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Posts Tagged ‘agents’

Let me say up front that this is not a pity party. I’m not expecting pity, I’m not wallowing, but damn, I wish I had that carefree spirit of not really caring whether I am accepted or not. It’s easy to say that I don’t care but it’s not the truth. I do care! Most people do, whether they want to admit it or not.

Rejection sucks, even though I knew it was coming. I’m beginning to think that it’s never going to happen, that no literary agent is going to take a chance on me. A temporary setback in my mindset, only a flesh wound.

I thought I was ready for another round of, “Thank you for thinking of me, but this project just isn’t right for me”, emails and to an extent, I was. I had just forgotten how much it stings after the first onslaught. How many times did J.K. Rowling get rejected? 20? No, Google says 12. Stephen King’s Carrie was rejected 30 times, says almighty Google. Well, by now, I have both of them beat. That’s an accomplishment, right? That will be my claim to fame if I ever do get published again. I can just see my interview with Savannah Guthrie now…

Savannah: So, Julie, congratulations on your best-selling novel! Can you tell me a little about the road you took to get here?

Me: Well, Savannah, I don’t want to brag, but I was rejected more than 50 times before my amazing agent put me in touch with XYZ Publishing.

Savannah: More than 50 times? Wow, that’s more than J.K.Rowling and Stephen King combined! You must be so proud!

(Al Roker steps in, shaking my hand)

Al: More than J.K Rowling and Stephen King? That’s incredible! I can’t believe I’m meeting you!

Me: (blushing) Aw, shucks…it was nothing.

(Al grabs the copy of my book off of the table.)

Al: Please sign this for me, it’ll go right next to my Emmys in the living room!

Me: I would be honored.

Ah, well, maybe someday.

I get it, agents are inundated with queries and they have to be picky about what they take on but I have to wonder about some of the stuff that does get published. As an English teacher, I read a lot of books for kids. I mean, a lot. Most of it is great stuff, but there are always a few books that make you wonder if the author was related to the publisher or if they had some kind of blackmail thing going on. Is my writing worse than those books with flimsy plot lines and inaccurate historical details? Things that make you go hmmmmmm…

BUT…I am going to keep writing, I am going to keep trying, this is just a low moment and it will pass. I’m going to keep pestering literary agents with queries for all of those things that I’m going to keep writing and one day, one day, it will happen.

Get ready, Savannah and Al. I’m on my way!

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I got another rejection for a novel yesterday. It’s nothing new, nothing unexpected, but for some reason, it really did hurt. It’s a reality in the life of a struggling writer and, like I said, not unexpected. I joked on Twitter (@BrownBallantyne, in case you’re interested) that I was going to wallpaper a room with rejection emails and in reality, I’d probably have at least a good two walls worth. J.K. Rowling, with her twelve rejections, has nothing on me!

It frustrating when kids at school, my target audience, read it and love it, but I can’t find an agent or publishing company that will take the chance. I know, it’s all a part of the deal, and usually I take it in stride, but sometimes it just really gets to me. I start wondering if I’m any good, if I should just quit putting myself out there. It makes me wonder if people really mean it when they tell me that they love it or if they’re just wanting to spare my feelings. I mean, I get it. It’s hard to tell someone that they suck, especially when you know them.

I know that the biggest part of writing should be for the sheer joy of it, and I do love writing, but the goal is to actually make it into a career, i.e., the proverbial “do what you love” path. I would, eventually, before I die, like to do what I love for a living. It’s just taking a really long time to get started, or to even get noticed in this super-competitive world.

I’ll admit, I was a little spoiled because my first book, Put Up Your Hair, was picked up almost immediately by the first company I queried, Heritage Books. I was confident, overly so, that my success with fiction would come just as easily. The past few years have taught me some hard lessons on that front. Apparently, I needed a little humility. I definitely have it now!

And then, I remember the student who ran up to me after she read Traveler, begging me to write the sequel, or the class that looped with me who wanted to hear it all again during read aloud time the following year, telling the new students that it was such a good story. I think about the students to whom I gave samples of other stories, who clamored for more. (I promise that I’ll finish the paranormal book after the Traveler sequel, N.!) That kind of thing gives me a little boost each time it happens and encourages me to keep putting my thoughts into words.

I don’t mean to sound discouraged, just letting off a little steam. I’ll shake it off and move on, hoping to write another few thousand words this weekend. I’ll keep sending out the queries, each one with a little prayer, and hope that one day, I’ll catch the right agent in the right mood and things can progress the way I’d love for them to go.

One day…

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I’ve been sending out queries to agents this week, lots of them. It’s a heart-wrenching time, sending something out that you have been working on for SO LONG, that you’ve poured your soul into, and bracing yourself for the rejections that will come. And they will come. Most agents are very upfront about their acceptance rates, usually less that 5% of thousands of queries every year, so even just statistically, the rejections will arrive, one after the other. These agents are busy, filtering through all of the email they get every day. There are a lot of people who want to be the next J.K.Rowling and they have to make quick decisions based on a tiny piece of work, hoping to get it right. Not an easy task, to be sure.

But there’s always that one possibility, that one chance, that that ONE agent will see your first ten pages, or five pages, of first three chapters and think, Yes, I could totally represent this person! That agent could have been looking for that very thing that you just sent them, in that very genre, with the voice that you wrote it in and it will happen. It will be a glorious, delirious, day when that email or phone call arrives. Believe me, I’ll be writing about it right away if that ever happens. You’ll be the first to know.

I was spoiled the first time I ever queried a publisher for my book, Put Up Your Hair. I got an offer from the first publisher I sent it to. It was exhilarating; I framed the contract and everything. Foolishly, I expected the same kind of thing to happen when I sent out my first novel, but I soon learned that querying a small publishing house for a specialized piece of work and querying an agency with thousands of other people trying to do just that are two very different things. With my first book, however, I heard lots of very good things about my writing, with many questions about when I would write another book, leading me to think that my writing was at least readable.

So there was that hope, and I kept writing. Writers who are trying to get published write, edit, second guess, edit again, and even again, to make their writing clean, concise, but yet descriptive enough to paint a picture in the mind of the reader. The waiting to see if someone likes all of that hard work can be unbearable; I’ve been checking my email all week waiting for a response, any kind of little answer. I did get a very nice email from an agent who rejected the project I sent due to time, but added that she hoped that I would keep her in mind in the future, so there is that. It’s amazing what a little spark of encouragement can do.

What is my point in all of this? Working off nervous energy, for one, but also to put my feelings into words. I’m better at writing them down than I am trying to say them out loud. I really, really want this. It’s worse than being a kid at Christmas, and there’s always that thought in the back of my mind that it’s not meant to be, that it’s never going to happen. Besides telling that little voice to bugger off in the rudest way possible, I’m keeping my hope alive by thinking positively and putting it out to God and into the universe.

In the meantime, I’ll keep working on the next project, the next book of Traveler (no title yet), my essay for a writing contest, and trying to not obsessively check my email. If you’d like, check me out on Facebook: Julie Ballantyne Brown- Author or on Twitter: @23italiana (I only have, like, 16 followers; I really need to get better at Twitter). You could even take a look at the first Traveler, available on Amazon Kindle or in paperback, if you really wanted to.

A presto.

Image result for writing memes

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The time of year has come where it’s nearly impossible for me to write. By that, I mean school has begun. It’s not that I don’t feel like writing. I do. I would really love to just chuck all of my lesson plans and papers out the window with no regrets and sit at the computer all day in my fantasy world, but there’s a slight problem with that. I’m not exactly supporting the family with any writing. At least not at the moment,. I do receive royalties, albeit tiny, from the publisher of my first book, (That would be Put Up Your Hair; A Practical Manual to Nineteenth Century Hair Styles, available through www.heritagebooks.com and Amazon, if anyone is interested. I’m getting better at shameless plugs.) but since one can’t live on dreams, one must have a real job in order to survive. Especially if there are children to support. Big children who have big expenses and who are going to begin leaving for college next summer. Until I can earn a steady income from writing, I shall have to keep plugging away at the day job. This, in turn, inspires guilt about not being one of those teachers who lives for her job, but that’s a topic for another day.

The difficult part about that is finding the time to write. Heck, during the summer when I do, sort of, have time, there are people all over the house at all hours of the day. I feel like if I’m sitting and writing for a long time the house will implode without me there. Of course, I know I won’t. How arrogant of me. Nevertheless, with the family home, it is really hard for me to focus. Marty is excellent at monitoring everything that goes on, but we live in a small house and I hear everything from children arguing to them doing their normal, everyday things, such as having Nerf gun battles. I used to get a lot more productive writing done when I was a substitute teacher and didn’t get a call for the day. I could crank out 10-15 pages at a time when everyone else was gone at school, but those days are gone, at least for now.

I went to a book signing last year where the author talked about staying up late after her family went to bed in order to write her book. She had small children and could not write during the day. I thought about what a great idea that was until I remembered that after teaching all day and coming home to make dinner, running kids around, going to rehearsals, etc., I was exhausted by 10:00 pm. We’re up at 6:00 am and I’m the kind of person who just does not function very well on little sleep. That strategy was not going to work for me. Neither was getting up early to write. Getting myself and a middle-schooler out the door in the morning is a chore as it is. Besides, I find that I do my best writing in the afternoon, but that is generally frowned upon when I’m supposed to be giving a math lesson.

I think I would feel better about it all if I could actually get signed with an agent for the book I’m currently peddling, a middle grade children’s fantasy novel with the working title, Traveler. I had an offer from a subsidy publisher this past winter and have had a few nibbles, but after about two years, it’s still sitting unloved on my computer table. In search of beta-readers, I’ve read it to two of my classes who have both loved it. My last year’s third- and fourth- grade students who are now my fourth- and fifth-grade students want me to read it aloud again this year. In fact, they wanted another story about Tommy, the main character. I know that kids like it, I think it will sell, it’s just a matter of getting someone in the publishing world to agree with me.

I actually have two novels in progress right now. One is the next in the series to Traveler and the other is a historical fiction novel told from the perspective of Bessie Blount, the mistress to Henry VIII who had a son by him. It’s not a sexed-up tawdry thing like the HBO Tudor series; it’s realistic and as historically accurate as I can make it. (Okay, there’s a little bit of sex in it, but it’s historically accurate sex.) That one doesn’t have a title yet, but I’m further along in writing it than the other one. Bessie has been a fascination of mine ever since I found out about her and not much exists about her early life or about her feelings on things. I’m loving being able to give her a voice and establish her as a real person, not just a king’s plaything. Anyway, it’s a lot of fun to write and I’d really love to finish it before next summer.

As I said before, Marty Man is really supportive of my writing, so it’s really about me being proactive and finding a time where I have no choice but to stick to it. That’s the difficult part. I’m a creature of habit and it’s difficult for me to make time for new things, although I’m usually pleasantly surprised when I do. Like when I signed up for a hula class last winter, which I only did because I knew the teacher and I was confident that she wouldn’t laugh at me. At least not to my face. I loved that class! It challenged me, but that made me want to succeed even more. I think finding a writing time will be the same way. Now, I’m not going to be able to write for a significant time every day. Teaching takes an incredible amount of time that used to be free time in the evenings and on the weekends, but I do want to find at least a little time each day when I can add to things, or to blog. Right now, there’s a laundry basket full of clean clothes across from me that keeps calling out for attention, but I was determined to sit down and write tonight. It can wait. The dusting can wait. The dishes can wait. Being a full-time writer is what I really want to do and I need to find time to make that happen while still paying attention to my responsibilities. Right now, however, I need to wrap this up because the eleven-year-old tornado is finished with his shower and trying to stall before bedtime, one of my many, but lovable, distractions.

One idea that I have is to go to the library on the weekends for a couple of hours. We have three libraries in our city and one has quiet, sound-proof cubicles for working. That will be step one for next weekend. I’ll let you know how it goes.

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