On Giving Up

Cate Woods blogged recently about beta readers, and the comment that I wrote has been rolling around in my brain this week, due to the rejection of yet another partial manuscript.

I have sent out more than sixty queries. One agent has requested to see my full manuscript, and six others have requested partials. All of these submissions were ultimately rejected. Many of the responses have been that the manuscript seems like a good, well written story, but no one is AS in love with it as they would need to be to sell it in this market, and/or they are not sure where they would place it.

This is discouraging. It makes me wonder if I should throw in the towel, and maudlinly reflect that my manuscript might just be too beautiful to live. But then I start to think of why I should keep going.

When I was finished with the original draft, I contacted a few teacher friends around the country to ask if they would offer it to students in my target group (gifted middle-school boys) to read and answer an accompanying questionnaire. I didn’t want kids who knew me, because I thought that might interfere with the honesty of their answers.

I ended up with ten guinea pigs beta readers, all tempted by the promise that I would put their names in the acknowledgments section if the story gets published. A few girls wanted to read it, too, which was fine with me. I stressed in the questionnaire that I wanted to know what was wrong with it, and that anything just written to be nice might hurt the chances of it getting published. I also asked them to write down the words they didn’t understand, so that I could include it in a glossary (gifted kids enjoy things like glossaries).

Although one girl wanted me to work a vampire into the story, the rest of the readers really liked it. They mentioned a few questions they’d had that had gone unanswered (which I fixed), said that they would recommend it to friends, and offered unsolicited ideas for sequels. One said to his teacher that Jim and Jack is one of the best books he has ever read.

One question on the form was about whether or not they thought they were the right age to read it, and if not, what age would they recommend? The students ranged from 11-16, and each thought that their age was exactly the right one, for different reasons. None of them wrote down words for the glossary, which didn’t surprise me; gifted boys don’t usually like to admit when they don’t know something. 

This is what keeps me going, when I am feeling down about querying, and when adult beta-readers/critique partners suggest that it might be MG instead of YA. I’m not sure exactly how to find an agent who thinks like a gifted teenaged boy — that’s not the sort of information that gets shared in profiles or on websites. If there’s one out there, though, I intend to hang in there until I find him/her.

What keeps you querying?


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3 responses to “On Giving Up

  1. Wow – that’s a lot of postive feedback. Sounds like the market – not your story – might be the problem.

    I only sent out a few queries on another story and that’s the impression I got from the notes I got from agents. I don’t think mine is edgy enough for today’s market. I’m not able to make it edgier – so I’ve got it sitting while I decide what to do with it.

    I don’t know what to suggest – sounds like you’ve got a winner – someone has to realize that soon!


  2. Layinda,

    Rejection makes the writing process difficult. It’s easy to get frustrated and want to throw in the towel. We can come up with all kinds of reasons why the agents were wrong in not loving our books as much as we love them.

    I mean, we are writers afterall, and are quite capable of turning words to sound how we want them.

    All I can say is don’t throw in the towel. You’ve had great feedback. Use it to decide what to do.

    Even if that means letting it sit for a little bit. There’s nothing wrong with that. Especially if you come out on the other end of the wait with a second manuscript. Because one fo the first things agents like to ask: what else have you got?

    hugs~ cat


  3. rklewis

    What made me continue with querying?

    I think it was a belief in me, and my project, that we were both good enough. I also always knew that there would ALWAYS be a next project, if the one I queried on went nowhere. And that happened. It went nowhere. Luckily, the next one fared better, and landed me representation. It was hard to let go of that earlier book, too, I can tell you!

    I believe you just need to continue writing, continue developing new ideas for books, and continue to hone your craft. I feel this is a good way to keep that forward momentum going as you develop your career.

    Keep going! 🙂



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