Earlier this month one of my followers, author Ann Carbine Best (IN THE MIRROR), asked how the submission process is going for THE UNDERGROUND GIFT. I started querying my first manuscript this summer, and so far:
- One editor requested a full but declined;
- One agent requested a partial but declined;
- Five agents declined without asking for additional pages;
- One editor requested a full and still has it (fingers crossed!);
- Two editors still have a partial (fingers on other hand crossed); and
- Two agents still have a partial (crossing toes to see if that yields better results).
"Your query intrigued me, but these sample chapters came across as a light Christmas story, not really reflecting the story you have summarized. However, based on the query, and your quality of writing, I would like to see the full manuscript."
The editor was 100 percent correct; my antagonist, slave catcher Benjamin Michaelson, wasn't getting his evil on soon enough, primarily because at the time I shopped the manuscript I still was a bit shocked about what a sadistic character I'd created.
The result? Michaelson now appears after a word count of 7,664, down by almost 50 percent from the original length, and the initial chapters are much grittier.
This next one came from an agent:
"Thank you for giving me the opportunity to consider THE UNDERGROUND GIFT. You have a compelling and exciting idea, and I enjoyed the many historical details included in your manuscript. Unfortunately, it was a little confusing and the use of the Southern dialect made it a bit hard to follow. Personally, the tone didn't feel YA, and I think young readers would have a hard time relating to the book. I hope that my loss is another agent's gain, and I wish you the best of luck in finding the right home for your work."
Wow, I never thought rejection could make me feel good. As one of my beta readers said, "It's a pretty nice letter as far as they go. At least she gives you some credible reasons. Of course, the real reason is 'I don't think I can make any money on this.' She kind of tells you why. I wouldn't worry about the Southern dialect in the dialogue, but you might have a look at the narrator—make her a modern person, one of our contemporaries, rather than a contemporary of the characters.
"As for the YA comment, I know there's a big debate going on about how intense to make YA fiction. And like she said, it's a personal taste. You can't change that in your novel without making it a completely different novel. So keep it in the mail."
Since this beta reader is a published author whose work I highly respect, I took his advice.
And this from another agent:
"This sounds like a really interesting story. I like that this is character driven and also demonstrates an important part of history. Unfortunately, I didn't connect with it in the way I need to. I really appreciate the opportunity to see your work and am wishing you the best!"
Why do I love this declination? Because, again, it shows the story has promise. Now it's just a matter of actively being patient for that magical connection to happen among me, my book and an agent. After all, not every date results in marriage!
In the meantime, I'm developing a marketing plan for GIFT and enjoying the research phase of my second novel.
And you know what? I've never been happier in my life!