Trying to get an agent or publisher to accept your book is a lot like applying for a job. You have to have the right credentials, the right experience and one hell of a cover letter for them to even consider calling you in for an interview i.e. read your book.
There are a lot of ways to fail before you even get to that point. Maybe your pitch isn’t catchy enough, maybe your synopsis isn’t engaging enough, maybe you focus too much on yourself and not enough on your book in the cover letter, maybe the genre or sub-genre is wrong, maybe your word count puts them off (too many? too few??) or maybe you just don’t have the right presence on social media. Who knows? The fact is agents and publishers get flooded with manuscripts on the daily, especially now (so just finding one that accepts submissions at this time is a small miracle), so it takes A LOT to stand out. And you have to stand out from the very first “hello” or your actual book won’t get read. It’s a tough nut to crack, and I sure as hell haven’t cracked it yet. Once I got rejected by one agent within five minutes of submitting my manuscript. Submitting manuscripts is really fun and will do wonders for your confidence! I feel really great after having been rejected 8 times!!
Now, let’s say you navigate all those hurdles and the agent actually takes a look at your book, hooray! Now’s your time to shine! The only problem is agents usually only want you to submit the first three chapters, the first 20 pages or even just the first 5 pages – and that’s not a whole lot. In those pages you have to establish your characters, your setting and the central conflict in your story. There has to be a big enough hook in those few pages to make the agent or publisher want to read more. So you better polish that beginning until it shines bright like a diamond! Mine might unfortunately still be a lump of coal…
Sometimes you might get lucky and an agent or publisher will read the WHOLE thing, which is great, but doesn’t necessarily mean you’re in. They might simply not like it, or be on the same page (høhø) about what your book actually is. And that just how it be sometimes. It’s nothing personal (although it’s hella hard not taking it personally. Your book is your baby, after all). If you’re really lucky they’ll give you feedback and a “rewrite and resubmit” instead of the boiler plate “thanks, but no thanks”. It’s a pinky toe in the door and something to feel great about, although the actual feedback may sting a little. Again, you book is your baby, and nobody wants to hear that your baby is kinda weird-looking and smells bad.
What you do with that feedback is entirely up to you. You can rewrite and resubmit based on it. If you’re confident in your vision and your writing, you can keep looking for another agent. Or you can self-publish. It’s your book, yo do you! I haven’t decided what to do with my book yet. I might do all three! Right now I’m mulling over some feedback I received recently, twisting and turning the story over in my head, seeing where the pieces fit.
When should you listen to feedback, you ask? If you’re insecure, like me, you’ll take all feeback for good fish (as we say in Norway) and probably end up with a hot mess of a book. Because all readers have different things they like and want from a book. Agents and editors are no different. But I’ve recently come to the conclusion that if the feedback answers a question you didn’t know you had, or asks a question you can’t answer, you should probably listen to it.
– xoxo Suzy