“Never surrender, never give up!” ~ Commander Peter Quincy Taggart, played by Jason Nesmith, (played by Tim Allen) in Galaxy Quest
Welcome to Elana Johnson’s Never Surrender Blogfest ~ a salute to never giving up, no matter how much rejection you face. And it’s also a celebration for the release of Elana’s new book SURRENDER.
I won’t claim that my search for an agent was as long and fraught with rejection as some. But it had its moments. I only started looking for an agent a few months before my first book, WE HEAR THE DEAD, was released because … well, because I was given bad advice about not needing an agent and was dumb enough to believe it. But by early 2010 I had learned that, no matter how wonderful an editor and a publisher might be, every writer needs someone looking out for his or her interests.
I was lucky enough to have referrals from other authors I met while launching WHTD. Over the course of eight months, two different agents for whom I had referrals read my manuscript and requested a Revise and Resubmit. In each case, I revised as requested and was then turned down. Each of these rejections was devastating in its own way, and yet my manuscript was stronger, thanks to the feedback.
There were also plenty of rejections from other agents: “Not for me.” “I didn’t connect with your MC.” “I just don’t like your style.” Not to mention radio silence. Whenever I had specific feedback, I revised and tweaked and fiddled with the manuscript so that every time I had a request, I was sending an improved version. I also came to a revelation regarding my query and realized I was hiding the most interesting characteristic of my main character. Just because it was a secret in the book didn’t mean I had to keep it secret from potential agents! *slap head*
My revised query got me more requests, and by this time it was late 2010. My first book was out, and I’d received some unhappy news from my publisher. It had been a sad, glum fall. One Sunday afternoon in December, I sent out a pair of queries and received two full requests before the evening was over. Promising—but I knew better than to get my hopes up.
That Tuesday afternoon, less than 48 hours later, I heard back from one of the agents. She loved my writing; she loved my main character – she didn’t like my plot. She thought I’d taken a really good idea and gone in the wrong direction with it. She suggested a Revise and Resubmit and offered detailed editorial notes if I gave her an exclusive – but this would be a total re-write, throwing out most of the characters and the bulk of the plot. We exchanged a few emails, and I was torn. I didn’t want to miss an opportunity, and yet I’d already been through two R&Rs without success. She was telling me that I’d messed up the story. I shed a few tears.
That evening, I mulled over my response while driving one of my daughters to an evening activity. When I got home and opened my email (still undecided), I had a new message waiting from the other agent I’d queried that Sunday. Sara Crowe was brief: She’d started my manuscript on her way home from work that afternoon and couldn’t put it down. Could we talk later that week?
And, happily, I landed with Sara, who loved my story enough to work through revisions aftersigning me. But as a Never Surrender twist to this tale – that manuscript was not the first one she sold for me. THE CAGED GRAVES was the second manuscript I sent to Sara, but the first one she sold. The original manuscript? It’s been recently revised again, and we have not surrendered yet.
The lesson: Keep writing, and no matter how much you love the ms you’re querying, write another one. Not everything happens when you want it to happen or in the order you think it’s going to happen. But everything happens the way it’s supposed to.
Oh, and go watch Galaxy Quest.
You can find the other blogs participating in the Never Surrender Blogfest HERE.
I love Galaxy Quest, and I love your story. You are a sterling example to everyone starting on the path to publication. Persistence–backed up by hard work–pays in this biz. 🙂
Although I knew most of this story already, I loved reading it in print. You are an inspiration! Your hard work and persistence definitely are paying off now.
Awesome story, Dianne. And great advice about writing another book while you query.
I know a number of people who didn’t surrender to the agent rejections and they are thrilled that they didn’t.
This is inspiring and I already knew your story. I have to thank you for all you do, and all the advice you not only give me, but to everyone. It’s people like you that keep me going.
Thanks for everything.
Very inspirational Dianne! Your story always makes me feel like I should keep going:)
I just wish I understood the point of the room with the slashy knives. Another author’s secret, perhaps?
What an incredible story. I’m glad to hear you went with your instinct and it worked out.
I can’t imagine how difficult that decision was to make.
That is very inspiring, Dianne. Gives me hope. I love hearing these kinds of how I got my agent stories. It all sounds very familiar to me. Which means I’m headed in the right directions. 🙂
Thanks for sharing!!
ugh! This whole publishing journey is fraught with heartbreak. But at the same time those exciting, uplifting moments are right there, too! Sara’s a great agent, and it looks like you’ve landed on your feet.
Thanks for sharing your path to pub–I think it encourages us all to hear everyone has challenges. I know I have! just keep swimming~ :o) <3
Such an awesome story. I’m glad you didn’t give up. Thanks for sharing.
I love this story. It’s always a valuable lesson. All that revising and rewriting (I am rewriting right now.) My fingers are crossed for you, for the manuscript that provided the Never Surrender twist 🙂
I’m doing the blogfest, too… It’s neat getting to hear what other people are writing about. I agree, keep writing!
Love that! I love hearing stories like this – gives me hope for when I finally enter those query wars! 🙂
Never give up! Never surrender! hehehe. I love that line. This was very insightful. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I am new to your blog and love it already.. well, it was actually love at first sight. I saw a picture of something that looked like a Tesla experiment at the top. I <3 Tesla.
I’m looking forward to reading more.
Now…who did you sell the movie rights of YOUR story to!? 🙂 That’s awesome. Though, I’m sure, living through it…
Okay, gotta watch Galaxy Quest. You’re the second person to suggest it.
Those revise and resubmits are horrible learning experiences. I’ve done several, and finally decided on the last one, not to revise, but finish up something new and start over. And, guess what? The agent who requested the R&R that I just didn’t have the energy to do, requested a partial of my new material. *fingers crossed*
Thanks for the inspiring story, Dianne.
Indeed, never surrender. Surrendering is quitting and winners never quit, right?
I LOVE this post. Never surrender is right…or quit. I had to learn that lesson the hard way. There are always options and always workarounds. Like Tim Gunn says “Make it work!”
I’ve always wanted to ask this story and now I read it and it’s heart-wrenching and amazing cool all at the same time! Thanks for sharing!
Loved this story (and the movie). Your an inspiration to all of us who are battling the query wars!
Sara was at the DFW Conference I attended, and I was impressed with her in the the agent panels she took part in. You gotcha a good’un!
Stopping by from the blogfest…
Great story! And to end with Sara Crowe? I love your last paragraph and words of advice! I look forward to watching your book’s journey to getting published! *new follower*
What an amazing story, filled with ups and downs. I think you and I would get along SO WELL, because it seems like some aspects of our stories are SO SIMILAR. Plus, you’re cool. 🙂