This post will conclude my series on becoming a slush pile hero. I would like to conclude with a post on what to do when an agent offers representation. I would like to do that. But I can't. You see, I haven't found representation yet, so I wouldn't have the foggiest idea about that process.
However, there is something I can talk about: rejection. I've gotten plenty of that. It's not something that we like to read about or think about, but it's there, and if you're going to become a slush pile hero, it's something you'll need to learn to master. Otherwise, it'll master you.
So, first step: knowing you've been rejected. If you're lucky, you'll receive an email saying verbage such as:
Unfortunately, this is not something that seems right for me.
I’m sorry, but I don’t feel this is going to be one for me.
Unfortunately I'm going to have to pass.
However, we're not always that lucky. Sometimes, agents get so busy that they don't have time to respond to each and every email. Or, they get so busy that they fail to respond until 6 months later. So what do you do in these situations? How do you know if they're delayed, or if you're getting the brush-off?
Well, the truth is, you assume a brush off. Read the response time stated on the website (if present) and if you don't get an email after the long side of that time period, assume a brush off. If they don't have a website or they don't state a response time, give them two months. Then, assume a brush off.
The key is to go with the "worst case scenario." If you're wrong and three months after you sent the query you get a request or offer, then great! However, in the mean time, you haven't sat around waiting for a response that never comes.
But what do you do when you get a brush-off without so much as an email saying as such? Well, unless you're in exclusivity with them (see the previous post for how to handle that), then you move on. You don't contact them again asking for status. You know the status. It's been six months and you haven't heard a word. They aren't interested. If they were, you would have heard from them by now.
"But Kyle, how can you be so callous and nonchalant about a non-response? Don't you know that it hurts to have someone reject you?"
Yes, I do know that. I was a teenager once. I know as much about the pain of rejection as anyone else. It sucks to get a rejection letter, especially if you've sent them part/all of your manuscript. You can't blame it on them not "getting the concept." They read the book. They didn't like it.
The thing is, though, that you have to remember that it's not a loss. You have a list of candidates as much as they do. You have (or should have) a list of agents you'd like to work with. This "rejection" helps pair down your list. This person doesn't want to work with you. Ok, scratch that one off. Time to move on to the next name. Maybe this person will be the right one. You aren't a desperate little beggar. You've written a stellar novel. All you need is one agent to see the potential and fall in love with it. That's it.
In the same vein, don't write them and tell them how stupid they are or how much they'll regret it. For one thing, NEVER burn a bridge. For another, your book will never meet its potential if you don't have the right combination of author, agent, editor, and publisher. Imagine how things would have been different if Stephenie Meyer hadn't found Jodi Reamer. Ms. Reamer rejected a very nice advance offer, because she knew Ms. Meyer could receive more. Would things have been the same for both Meyer and the novel itself if she hadn't received a three-book deal for 3/4 of a million dollars? Probably not.
See, it's all about finding the right champion for your book. You want someone to love what you've wrote and promote it. So, sometimes, a rejection may not even really be a rejection. Sometimes, it's more like, "It's a good book, but not really my thing." That's fine, actually. Get someone who loves the type of novel you've written and go for them. That's how you make that perfect match.
And as far as the rejection goes, focus on the list. You're trying to eliminate poor candidates. You're not looking for love. This is business. You can do this. You can be a slush pile hero. Now pick yourself up, find the next name on the list, and write that query letter.