On Submitting to Agents

Hello everyone,

Thanks so much for joining me last year as I chronologued the journey of finishing and getting my book, Ghosts of Mars, ready for sending to agents, with my wonderful mentor, Emma Read.

I finally did this on the 8th March, 2021.

I sent it out to the agents in the UK who I thought accepted MG Sci-Fi. I did this is in one go, because I don’t believe much in the out-dated advice of sending to one or two, and seeing if you get feedback. Over 5 books, and hundreds of responses, some very close calls and lots of personalised rejections, I’ve never received significant enough feedback that would alter the book so much I could improve it.

Instead I focussed on making it the best it could before sending it out – revolutionary! I joke, but the idea of testing waters to me, sounds a bit like you, the writer, are not sure about the story in some way (and I know we all get doubts of course) but I just think you need to make the book as strong as you can, send it out there, and then move on.

Why wait 6-12 months, sending out in small batches etc – that’s a year of your life. Send it out, move on in the meantime and if you get good news, then yay! But if not, and for most of us, it will not be good news, no matter which strategy we employ, we’ve already mentally moved on. The rejections hurt a little less because you’re now so invested in the new story.

I wish I had known this, and done this on book 1. Now, on book 5 (that I’ve sent to agents – many in the unfinished book graveyard!) I am doing what I know is best for me, in terms of my longevity and continuing to write.

I remember on both book 3 and 4, I was sure the were ‘THE ONE!’ and I got so many full requests, I got listings in novel comps, and I was so full of dreaming ahead, that I forgot to keep watching the road beneath my feet.

And I tripped. And I fell.

And it took me a long, long time to get back up again, when both those books were inevitably rejected (actually book 4 got me an agent and a small publisher deal, but I subsequently withdrew from both!).

So I understand – ‘this is the book of my heart’ ‘this books means everything to me’ etc etc is said so many times, and it blinds us into thinking we must linger on it. It’s like a bad relationship (I’ve been in a few) where you convince yourself it will work, and you stick at it, even though all the signs are screaming at you to ‘GET OUT!’

And the moment you move on, there’s this sudden clarity – and lightness and happiness that comes with moving onto something new. And a determination that you’ll be even happier with the new relationship (or staying on your own – I loved being single, too) but that ability to move is so important. And gets easier with each subsequent novel, too.

I am already onto my next book and while I will always love Ghosts of Mars, it’s very much in the rear view mirror now (unless someone loves it, in which case, screw the new thing, back to the old! 😂).

Seriously though, this is what works for me. And maybe it will work for you. Try it. See if it helps with the querying process to just move on.

If I no longer make the outcome my focus, and instead focus purely on the process of writing, editing and submitting a book (then repeat!), then I am training myself for what being a writer will ultimately entail when/if publication ever comes along.

Anyway, I am also chronologuing my querying experience on Twitter:

I will probably unroll that thread into a blog post on it’s own at the end – whenever that might be – but for now, we’re at a point of 7 rejections, 2 full requests and a few others I’m waiting on. But these are just quantitative outcomes – they don’t tell the full picture, and they don’t matter anywhere near as much as the process – write, edit, submit, next book!

If you’re also sending your work out to agents just now, do follow the thread – it may give you some comfort to know every one of us is feeling the same. Every one of us is waiting a long time to hear and that we are all being rejected.

Every published author, who’s books you read and love, were rejected over and over.

I suspect you know this by now, but the most important thing for all of us to do is to focus purely on the process.

If you focus only the process (learning craft, getting others to read your work, improving), then the outcomes will take care of themselves.

May the Force be with all of you,

Stuart

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