Rhonda Browning White
This week I’ve received news from clients that one has received an offer direct from a well-known publisher, and another has had an agent contact him to let him know he has a publisher interested in his manuscript. Of course, I find this almost as thrilling as if the offers were being made directly to me, because I’ve been honored to have a hand in refining these manuscripts. But what excites me even more is that these two clients have listened to what’s become Inspiration For Writers Inc.’s mantra this year: “Be patient; be persistent! And keep writing!”
In two-thousand-nine, more than in any year past, we’ve heard from agents and publishers alike that they’re receiving three- to five-hundred queries per day, per agent or per editor. That’s a lot of queries, my friends! So what does this mean to the writer? If you’re one of hundreds, do you even stand a chance at publication? Of course you do, if you’ve made certain that your manuscript is as tight as it can be and is polished to perfection. But you must also be patient and be persistent in order to receive the same glorious news these two clients received this week.
We’ve heard repeatedly this past year that, as a writer, you must plan to send out at least five hundred queries to gain this kind of interest. You can expect ninety percent of these queries to be rejected outright. Of the remaining ten percent, you may receive requests for a synopsis, the first chapter, or even a hundred pages. Of those, you can expect another percent to request your full manuscript. And of that small percentage? You’d better keep a bottle of the bubbly on hand, because you stand a great chance of having something spectacular to celebrate!
The fact is that publishing companies now own more manuscripts than they have editors to work on them, so they simply aren’t buying as many, right now. In addition, with the growing buzz of eBooks, plus small publishers gaining a stronger foothold in the face of large-publisher mergers and failures, the face of publishing, as we’ve always known it, is rapidly changing. Still, every agent and editor will tell you they’re always on the lookout for that one manuscript that makes them say, “Wow!” This is why it’s more important than ever to make certain your manuscript is in top form before you send it out the door. Like the old saying goes, “You only have one chance to make a first impression.”
Now, if you have a brilliant piece of work in your hands, the question remains, do you have the patience—and the persistence—to send out hundreds of queries? Will you do your homework by pouring through seemingly endless lists of agents and publishers to see which ones are actively seeking your genre, and will you check their reputation to make certain they’re legit and not one of the charlatans who take advantage of writers desperate to see their names in print? And will you still move forward by sending out your professionally-written query letter after receiving four hundred sixty-nine rejections?
These two clients were patient and persistent, and now they’re approaching the ultra-exciting phase of contract negotiations. Can you imagine where they’d be if they’d given up after the first hundred rejections? After the next two hundred? Would they be where you are, right now?
Be patient; be persistent.
If you’ve had your work professionally edited (and you’ve listened to your editor’s advice), then you are already one giant-step ahead of most who query agents and publishers. Keep submitting. And in the meantime, keep writing. Working on your next bestseller while marketing your first will keep your mind on the thing you most enjoy (writing), and off the rejections that find their way into your inbox.
Be patient; be persistent! And keep writing!