What to Do While Your Manuscript is Out
O, how excruciating this period is for a fledging author! You find yourself checking your email and mail constantly—balancing evenly between being disappointed when you receive nothing and scared to receive a rejection.
Remember waiting for those college acceptances/rejections and not wanting to open them for fear of what was inside? Well, I didn’t do that then and I didn’t do that when I sent out my manuscript recently. I guess my naiveté in the whole process shone through, then and now, and I forged ahead.
As my flurry of queries made the rounds through agents I continued to get asked for submissions of my manuscript. I also began to receive rejections for my submissions. These hurt, especially this one:
“I’m sorry, but I just did not see a level of professional writing polish in this synopsis that would make me feel you can write a publishable novel. You just don’t seem like a writer to me, based on what I am seeing in your sentences. I love the idea of a novel about military dogs in Afghanistan and I admire your service, but the overall impression I’m getting is that of a minor league ballplayer hoping to start at center field for the Yankees.”
Jeez, I’m glad I spent two days writing and editing a synopsis! (I didn’t have one at the time of querying–another mistake on my part!) I think what hurt the worst was that he would assume I would ever want to play for the Yankees! I was born and raised in the Red Sox nation!
I can’t lie—he shook me. But I’m resilient and determined. I told myself that he was only one guy and I had seven other submissions still out there. I’m also fairly certain that most Yankee center fielders started in the minors before moving up to the big league. But I digress.
About 10 days later I received the first affirmation from the established writing world that I was an excellent “prospect.” I attended the James River Writers Conference in Richmond. I met an ensemble of wonderful people who were at all different stages of the writing process. I was actually shocked that many of them were just like me! I realized that I belonged to a community of talented dreamers.
But, yes, the affirmation. Most of you know, but for those that don’t, when you attend these writing conference there is often an opportunity to sign up for a one-on-one five to seven-minute meeting with a literary agent. As I looked through the agent list there wasn’t one that I thought would like to hear a pitch from me. I was wrong.
I decided to sit down with Jason Allen Ashlock. He had already rejected my query but had sent a kind note back saying he would be interested in a non-fiction book about military working dogs. I decided to meet with him to talk about the non-fiction book and get his sense of what he thought about my submission. Unfortunately, Jason couldn’t attend the conference due to a last minute death in the family.
So I signed up for a meeting with one-half of the dynamic Book Doctor team, David Sterry. Of course I hadn’t planned on pitching anyone, but fortunately for me I had my synopsis with me. (Yes the same one allegedly without professional polish). David is a great guy and very successful author. He gave me some advice on how to tweak my pitch and told me to call him after the conference to discuss the book. A little while later my trusted advisor Ginger Moran introduced me to another agent who was having lunch. I seized the opportunity and conducted an impromptu pitch. That agent requested a full submission.
The final affirmation was Pitchapalooza. What is that? You stand up in front of hundreds of people and a panel of literary agent and give a one-minute pitch for your book. The panel will then critique you and, at the end of the pitching session, will announce who delivered the best pitch. What are the stakes of Pitchapalooza? A guaranteed introduction to an agent by the Book Doctors, David Sterry and Arielle Eckstutt.
Sounds scary, huh? I was undeterred and commenced preparation. I re-organized my one-minute pitch based on David’s suggestion.
I’ll never forget walking in circles around my living room rehearsing that pitch at 4 AM. I wasn’t alone. My faithful pal Sammy watched over me from his plush bed. His eyes opened and closed in concert with the volume of my voice.
My girl Stella matched each step and never left my side. When I dropped my hand to my side she would nudge my hand with her dry cinnamon-colored nose as if she was urging me forward. She knew the stakes were substantial.
I delivered a well-written and rehearsed pitch to the audience. I wasn’t nervous. I was in a zone.
And I won Pitchapalooza!
So I walked out of the James River Writers Conference with:
-a submission request
-a phone conversation with David Sterry and an introduction to an agent
-a commitment for a blurb on my book jacket from a New York Times Best Selling Author
I had momentum and I was going to ride it back to the agents who already had my submission. I sent them all an email announcing my news and requesting the status of my submission.
Has anyone else received such brutal feedback from an agent?
I forged ahead. What do you do when you are waiting on your submission?
Was I wrong to keep on emailing agents?
How long do you wait on a submission?
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