Most of you are aware that my first foray into Query-Land began a number of months ago. I knew it would be slow going for an untried author, despite the completed/edited manuscript (thank you, Zootie!) and stellar query letter (thank you, C.J. Redwine!). As I've been keeping up with my goal of active queries and responses have been trickling in, I've had the opportunity to compare notes with my RWA guildmates and make a few valuable observations...
I've also recently recalled something I'd repressed for years: This isn't my first round with literary rejection.
When I was 13, I was coming off the high of having finished my first book. It was written by hand using 3 spiral bound notebooks, edited by the cutest boy in the entire 6th grade (Yes, I paid him. It was probably the only way I could get him to talk to me in the first place), and carried the title of: Island Of The White Rhinos. (Or something equally embarrassing like that.) And no, that manuscript will never again see the light of day. Not even for a good laugh.
Having realized I could actually complete something, my ambitious little self came across an article on how to get one's work published. Deciding I should start small, I pulled out a poem I was very proud of and polished it up. I then compiled a list of magazines and non-profit organizations that could potentially make use of my piece, and sent them all letters explaining who I was and offering to let them use my poem for free. It was, after all, aimed at a heartfelt good cause.
I did include my age in the introductory letter--not so much because I thought anyone would be impressed by my prodigy-like efforts, but because I hoped it would garner me a little patience... Possibly even a dash of humoring inspired by pity.
If memory serves (which, it obviously didn't until the flashbacks started) I sent out 11 letters with my poem, and received back 7 replies. All of them rejections. Kindly worded no-thank-yous, to be sure, but rejections all the same.
Let's just say that my dermal and intestinal fortitude were both adversely affected.
After all, if nobody was interested in my work when I was giving it away, they'd certainly never pay me to produce more of it. And thus, my 13-year-old self decided to euthanize a budding dream. Four years later that dream would be resurrected into a zombie-like (yet operational) state by a well-meaning Creative Writing professor...but that's getting into a story for a different post.
The point is, I've blazed this trail before. And I'm now much older, wiser, better equipped, and (as my husband will gladly attest) irrevocably bull-headed. There will be no throwing in the self-esteem towel this time around. I can now rebuff the notion that a query rejection is somehow a rejection of me as a human being. (Although, the bolstering encouragement from cohorts and loved one's is still welcome. ^_^)
I've also realized that there seem to be six levels of response an author can expect when sending out one's query. And here they are, just for fun--in order of desirability:
*The full manuscript request. (This doesn't mean you're in, but it means they're legitimately interested. Go ahead and *squeeee!*)
* The partial request. (This is interest, but tentative. Polish those first 3 chapters until they shine. Discreet high-fives may be in order.)
*The personalized rejection (Not only is it addressed to you instead of 'dear author', but they've taken the time to give you some idea of why the project isn't right for them. Cherish every word.)
*The form rejection. (Cut. Paste. Repeat. Hey, at least that means they spelled your name right.)
*The lazy form rejection. (From some underpaid secretary: Dear Author...whatever your name is.)
*The 'no response means no.' (A trend that is becoming increasingly common. If you find this a touch disrespectful, you'll want to read all of an agent/editor's submission guidelines carefully--they typically post a disclaimer about their response policy.)
Now, if you're feeling brave, I'd love to hear about YOUR experience with rejection and how it's shaped you. :)