How many rejections does it take to make a problem?

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JohnDurvin
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How many rejections does it take to make a problem?

Post by JohnDurvin » January 19th, 2011, 12:10 pm

I've got a sci-fi novel I'm looking for an agent for, but I'm up to about twenty rejections. As far as I can tell, I've got a pretty strong novel, as good a query letter as I can put together from the hundreds of contradictory hints I've gotten, and I only submit to agents that say they're open to science fiction, especially unique and character-driven science fiction that stands out from the blah blah blah. I can't even tell if it's the book or the query letter they're rejecting. Question 1. I refuse to give up, but how many times do I submit before I go back and change something? 2. How do I know what to change?
Everybody loves using things as other things, right? Check out my blog at the Cromulent Bricoleur and see one hipster's approach to recycling, upcycling, and alterna-cycling (which is a word I just made up).

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Mary-Catharine
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Re: How many rejections does it take to make a problem?

Post by Mary-Catharine » January 19th, 2011, 3:05 pm

I know you're asking Nathan this, but I just thought you'd like to know that I've been rejected 117 times, and that it's good to never give up-- improving could never hurt as there is always room for it. I keep all my rejections in a special little folder so that I can look at them when I'm published and giggle.

Louise Curtis
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Re: How many rejections does it take to make a problem?

Post by Louise Curtis » January 20th, 2011, 4:52 pm

*jumping in too, coz the one thing I know about is rejections - I have 74 just for novels*

There are degrees of rejection - is this twenty rejections of your query letter? Twenty rejections of your opening pages? Or did one or two request more? If anyone requested more, you're doing better than 95% of writers.

Your problem is probably the opening pages rather than the query letter. I recommend getting beta readers (who will also contradict each other, but oh well).

Common problems with openings include: Nothing exciting happens; too much exposition; characters don't grab the reader; no hooks; lack of basic grammar/spelling; lack of correct formatting.

If you read the openings of any ten unpublished books on a critique forum, you'll be able to see your own book in a much clearer light.

It's rare to publish your first book (unfortunately). Personally, I've thrown away three books and completely rewritten three others. But I've had about twenty requests for full manuscripts, and I know my books have made it to an aquisitions meeting at a large publisher at least once.

So, your options are:
Keep going with this book, improving it in any way you can.
Write a better book (it will be better, because you've learnt so much writing the first one).
Self-publish and/or write for fun rather than publication - you never know, if your book is online someone may approach you with an offer.
All of the above.
Louise Curtis
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Nathan Bransford
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Re: How many rejections does it take to make a problem?

Post by Nathan Bransford » January 20th, 2011, 10:56 pm

JohnDurvin wrote:I've got a sci-fi novel I'm looking for an agent for, but I'm up to about twenty rejections. As far as I can tell, I've got a pretty strong novel, as good a query letter as I can put together from the hundreds of contradictory hints I've gotten, and I only submit to agents that say they're open to science fiction, especially unique and character-driven science fiction that stands out from the blah blah blah. I can't even tell if it's the book or the query letter they're rejecting. Question 1. I refuse to give up, but how many times do I submit before I go back and change something? 2. How do I know what to change?
Here's a post you might find helpful: The Art of Reading Rejection Letters (talks about how to know when to pull back a MS to revise): http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2007/02 ... tters.html

JohnDurvin
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Re: How many rejections does it take to make a problem?

Post by JohnDurvin » January 20th, 2011, 11:52 pm

It's twenty rejections for whatever agents require for submission: a query letter, a synopsis, and usually the first five to ten pages. They tend to show up maybe two days after I e-mail the query, so I'm pretty sure the problem is something easy to notice. Guess I'll switch tactics and write a new query.
And believe me, I know about trashing books. My first novel took forever to write, and while it's not bad exactly, it's way too weird to ever get published. Ever. I previously posted something about how I was worried it was going to happen again with my American folklore fantasy novel, but this first thing was like Terry Pratchett writing a Super Mario Bros. fanfic. Once I got that out of my system, I found myself much freer to write normal books, with characters that were human and everything. As for publishing it, though--not going to happen.
Everybody loves using things as other things, right? Check out my blog at the Cromulent Bricoleur and see one hipster's approach to recycling, upcycling, and alterna-cycling (which is a word I just made up).

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Re: How many rejections does it take to make a problem?

Post by mudpuppy » January 25th, 2011, 7:53 pm

Mary-Catharine wrote:I know you're asking Nathan this, but I just thought you'd like to know that I've been rejected 117 times, and that it's good to never give up-- improving could never hurt as there is always room for it. I keep all my rejections in a special little folder so that I can look at them when I'm published and giggle.
117 rejections? You are a query-warrior, lol! The only advice I keep give is don't give up, through I'm dealing with the rejections myself too.

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