Category Archives: Challenging Issues

When You Get a Big Fat Pile of Rejections

Peter just sent me the following question. And it’s a common one, so I thought I should answer it right quick.

“I sent my query letter out to ten agents, and I got ten rejections. I worked really hard on my pages, and I think they’re great. What am I doing wrong? Why am I only getting form letters?”

I don't think you suck! Quite the opposite!

What are you doing wrong indeed? Firstly, everybody gets rejected – so don’t feel bad. It’s part of the process. But that being said, let’s talk about a few of the reasons you might be getting those disappointing form letters instead of requests for more pages. There are typically a few specific reasons why this happens. Ask yourself:

1) Are you committed the sin of the premature submission? Are your pages really ready to be seen by anyone other than you? Be honest! Get second reads if you have to. I’m a big believer that this is one of the main reasons writers get rejected.

2) Are you sending your work to the right people? Who are you sending your queries to? Have you confirmed that they represent books that are in fact a good match for what you’re writing?

3) Does your letter do your work justice? Are you highlighting your voice, your story and yourself properly? Are you letting your voice shine through in the letter? Are you making the very easy mistake of being too businessey? Ask yourself if your memoir matches the tone of your letter.

These are three of the most common reasons people don’t hear back from agents – with the news they want anyway. And remember, in my book I talk about acting like a person that an agent wants to be in business with. That means being professional, a class-act! I realize it’s tough out there, really tough – and the bottom line is you might have to just keep at it. Or revise and keep at it. It’s par for the course. . . hang in there.

Question? You can email it. . .


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Filed under Challenging Issues, Publishing

Liking Memoirs Can Be Really Awkward

I was having an absolutely lovely November morning last week – enjoying breakfast at a local café, chatting with one of my favorite severs, Derrick. He happened to mention that his roommate had written a memoir, and would I like to borrow a copy? It was published last year, it’s really great, and he could just pop into his apartment and grab a copy (he lives around the corner and it wasn’t busy yet). Derrick is smart, so I knew there was a good chance that if he loved his roommate’s memoir that I would too. So, yeah sure, I’d love to borrow it! He mentioned her name, and I hadn’t heard of her, and I’m always excited to learn of a new memoirist. Derrick handed me the loveliest book. A small sized hardcover with embossed flowers . . . all class. I said “oh, this is so pretty, I love it!” But then I looked at the title and my heart sank. It was called The Young Widow’s Book of Home Improvement. Ugh. I wish I had noticed the, um, obvious reference to death before I had tossed out the off the cuff and downright jolly compliment.

But then I realized this is something that happens with memoirs. Who didn’t love The Glass Castle? But we certainly wouldn’t wish that kind of childhood on anyone. What do you say to someone who wrote a memoir that particularly moves you? Love the memoir but I’m so sorry your life sucked? It really does seem strange to compliment someone on their work without making a reference to the difficulty of the material. Or am I making way too much of this? Feel free to tell me I’m crazy.

And the beautiful book Derrick handed over to me? It’s called The Young Widow’s Book of Home Improvement: A True Story of Love and Renovation by Virginia Lloyd. I’m looking forward to reading it and I’ll be sure to report back.


Filed under Challenging Issues, Writers