Rejecting the Rejection

 

Back in the days when one used to query literary agents by way of the U.S. Postal Service, I used to go to great lengths to ease the blow of rejection letters. In those times, not so long ago, with every query letter you were supposed to include a SASE: Self-Addressed Stamped Envelope. This increased the chances of getting a response, usually a softly worded generic letter letting you know that your material was not right for that particular agent at this time.

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Even though those form rejections had clearly been photocopied a thousand times, I never could resist the urge to search for meaning in those blanket-rejection forms, looking for some reason why my writing wasn’t good enough.

In an effort to combat this, I devised something new: a self-addressed stamped post-card with three checkboxes: ___ Send Sample Chapters, ___ Send Full-Manuscript, ___ Not Right for Us at this Time.  This way there would be no agonizing interpretations of meaningless rejection prose. It was all business.

However, after enough of these little cards came back, it didn’t take long for even the sight of one in the mailbox to cause the feeling that a mule had driven its hind legs simultaneously into my gut. Or worse, a sense that I had been lanced through the heart by forge-hot steel.

It took many years to put rejection letters into perspective. A rejection letter is not saying that your writing is not good enough. It is not saying that you are not good enough. It is only saying that this particular agent isn’t the path to your success.  The path is out there, this just isn’t the way.  Keep looking.

There is a narrow little trail wending its way through the trees, waiting for you to discover it. It exists. You just have to to find it.

This blog entry was originally published for Author Magazine‘s Author Blog.

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Brian Mercer is the author of the supernatural YA novel, Aftersight (Astraea Press, 2013). He is also co-author with Robert Bruce of Mastering Astral Projection: 90-Day Guide to Out-of-body (Llewellyn, 2004) and The Mastering Astral Projection CD Companion (Llewellyn, 2007). A board member of the Pacific Northwest Writers Association and senior editor at Author Magazine, he lives in Seattle with his wife, Sara, and their three cats.

 URL: www.brianmercerbooks.com

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Redefining Success

So you’ve been at it a while, haven’t you? This writing thing is something you know you are supposed to do. You feel whole and alive when the words are flowing through you. You’re pursuing your life dream and it just feels right.

Yet success has thus far eluded you.  Oh, there have been triumphs. You’ve finished writing your first novel, maybe, or had an article published online. But you’re not where you want to be. Success, as you define it, has not yet manifested.

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And there’s been heartbreak along the way.  You’ve been rejected by agents and publishers. Someone who you love, admire, and respect has read your stuff and wasn’t impressed. Or worse, maybe they didn’t bother reading it at all.

You continue to write, of course, because you know this is what you are supposed to do.  But it feels like this should be…  easier. You don’t know exactly what the next step is, but you feel like it should have happened by now. You understand that this thing you are doing is supposed to work out, it just hasn’t yet.

Here are a couple of things to consider. First, you get to define success. All you have to do is acknowledge that you are successful right now, at this moment, and you are successful. Make success something in your control: “I am successful if I write a little everyday.” Whatever success is for you, put it within reach and allow yourself to take it.

Stop measuring yourself by the yardstick of others’ biographies. The success stories you hear where writers get their Big Break and become big time authors often don’t mention the years those authors spent right where you are now, practicing the craft and experiencing heartbreak.

Be patient. Allow things to unfold in their own time. Often seasoned authors are grateful they didn’t get published any sooner than they did, because they wouldn’t want their earlier writing on display. Or even worse, some of them were published too earlier and are utterly embarrassed by their initial efforts. You are learning things now and growing in ways that you cannot perceive until you have a little distance on it. There are people you are supposed to meet, circumstances to get involved in, that are on the horizon, they just haven’t happened yet. Trust that they’re coming and throw away your personal timeline.

And finally (this is the big one, trite though it might sound), don’t give up! Because, you’re right. This is what you’re supposed to be doing. This feeds your soul. In the end, that’s the best nourishment you can provide.

This blog entry was originally published for Author Magazine‘s Author Blog.

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Brian Mercer is the author of the supernatural YA novel, Aftersight (Astraea Press, 2013). He is also co-author with Robert Bruce of Mastering Astral Projection: 90-Day Guide to Out-of-body (Llewellyn, 2004) and The Mastering Astral Projection CD Companion (Llewellyn, 2007). A board member of the Pacific Northwest Writers Association and senior editor at Author Magazine, he lives in Seattle with his wife, Sara, and their three cats.

 URL: www.brianmercerbooks.com

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Getting an Offer of Representation

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I received The Call on a Tuesday.

I work at the edge of downtown Seattle. Every day I walk ten blocks through Seattle’s shopping district, to and from my bus stop to my office. Many evenings on my way home to catch my bus, I would pass one or more of those guys who stand on the sidewalk with binders and harass passersby into sponsoring a child from a third world country. I say harass, because they really do get in your face about it. They are polite, but you definitely know they are there.

Over several months, I began to encounter one of these gentlemen regularly, a guy with an anachronistic hat and quirky Irish brogue, who took to spinning his binder on his fingers like a Harlem Globetrotter.  He’d come to recognize me over the weeks and months that he stood vigil, had come to recognize me and my regular denials. But he never gave up.

“Today!” he would occasionally call out to me as I passed. “Today’s the day.”

And I would call back, “Sorry, bro, I got nothin’ for ya.”

About this time (April of 2011), I began sending out query letters to literary agents about my recently completed supernatural Young Adult novel, Aftersight.  It didn’t take long for me to discover that the task of researching agents and writing and rewriting my query letters took several hours each day. Yet very quickly something amazing happened.  I began receiving rejections, yes, but now I was getting personal notes written back from the agents. I even had a few requests for partials. I felt momentum gathering.

“Today!” my Irish friend called out as I dodged by. “Today’s the day.”

I’d shrug, keep moving, but one day at the start of the summer I said to myself, The day I get an agent is the day I walk up to that guy and sponsor a child.

Now requests for the full manuscript began to come in. That July I attended AgentFest in New York (part of ITWA’s ThrillerFest), an opportunity to hang out in a room with 60+ agents and pitch my novel to them. By the end of July I had sent out nine full manuscripts and four partials to various agents in New York and points beyond.

I finally received The Call one evening shortly after I’d left work. When my phone buzzed in my pocket, I ducked into a nearby shopping mall so I could hear the call over the street noise. And then I heard the words that every writer longs to hear from a literary agent: Brian, I love your manuscript.

After all those years of writing and rewriting, researching and querying and pitching to agents, I’d found  my agent through the good old slush pile. I’d done it at last!

When I stepped out of the mall several minutes later, there stood my binder-spinning Irish guy, patrolling a corner I’d never seen him guard before, directly in my path as if placed there. But that day he was right where I needed him to be.

I stopped in front of him and shook his hand.

“Today,” I said. “Today’s the day.”

This blog entry was originally published for Author Magazine‘s Author Blog.

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Brian Mercer is the author of the supernatural YA novel, Aftersight (Astraea Press, 2013). He is also co-author with Robert Bruce of Mastering Astral Projection: 90-Day Guide to Out-of-body (Llewellyn, 2004) and The Mastering Astral Projection CD Companion (Llewellyn, 2007). A board member of the Pacific Northwest Writers Association and senior editor at Author Magazine, he lives in Seattle with his wife, Sara, and their three cats.

 URL: www.brianmercerbooks.com

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