Many of you know that I’m acting as a mentor in Brenda Drake’s Pitch Wars contest, in which authors seeking representation pitch projects to mentors who then pick one (and, to my dismay, only one) project to work with in preparation for review by a panel of agents in January.
I’ve made my selection, and also chosen two alternates (projects I’ll work with if the one I’ve selected obtains representation before the agent review) – and I can say, with total honesty, that I envy agents and editors even less today than I did before making the choice.
Their job is hard. Terribly, sometimes impossibly hard.
But choices have to be made.
I regret the fact that some of the people who pitched me will – by necessity – have to hear “no” instead of yes. I’ve suffered my share of rejections over the years, and you never become accustomed to hearing “no.” It sucks. It hurts. And I hate that this time I’m the one who has to say it.
But I hope the people who don’t hear “yes” from me (or another mentor) will take this in stride – or at least, recover their stride in short order after hearing the much-loathed “not this time.” Because that’s what this is – it’s only “not this time.”
And you wouldn’t want it any other way. Here’s why.
At the end of the day, all the projects that pitched me were projects I could have chosen, if I made the choice on competence alone. Every one of them showed sufficient writing skill to reach publication – some in this draft, some with revisions required. At the end of the day, the choice came down to a project I couldn’t refuse. A project I thought about in my off time. A project that grabbed my mind like a dog with a bone – and simply refused to let go.
Does that mean the others weren’t good enough? NO. They were, and their authors have skill. There was simply one project that seemed to pick me – and at the end of the day, that’s the one a mentor – like an agent or an editor – simply has to choose.
Let me repeat that: if you heard a no, from me or from any other mentor, we aren’t rejecting you as a person. We are NOT telling you that your writing’s not good. We are not telling you to quit. In fact, quite the opposite – I’m telling you all to keep at it.
But what ARE you saying? I hear you asking. When will it be my turn? What if my work never sings that siren song in an editor’s ears?
It will, if you refuse to give up.
I know this, because it’s true. It happened to me. And even though it took me five novels to get there, I’m thrilled (now) that the first four didn’t get chosen. I needed that time to find myself as an author, to grow in skill and confidence, and to realize that my real calling is murdering my imaginary friends. (“Writing mystery” sounds so pale by comparison.)
It took me nine years, five novels, and more rejections than I can shake a stick at. But I made it, and you can too. If I could ease the path for you, believe me, I really would. If I could take every novel and author deserving of publication and put them in front of the agent and publisher who would fall in love with the work and accept them – I’d do so.
I can’t. But you can, by refusing to quit. Rejected? Get up, endure the sting and keep moving forward – writing, querying, editing, working. Make connections. Make friends. Above all, keep writing and honing your craft.
Publishing is a game of last man standing, and there are only two possible outcomes. You find someone who loves your work and wants to publish you – or you quit.
And only you decide when the game is over.
Trust me – it isn’t over for any of you yet.