Thursday, January 28, 2010

Rejection Sucks.

There. You have it in a nutshell!
The book of my heart has been turned down by yet another agent. Dare I say this guy was a dream agent? Yup. I dare say that. And I will. I will not mention him by name--those of you who know me, know who it was. And I will continue to read his blog and think highly of him. I honestly, truly thought this'd be his kind of book. Apparently, I was wrong.
So rejection still sucks.
HOWEVER...

This is my first foray back into the marketplace in a long, loooooong time.
And while it's not the first foray for this book, in all its forms, in a long time...still, it's maybe the fifteenth rejection I've had on it. Maybe the 20th. Something along those lines. If I really, really push it and include all the versions that have been written between 1990 and now...maybe it's 35 or so rejections it's gotten.
Some of those have been on previous plots that bore no resemblance to this version, even though it's the same characters and the same basic relationship.
Some of those have been on stuff I thought--and, apparently, some editors also thought--was VERY CLOSE. This is, after all, the book for which I have received by far the most detailed and thoughtful rejections.
And then there was the one today. Three lines by e-mail.

And it sucks.
But it's not nearly scratching the surface of how many more times I can try to get this into just the right person's hands. And I believe that right person is out there.
What does that right person look like?

The right person for this book is, ideally, an agent who can get me a good deal with a brick-and-mortar, real-old-fashioned-book publisher. One whose books you can take in the bathtub without worrying about shorting the book out. :-)
Ideally, that agent will love my particular style enough that s/he will ask me, "How much more of this you got?" Or, at least, "Is all your stuff like this?"
(Now, I'm aware that that question can be equally bad and good...and this could be either. I wouldn't care. Because if the agent's interested in how I write, even if s/he doesn't like THAT BOOK...or wants something else of a slightly different character...that could still very well be the agent for me.)

The right person for this book is, then, an editor who will champion it.
And who will work with my agent to give me a respectable advance and respectable contract.
And by "respectable," I'm talking market average. There is such a thing, and I haven't gotten it yet. But a good agent, and an editor on fire for my material, will be able to arrive at that for me.

The right person, next in line, is the marketing person who gets a hold of the blurb, maybe even a synop or a capsule of it, and says, "Whoa. I know just the stores where this'll sell like hotcakes."
Then the next right person is a distributor who's been sold on the book from someone--either me, or my publisher, or my agent, or someone--whom they trust.
The next right person is the reader who'll pick it up and not be able to stop turning the pages.

And then...we'll see who all the rest of the right people will be.

But to get to those other right people, I've got to find the right agent or editor FIRST.
And that is a process that's going to take a LOT more submissions than I've already done.
Even though the submission process is grueling.
Even though the rejections suck.
Even though sometimes, one wonders if you're the only person in the world who loves your story.

Recently, I read a candid Q&A on an agent blog between a discouraged writer who had a book, much like this one...that had, shall we say, been through the mill a time or two.
They'd picked up something like 35-40 rejections, and they'd started to wonder if maybe they should just put this one in a drawer and forget about the whole exercise.
Now, while there's nothing to prevent this writer from writing other things, that's not exactly what they were talking about, or coming from. They were wondering if they'd reached the point yet where it was clear that they just "didn't have it." That their writing wasn't up to snuff, whatever that was, for whatever reason.
And were they just fooling themselves about whether they could actually do this writing thing.

The agent's response absolutely knocked me out of my chair.
She said something along the lines of, "35 to 40 rejections is NOTHING. You haven't even begun to pitch this work yet. If you haven't gotten 200 rejections, there's no sense giving up yet, and you're nowhere near that stage. Get back on the horse, polish, revise if you need to, but get it out there again. You're on the tip of the iceberg. It's way too soon to pull in anchor now."

I sat there at my computer and mouthed, "200 REJECTIONS?"
And then I grinned.
Because, you see, all editors and agents always tell you, "Keep trying, keep submitting, what doesn't work for one might work for another of us..."
But I've never before heard one put a number on it.
And even if that number was a little exaggerated...I have a feeling it wasn't by much.
Nor was the agent being sarcastic. She was being perfectly, bluntly honest.
As she put it, in so many words, this is a numbers game. You have to keep at those numbers. You have to keep trying, and trying, and trying. Because 35-40, even out of the small world of publishing, is still only barely scratching the surface of the possible people who could take your work on, love it, and pay you for it...or make sure you get paid very well for it, and several more to follow.

So it's one thing to say, "Persistence is the key." It's another thing entirely to look at a number like that and say, "Damn, I ain't even begun yet. I'm getting back out there." And when you really think about it, what's an agent do every day but write submission letters for stuff that she hopes someone will like as much as she does?
And she has to read a lot of those "sucky" notes, too. Multiplied by however many authors she's chosen to take on.

I do admit, this isn't a new concept to me, although the number in black and white was. Anytime you ever try to sell ANYTHING, you invariably are trained by one of those chirpy types who says, "You gotta love the 'no's, because with every 'no,' you're getting that much closer to 'yes.'"
Most of us know that's not REALLY true. You can have 10,000 noes and not get a yes.

And most of us know you don't REALLY "love" the "noes." You hate them. After awhile, you just want someone, somewhere, to extend a "maybe."
Most of us won't have either the intestinal fortitude or the patience for 10,000 noes. Which means that only the true hardheaded masochists will keep at it, will keep learning, will keep refining themselves...until the yeses come a tad more often. In the meantime, sometimes that can extort a terrific cost.
So this isn't that kind of thinking, either.
Clearly, you don't want to keep doing the same thing and hoping for a different result.

But submitting ISN'T doing the same thing over and over.
With every new pitch, you're talking to a new person.
You're selling the book a little differently.
You're trying to get a handle on how they tick, what about your work is gonna turn them on, and how you can persuade them that you're their dream author, just waiting to be plucked from the tangled vines of wannabes.
And that, my dears, is what pitching is about.
Not about tossing a few names in the air out of a few hats and saying, "Well, my market is ____ number of potential publishers. So once they all turn it down, I'm toast."
That's not true. It's never been true. It never will be true.
Not before you hit that 200 mark or so.
Then you can think about finding some other venue by which to get it out in the marketplace.
Then you can think about giving it away for free.
Then you can think about self-publishing or the like.

But until then? Heck, it might suck...but it's a game you can play to win, if you set your mind to it.
And yeah, you probably need a little touch of hardheaded masochist to keep at it.
And you need a boatload of patience.
And a truckload of belief in your own ability to DO this thing.
And that's not easy to maintain.

But before I will send this book to an e-publisher, to a small press, to anyone who doesn't pay an advance, or to a self-pub venture, I'm gonna give this baby WAY more chances.
It's just started to walk. I ain't putting it in a motorized wheelchair yet.
Nor is my career there.

But rejection still sucks. So let's see if I can find a way to END it...soon.

Thoughts?
Janny

Thursday, January 21, 2010

In the Throes....

...of finally getting back "in the saddle" of writing again.  Yes, I'm working to polish a submission for an agent, and yes, technically it's old work.

Only not really.

Recently, I read a tale of persistence about a writer who worked on a book for years. Apparently MANY years. She wrote, and submitted, and got rejected, and revised, and sent to contests, and had critques, and submitted, and got more rejections...and so on and so forth. During this time period, many, many people told her to give up the dream entirely. She clearly wasn't making it, so why keep banging her head against the wall? Others told her she didn't have to give up on the dream of writing, just try on a more "realistic" one; she needed to put away the book with so many miles on it, and write something else entirely.

But this advice, she ignored.

She kept working on this book of her heart. The story she needed to tell. The book only she could write.

And eventually, it did sell. I wish I could remember if it sold for some fabulous sum of money, or got her fame and fortune, or put her on Oprah, or any of the rest. But it doesn't matter that I didn't remember that, because the kind, or degree, of success truly wasn't the point of this particular story. This particular story was about whom you listen to in your creative ventures. What advice you take, which you ignore. What you keep on with, despite all the rejections and the "realistic" suggestions that could make you successful...but not bring the fullness of your heart to the printed page. And deep inside, you realize that the fullness of your heart on the printed page is the only thing that makes it worth being a writer at all.

This story is that book for me. Unlike this woman in the account I've read, I've wavered from my story's path. I've taken some of that well-meaning advice. I've tried writing other things. I've written whole books' worth of other things. I've even had some success with those other things...to a point.

But this is the book that's written from my blood on the page.
This is the book that only I can write.
This is the story that only I can tell in this particular way.
This is the story I HAVE to write. And write. And keep writing...until it's out there.
It is the book that has reignited the Muse.
And I'm not letting go of it until it blesses me.

God help me, I can do no other.
And I am having more fun than anyone has a right to. :-)

Thoughts?
Janny

Monday, January 18, 2010

Fake Holidays

Yanno, if they're gonna make up fake holidays, the least they can do is decide to give us ALL the day off.
As it stands now, I just want the holidays that my bank, school system, and post office have. That means I ought to be working, oh, say, about three out of every four weeks, right?

Don't get me started on whether it's important to observe this particular fake holiday, either.  Suffice to say that better we should celebrate Jackie Robinson's birthday, or Rosa Parks', than this one.

'nuff said. On to real work which is, of course...the writing.

Thoughts?
Janny

Friday, January 08, 2010

Why You Should Have A "Plan B"

...what happened at the mythical* National Championship game last night.

I am the mother of a jock--or at least, a kid who was a first-class jock in grade school, high school and college. He was usually the best player on his teams, usually played a year or two up from his grade level, and usually was able to "carry" a team if necessary. All this, of course, meant lots of glory for the kid and lots of button-busting for his parents.

But what it also, unfortunately, meant was that any team he was on had the tendency to be "Matt and all those other guys." "Those other guys" usually had enough talent themselves that, had they decided to work hard and push harder, they could have been as good as he was--some of them much better. But because it appeared to "come easily" to Matt, a lot of them got way more caught up in standing around and watching, or waiting for him to call the shots, than they did in trying to challenge him for his position as Mr. All Around.

What his coaches did to try to rectify this situation, I don't know. They seemed to take the tack of simply letting the "star" take a team as far as he can take them individually, and hope that by osmosis, the other kids pick up on what it takes to be that good. But osmosis doesn't generally work on jocks of any age; subtle, they ain't. So most of the time, you ended up with a bunch of kids watching another kid play really well and just trying not to get in his way.

This worked until or unless the "star" got hurt or fouled out of a game, or the like. Then, too often, even the coaches themselves would glaze over, seemingly wondering what to do, and invariably, the team would fold.

When I was coaching my daughter's team during this same time, then, I brought up the folly of that system to the other coaches. I explained to them how I truly didn't believe in a "star system" (especially in grade school!) because of the reasons I've mentioned above. I'm sure you can predict what happened, however, when I proposed that we run the team as a team and try to teach everybody to play.

Uh-yup.

Under that mindset--which is "ride the star until you can't ride him anymore"--then, it's not surprising that Texas apparently had no clue what to do when their star went down in the biggest game of his career. They apparently didn't believe for a second that such a thing could even happen...which, when you really think about it, is a massively stupid mindset for a football coaching staff to assume. Football is a violent game; every play has the potential for injuring a player. Injuries had, in fact, occurred to stars all the way through the season.

Yet as they were preparing for this game on this big, national stage...clearly, Texas didn't plan for any contigency that would involve not being able to "ride" Colt McCoy all the way. Consequently, they had to put in an unproven freshman--who you can bet didn't get very many snaps in practice!--to try to rally the team and surge through anyway.

Is anyone truly surprised that it didn't work?
And was this remotely fair to that freshman quarterback...not to mention the entire rest of the team?

It's sad to have a "weird female fairness" point of view vindicated at this kind of cost. It's cruel to the kids involved. But I don't have any illusions that this one night will change any good-old-boy jock coaches' attitudes about truly developing all their players, either. Heck, some people are even daring to say that Alabama's national title should have some kind of "asterisk" after it because "they didn't play the Texas team at their best." (There's no dignifying that with an answer, so I won't.)

But as the next few days go by, people will probably say everything but what I'm saying above...about maybe planning just in case next time. And I'm not holding my breath expecting anything different.

Which only reinforces what Matt also told me, during his college career: "Mom, just remember this. You aren't gonna see too many mental giants on a ballfield."

Amen, and amen. It just stinks that they have to prove their ignorance this way.

Janny
*if you don't have a playoff, it ain't a championship. Period. End of sentence.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Where I Dream of Going This Spring...

Here.
Once I sell a book or two, maybe?

But it is the stuff of dreams, IMHO...

Janny

Sunday, January 03, 2010

The New Start

Anyone who loves college football as much as I do loves January 1...as she loves many of the games leading up to January 1, and occasionally, even some of the ones after it. (Don't get me started on the BCS-let's-extend-the-Bowl-season-from October-to-March stuff they have going now. Just don't. :-)) Even though the BCS's way to pick who goes to the National Championship game is mystical, mythical, and largely stupid, the fact remains that those of us who love to spend our Christmas aftermath watching a bunch of young, strapping men beat up on each other on a football field have more than ample opportunities to do so, especially on New Year's Day. So there's one reason to love January 1.

But there are others. They're called resolutions.

Yeah, I know. It's become quite out of style to make New Year's resolutions anymore...because "we all just break them anyway." And I freely admit that in years past, once New Year's and Epiphany were behind us, I generally considered the rest of the month a colossal wasteland. I've even nicknamed the way I feel in January the "Janny-weary doldrums," because I generally fall into a funk in which I don't wanna do nothin', I don't wanna talk to nobody, and I would just prefer to curl up on my bed with a pile of novels and ignore all those dutiful things like going to school/work or other responsible stuff. (Yes, this has been going on for a long time. Trust me.) There's baggage that goes with January, mostly relationship stuff...and then, too, there's always the cold, cold weather. And I'm even a person who likes winter, so that should tell you how far down into the well I truly fall come the aftermath of the festivities that precede it.

But this year is different.

There's a certain fatalistic sensation to pulling out that final stop and realizing that the thing you feared so terribly will probably not kill you after all; you start feeling suddenly relieved. Like you have nothing to lose. And, in a way, a little giddy.

And this is a good thing. Because this will nudge you to do other good things.
Like starting to truly weed out the paper monster in the basement.
Like starting to frame the way you communicate with others in a totally different way.
Like blogging more often. :-)
And, in my case, like seriously looking at the last five years of my life, knowing that on some deep, fundamental levels, they didn't work like they were supposed to, and deciding to do things differently.

I don't know exactly how I'm going to change things, yet. But there's even a nice sort of anticipation to that not knowing--because whatever I do, I'm not hidebound or forced to do things the same way I did them before. Yes, I am terribly virtuous to get up at 5:45 to walk--but I'm also exhausted by it. Yes, I'm terribly organized to have a housekeeping routine--but it has to change, or all I'll get done are the very basics, and the creeping disorder of bigger tasks that need to be tackled among the routine things will cripple and depress me. Yes, I'm receiving kudos and praise for how I do the day job--but I know in my heart of hearts that that's not all there is for me. I'll need more--or, maybe, less.

Because, quite frankly, trying to do ever and ever more is just plain impossible. I'm at a time and point in my life where things are supposed to have been getting easier. The fact that I've never spent a harder time in my life than these past couple of years...says to me that somewhere, I got off track.

But the good news is, there's no time like the present to change tracks. Change trains. Or even hop on a boat and leave the old track behind entirely.

I don't know exactly where to start yet, which bugs me. I like synopses. I like outlines. I like plans. I like to know what's happening next. And I don't. I just know that I can't keep doing what has been happening for the past few years. That way lies madness, illness, or at least heartbreak.

And I don't want to be responsible for that kind of damage anymore. After all, it's January...and we all know how I feel about responsibility in "Janny-weary."

Stay tuned. I have no idea what's coming next.

Janny

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Oops!

Yup! I blew it. First day out of the chute of the New Year, and already I did something I had more or less vowed not to do...which is rant about political/cultural stuff.
In fact, I really want to disconnect myself from anything political to begin with. Trouble is, when you keep getting aforementioned slap to the face...it's kind of hard to ignore it or laugh it off. It's bothersome. It's annoying. And when I get annoyed, I tend to write about it.
(Or, as my husband is fond of saying, "Don't get her mad. Just don't get her mad.")


HOWEVER...
This is a new year. And I know I need a new approach to my life in order to bring my creativity back into the forefront and do justice to the writing gift God gave me.

And I know that ranting, in any form, gets in the way of that.
Not that ranting isn't, at times, necessary. I tend to get wrapped up in an injustice, an error, or an instance of just-plain-wrongness, and until I write about it and get it out of my system, that's all I can think about. It ties up my emotions, my words, and my productivity.
I'd like that to be different, but I've learned over the years that changing that part of me just isn't going to happen. I've managed to stem it at times, to convince myself that there are fights that aren't mine...but it isn't going to 100% stop. It's the way I'm wired, and I need to learn to work around it.
You might wonder, "Why can't you just write the thing out, and then burn it?" Or trash it...or the like. Yeah. For some people, that works. Unfortunately, part of the way I'm wired also is I have to tell someone this!!!!
And yes, I know it's true that 99% of the time, the people who need to hear a message I put out there are either never going to see it, are going to read it and dismiss it, or are going to get even more set in their ways.
As St. John the Baptist found out, preaching does some good...but it doesn't get everybody to change their ways, and sometimes it can cause you to lose your head.

Losing my head, writing wise, is not where I want to be.
Therefore...I'm going to spend some time here thinking out loud, over the next month or so, about how to change my routine so that it affords me more time and energy to write the things that matter.
To tell the stories only I can tell.
And hopefully, to have a lot more fun and be a lot happier doing it.Thoughts about the new year? What have you planned to do to improve your writing life?
Chime in any time!
Janny

Friday, January 01, 2010

After Seeing JULIE AND JULIA...

...a movie I really did want to see, I have two lingering impressions:

1) Okay, Hollywood. I get it. You thought Senator McCarthy was the Antichrist (or you would think so, if you believed in Christ in the first place), and you think much the same of conservatives, especially Republicans. I GET IT. You can stop slapping me across the face and telling me what a godless, unenlightened pig I am for being one.

Oh, wait a minute. That's right. You're the godless ones. Never mind.

On second thought...I've got an even better idea. In the true spirit of making amends to victims of arrogance and thoughtless discrimination, just give me a rebate of a dollar or two on my ticket price or movie rental fee for every line you insist on shoehorning into an otherwise delightful story in order to perpetuate your own little agenda. Imagine...making reparations to real victims (people who think they're getting entertainment and instead get insults and propaganda), and putting your actual cash money where your (smart aleck) mouths are, for a change. 

Yeah, I ain't holding my breath on that one.

2) I'm going to blog way more often, way more regularly. :-)

Bottom line: great movie, despite the needless politicizing. So see the movie--but see it for as close to free as you can.  :-) Mustn't dirty the hands of these ideological purists with any more filthy American dollars than we have to. I know they just hate when that happens.

Janny