“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.