Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Both Sides of Rejection

Current Project:Logger in Petticoats  
Status: 6,863 words

As a past editor for a small publisher I've been on both sides of a rejection.

It's hard to reject another writer's work knowing how much they put into the story, but at the same time, I made money off of the books that sold, and if I took on every manuscript that came to me, I would never have time for anything other than helping them "fix" their manuscripts to make them salable.

When evaluating a project to take on, I had to like the main characters enough to want to read their story multiple times. Because face it, if you can't stand the characters and you have to read the manuscript five times within a few months, you HAVE to like the characters or your eyes are going to skim and you aren't going to give the book the full edits it deserves.

So when looking at a project the first time the characters have to grab my attention within the first chapter. I have to want to learn more about them. Then as I read, the plot/premise has to be interesting. If it has a twist or something unusual, it will grab me. Then the POV (point of view) has to be within reason of not being a huge task to master for the writer. If the craft needs lots of work even if the characters grab me I had to reject but with notes telling them I loved the characters but they need to take more workshops on the particular craft issues they had and resend.

This goes back to the fact if I'm helping them rewrite their manuscript, I'm teaching them how to write and that's not how I received any monetary reward. To be paid, I had to have a good book for readers to purchase. The longer I took on one book the more I was short changing myself. But if there were characters and a story that called to me, I'd tackle it even if there were major craft issues. Also if a book came in that was immaculately written but I couldn't "like" the characters I'd reject. Even if it was well written, if I didn't care for the characters I couldn't read it the required times, let alone perhaps make it through the first reading. And that again is all subjective. Another editor may have loved the book.

Writing a book is a package deal- it has to have engaging characters, a good premise/plot, and well crafted prose. And even then you aren't guaranteed a contract. It depends on what the big houses have room for in their client list and what they believe is selling. So don't take rejection personally, it is all a business. But if an editor makes comments to you about your manuscript, think about what they say and is it true? Could you make this character more likable, could you up the sexual tension, do you indeed need to take a workshop on passive voice?

Never take a rejection to heart, but do look at your work with an unbiased eye and see if there are improvements that you could make.

Paty Jager


Genene Valleau said...

Hi, Paty! It's nice to hear about "rejection" from an editor's viewpoint.

And I totally agree with your statement to look at your work with an unbiased eye (if there is such a thing :) and look for ways to improve.

If someone is critiquing my work, I even ask them to note where something in the book pulled them out of the story, or they had to go back and read something twice. Because if they had to do this, other people will too, and it's usually something I can fix or clarify easily to keep readers happily engrossed!

Thanks for the editor's perspective!

Paty Jager said...

You're welcome!

Sarah Raplee said...

What Gene said! lol

Okay, I'll try to add something intelligent to her comments.

I agree that it's imperative to remember that rejections in this business aren't personal; they're business decisions. And that editor's taste in characters, etc., is a personal bias they they can't totally set aside, so another editor may love your work.

I'd be thrilled to get a rejection that suggested ways to improve my work! Those rejections are telling the writer, 'This is worth improving.'

Thanks for a wonderful post.