePrint Lit. You sent us a query on such and such a date and it was forwarded to me since my list is a good fit for what you write.

Hot Prospect: Hello, nice to meet you.

Me: I'm calling to make sure you haven't signed yet with any of my slithery competitors colleagues whom I'm sure have been chasing after you.

Hot Prosp: No, no I haven't.

Me: Great, well, I hope you'll be ok with me reading your book then. I'm eager to get the pages.

HP: Well, no. I don't want you to read it.

Me: stunned, incredulous silence.

I've NEVER had someone refuse to let me read something. As you can well imagine, it's 100% the other way around, I'm refusing to read stuff left and right.

To say I'm stunned is to say Stephenie Meyer sold a few books last year.

In the next five nano-seconds I think the following things:

1. He's read my blog and he thinks I'm a foul mouthed bitch.
2. He's read my blog and he thinks I'm incompetent.

3. He knows me and doesn't like me.
4. He's heard of me and doesn't like me.

Now, these thoughts aren't as lucid as this list. It's mostly just an overwhelming feeling of self doubt and the instant assumption his refusal was about ME.

In the next moment, I have a blinding, and I mean BLINDING, realization that this is how some people who query me react to form rejections. I think the last time there was a bolt like this Saul might have been on the road to Damascus.

Then Mr. Prospect elaborates: "I've decided to re-work the novel and I'm several weeks from having it done. I'd rather send you the revised and polished up version."

Me: Sure, no problem. Glad to get it then.

I tell you this here to illustrate one more time that when you query agents and you get a form rejection, it's not always about YOU. It could be about ME.

It's ME if I'm not enamored of the topic no matter how well written;

it's ME if I'm overwhelmed with work this week, and just can't read one more partial;

it's ME if I've got a project very similar to yours and can't sell it for spit;

it's ME if I can't think of an editor who would buy this book and have no idea where to even start;

it's ME if a colleague handles this genre and I don't want to encroach on his/her turf.

I don't tell you any of this, and I don't apologize for using a form rejection in these cases. I do, and you'll just have to know that.

Sometimes of course it is the writing. But not always. And if you've been paying attention to this blog and others, you've avoided some of the classic mistakes (glitter! photos! fiction novels!) If you've availed yourself of QueryShark or Evil Editor or any of the other critique sites, you've probably got a decent query.

That means you press ahead. Don't dog paddle around the slough of Despond. Climb out, hose yourself off, and get back to work.

Rule for writers: Be rational. Understand that your first response comes from that reptilian base of your brain. Then engage your thinking brain.


Authoress said...

Thank you for what is certainly a timely word for my own journey. I am utterly weary of the not-quites and almosts and titillating near-misses.

Pressing on, as always.

Julie Weathers said...

Oh, heavens forgive me for laughing.

I can just see you banging your phone to see if it's working properly. They don't want you to read it? What the heck?

Yeah, I can imagine that was a shock.

Glad they are being sensible and polishing before they send it, though. It's really tough to be patient when you have someone offer to read.


Tiffany Schmidt said...


It's a good thing I read your post to the bottom! I had paused after his rejection and was already getting into Momma Bear mode - HOW DARE HE BE RUDE TO YOU! Then I read the rest and exhaled...

Thanks for taking the time to consider things from our perspective! (And I can't imagine anyone thinking 1-4 about you).

Tara Maya said...

LOL you have a great sense of humor. Thanks for sharing this.

Pati Nagle said...

Thanks for sharing that. Helps us remember you're human underneath all that shiny armor.

Margaret M. Fisk said...

Wow, that was quite a turn of events. Hugs on the learning experience but thank you for sharing it. Even those of us who have accepted form letters for what they are serve to benefit from this because it changes it from an "I know" to an "I get it" if that makes sense?

A.L. Sonnichsen said...

Wow, this was sure an interesting read. So, Janet, do you mind me asking ... were you at all annoyed or frustrated at this writer for making you wait for the ms? I mean, aren't we supposed to be "done" with our manuscripts before querying? I'm a perpetual self-editor myself, but that takes a lot of balls to tell you to wait! I don't know if I'd have the gumption. But maybe that's why you're beating down this guy's door to get his ms and not even tapping on mine. He probably has the balls to write some pretty incredible stuff if he's able to look the Query Shark in the mouth and tell her to wait. :)

K. said...

All I can say is that I hope this happens to me!

Margaret Yang said...

I have a new hero today.

Unknown said...

Thanks for your insights. And the morning smile.

BTW, I submitted this post to StumbleUpon, which apparently was the first time that SU had heard of your blog. An appalling state of affairs, so I remedied that shortcoming.

Haste yee back ;-) said...

Authoress... you're tired? Try this one I recieved little while back.

Dear Robert,

Blah, blah, blah... you're manuscript is not a yes, BUT it's not a no either! Blah, blah...

(which, IMHO, means NO! I mean, if a girl don't kiss ya with both lips, it ain't a kiss)!

Haste yee back ;-)

Julie Weathers said...

Alps, guess I will never be a successful writer since I don't have the necessary equipment to write.

You have one chance to make a good first impression with your writing. He's wise to wait if he's recognized a flaw. Or so I keep telling myself.

Anonymous said...

Now imagine 3 phone calls like that, in one day. Or better yet a 100 calls like that in 3 years.

Okay, now I'm wondering how do writers bounce back?

Anyway, congrats, you now have street cred.

Amy Kinzer said...

Janet - you always have the best stories. I need to stop by your blog more often. You should have link that says: "Best of Janet"

Jess said...

I love the allusion to Pilgrim's Progress there at the end. :D

Wendy Qualls said...

So a fiction novel about the movie "Glitter" would be a form rejection? :-P

Charley said...

Here's hoping you love the book after you get to read it. Liking queries & partials is certainly no guarantee, alas. Good luck & great post!