Friday, April 30, 2021

Why I said no isn't something you can fix

 I try to read the books shortlisted for major crime prizes: Edgars, Malice, ThrillerFest etc.

Sometimes it takes me a while to read them all but I really like to see what caught reader's attention, and think about what those books mean for acquisitions in the future.

Recently I started one such book.

I read about 23 pages and put it down.

There's nothing wrong with the book. It's well written. It's shortlisted for a good prize.

But the story held absolutely no interest for me.

Given the scarcity of my reading time, I elected to not finish the book.

This happens in the incoming queries as well.

Sometimes you've written a book I don't want to read.

There's nothing wrong with you.

There's nothing wrong with me (ok, never mind that)

There's nothing wrong with your book.

Fretting about how to revise to garner my interest is NOT what you want to spend your time on.

You want to spend your time querying widely.

No list of "what I'm looking for" or MSWL will prevent you from querying agents who just don't connect with your book. 

Pinning your hopes on some dream agent ignores the very real possibility that your tastes are not sympatico.

These are rejections you cannot avoid even with the spiffiest of queries and the most compelling book.

Any questions?


Colin Smith said...

Do you suppose there's some criminal syndicate somewhere that gives out awards for major crimes? Best Murder, Best Theft, the Scooby Doo Award for Best Disguise...? It could be like the Oscars: "And the award for Evading Capture goes to Sam Jones! Of course, Sam couldn't be here this evening..."

Hmmm... imagine you visit a relative you haven't seen for a while and see this mysterious trophy on the shelf, half-hidden in a shadowy corner, depicting a knife buried into its wooden base. "What was that for, Uncle Wes?" "Oh... umm... for... uhhh... cooking, yeah... cooking..."

Sorry, my brain must be on Terry Pratchett mode today... ;)

Timothy Lowe said...

Do you ever read all of a submission you know you can’t sell?

Janet Reid said...

Timothy Lowe

I've read all of a requested full that I knew I wasn't going to take
on but that is rare, particularly now when reading time is more scarce than ever.

But reading something I know I can't sell?
I don't remember any, but I don't really keep track of those.

Steve Forti said...

Just waving hello to everyone. Got my second shot last night, so excited but tired.
I t
hink Colin's award idea should be called the Criminey. Or maybe that would be for worst murder, theft, etc.
And y
ou know it's a Friday when I need to make up prompt words to poorly slip into comments.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

No questions exactly. I have learned well that agents have various reasons for rejecting that have little to do with me or my writing. I just have to keep trying as I can't stop writing. It's an affliction for which there is no cure. Rejection I get. It seems I get more paranoid when an agent responds with "I love this so much. Send me more."

Does she really love my work? What does she really want? What is meant by more? How did that happen? What does it say about me that I am more suspicious of love than rejection?

Other than that, rejection is becoming so common that I sort of expect it. This new love thing is throwing me for a loop. I don't know what to do. Do I pretend not to see the agent? Do I quiver in a corner, holding onto my manuscript until it tells me it is ready to go? I fear I might actually be more in love with my follies than my accomplishments. Ok, I'll see myself out.

K. White said...

Great post. Certainly clicked a light bulb on for me.

By the way, Janet, congrats on Query Shark being named a Writer's Digest top website again.

Julie Weathers said...

Oh, congrats, Janet on the award. Well deserved.

I know not a lot of people are going to connect with Rain Crow and I'm all right with that. I'm sending it out anyway and letting the chips fall.

I was babysitting the other day when the munchkins were unloading and reloading the dishwasher. One of their chores. Munchkin One. "You're not doing it right. If a job's worth doing. It's worth doing right or don't do it at all."

Munchkin Two. "I don't care about doing it right. This is fine."

"No, it isn't. When you grow up and get a job do you think they're going to pay you for doing a job wrong? No, they aren't. Do you think you'll get a bonus for doing things wrong? No, you won't. Daddy gets bonuses because he always does things right."

I'm sure he doesn't. We have conversations about how frustrated he is when programs don't work right, but it's nice the Munchkin has faith in him.

Anyway, the boys grew up with this, if a job is worth doing, it's worth doing right mantra and apparently, Will is passing it down.

All I can do is the best I can. I can't write like Gabaldon or Bronte, or Somers. I can just do the best I can. Some will connect with it and some won't. Some people like buttermilk pie and some people don't. It doesn't mean the pie isn't delicious.

Katja said...

JK Rowling comes to mind. She got rejections for her first book!

And maybe she still gets one now and then from an agent who is really, really behind on reading the query letters in their inbox. 🤣

AJ Blythe said...

"Didn't connect" in a query is for me like "said" in a book. My eyes just pass straight over it because it's such a common rejection phrase and it really doesn't mean anything other than, my ms is not for them.

John Davis Frain said...

Pure shark gold:

There's nothing wrong with you.

There's nothing wrong with me (ok, never mind that)

There's nothing wrong with your book.

Even as much as I understand, it's hard not to miss this blog.

Alex said...

I approve of this post for two reasons:
a) submitting to you, and receiving a very nice rejection, and
b) I too sometimes find "major" works underwhelming. I usually end up feeling like I've failed the book, which is ridiculous.

Craig F said...

Really, there is nothing wrong with me?

I am not sure about that. I am a writer and that means I look at the world differently than most. Maybe not differently than Agents, but I hope so.

To get a query to move an agent I think you have to shake them, not stir them. Move the world under an agent's feet and they will find a way to sell your laundry list, and your book too.

Tell me how to do that first, please, I haven't quite gotten there from here yet.

Lennon Faris said...

The reminder that never gets old. Rejection is tough and sometimes makes you doubt things you probably shouldn't, even when you've been in this whole writing thing for years and basically have iron skin.

If I won a category in Criminey, it would be worst first cop pullover. I was a student exhausted from exams and was driving on the interstate late one night, singing to stay awake, and someone was tailing me. Their lights were so annoyingly bright I tried to get away, even driving around a big 18-wheeler, to no avail. Well, I somehow missed it was a cop with their lights flashing. He was so convinced I was a super-bad guy that he called for backup. By the time I realized what was happening, 120 lb goody-two-shoes me was pulled over by 4 cop cars. They made me get out and searched my car and finally declared me guilty of possession of too much candy. I also got a whopping ticket, but looking back on it, it's kinda funny.

Nice to hear from everyone. I'm also enjoying the recent posts.

Kitty said...

Steve, I'm still trying to decipher your prompt-word message/list.

AJ Blythe said...

Kitty, the missing prompt for Steve is "nine" (when I need)

Kitty said...

Thank you, AJ.