Mark Terry

Friday, December 22, 2006

A Poke In The Eye...

December 22, 2006
Well, I got a rejection of DANCING IN THE DARK today, e-mailed me courtesy my agent. Here's what it said:

I liked this novel very much, and for the most part, I agree with your assessment of it. I found the suspense engaging and the movement of the story well-paced. And while I can certainly appreciate the impeccable skill of Joanna Dancing, I didn’t find that there was a truly fresh, distinctive quality here—something that would make me unable to put it down. In the end, I didn’t see how we’d make a splash with this, and therefore, I wasn’t able to connect with it in huge way.

Well, as the expression goes, it beats a poke in the eye. I wrote back to Irene basically saying, well, I guess that's one of the nicer rejection letters. They sure don't want much, do they?

To which she replied, "Just everything."

I can't say I'm happy about this, although these days it's not unusual. My rejections seem to be along the lines of "good writing, excellent story, terrific character, but..."

And the "but" typically seems to have something to do with marketing issues on the part of the publisher. "But... we haven't had much luck with this story."

"But... I don't think it's big enough to break out."

"But...I didn't see how we'd make a splash with this."

So what's my response? Work harder, I think. Clearly, when it comes to the Derek Stillwater novels, I have an editor and publisher who like it and do think I can either make a splash with it or built up an audience. (I also find, not to get too psycholinguistic about this, that the wording of the rejection is interesting, all the compliments followed by the connection that "because I don't think we can make a splash with this, I failed to make a great connection." Not the other way around, which would be, "It failed to make a great connection, so I don't think it would make a big splash." I'm afraid there's something very telling there, but never mind, never mind, never mind...)

Also, I think with other projects, I just have to continue to try my best.

Ah... there we go. I was looking for it, I knew I'd trip across it along the way.

I remember reading something on John Ramsey Miller's website where he commented something along the lines of, "To the critics and reviewers that have disliked my work for one reason or another, I assure you, I'm doing my best."

So I'm going to take a brief hiatus for Christmas and come back sometime before New Year's to talk about Writing Goals for 2007. So I hope you have a very Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays (Kwanzaa, Erin go bragh, Hannukah, Ramadan, et al.) and may your writing dreams come true in 2007.

Mark Terry


Blogger Rashenbo said...

I think that's a pretty good rejection... as far as some of them go. :) Next year will be better for you! :D

8:51 AM  
Anonymous Eric Mayer said...

One advantage of being published is that you then seem to get polite rejections. There are at least two ways to look at rejections like the one you got. (Oh yes, I've had enough similar to give the subject some thought)

First is that it means nothing except "Although it's perfectly professionally well done, I didn't like it well enough, personally, to add it to my very small list, for whatever reason. Maybe this is why it didn't appeal to me that much. Or maybe not. Who knows. I feel like I ought to give some explanation." Looked at this way there's no use searching for helpful advice in what was said or taking any notice of the reasons specified. The editor just didn't like it enough. If I were an editor and walked into a bookstore's mystery section and pulled a book off the shelf at random what is the chance I'd like it enough to want to add it to my list? I reckon there would even be books I actually liked, quite a lot, but stil not enough to add to my list.

Then there's the second explanation which is that all anybody is looking for these days is something that can be *BIG* and I'd rather not dwell on that because that means most of the books I've enjoyed during my life would never have been published. Not everything can be a bestseller and, frankly, most books that have the possibility of appealing so broadly are not going to be idiosyncratic enough to appeal to me.

By the way, we had a rejection earlier this week that was similar. (I trash em so I can't quote directly) This was good, that was good, but it just wasn't exciting enough.

9:41 AM  
Anonymous gregoryhuffstutter said...

Rejection is never fun... but take heart that at least you're inside the club being told by the pretty girl that she doesn't want to dance... instead of outside the doors being told by the bouncer to 'piss off, we're full tonight.' Merry Christmas!

10:00 AM  
Blogger Joe Moore said...

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10:34 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

Generally speaking I take rejections as the first way--that is to say, that this particular editor on this particular day didn't like this particular manuscript enough to want to publish it. I've come to the conclusion it has little if anything to do with overall quality of the work itself. As you say--and I think this is something writers don't think about and maybe should only think about as a way of getting over their rejctions (or else go crazy)--editors and publishers have limited numbers of books they can publish. I have no idea what that would be, but I'm pretty sure that a typical editor for a large house is only going to be dealing with 12 to say 36 books a year in a couple different categories, like mystery/suspense, nonfiction (and that might be broken down into, Hey, I do business books, so don't send me biographies of Abraham Lincoln), fantasy. And maybe of those 36 slots (numbers are hypothetical) they've already got a dozen filled by previous authors.

So I can see if you're going along, reading things and thinking, "Hmmm, I can only pick up 1 or 2 new books per month, so I guess out of the 100 books a month I read, I can afford to be pretty picky..." that you're really going to be looking for something with Wow Appeal.

In other words, it's a crapshoot.

Nice way of putting it & the pages from Katz Cradle are in the mail.

I answered off-blog.

Rashenbo--2006 was a pretty damned good year for me. The Devil's Pitchfork was published to good reviews and I signed a 2-book extension contract with my publisher. Unfortunately, rejection is just part of the writer's life. Here's the real tough part, I'm a fulltime freelance writer and I've lost something like 5 markets this year. One I quit (I wouldn't have if I'd known 4 others were going to crap out on me); 1 just stopped, no explanation; 1, the editor was fired and the publication stopped doing book reviews; 1 just contacted me this week to say due to the economy they're bringing all their freelance work in-house; another one did more or less the same thing, although that was an editorial focus shift, they'll still be doing freelance work, but not of the type I was doing for them--they'll be assigning articles and I'm on the list of writers they want to work with.

Luckily, I picked up a client who's sending me an equivalent amount of work (and more) for more money, and although I'm occasionally nervous about feeling like I'm on staff, they're a very good client.

I've also picked up another client that may very well turn out to be a regular, high-paying client.

This sort of shit happens all the time to writers, and if you can't live with it, you'd better keep your day job. I can live with it. I love my freelancing lifestyle. And financially this year (knock wood) has been terrific. No real complaints.

12:11 PM  
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