Some years ago, my Curmudgeonly Husband got hit up by a very earnest telemarketer. Now, in my opinion, CH has a skewed reaction to telemarketers. While my inclination is to say “Please take me off your call list” and hang up, CH is just as likely to engage them in some kind of bizarre role-playing conversation. In this instance, however, the caller was representing a construction supply company that carried products CH was actually interested in.
CH asked the caller about a specific product he’d been unable to locate. The telemarketer, obviously new to his job, had to struggle to find out if he had the right thing in the catalog. The product he found didn’t fit CH’s needs, so CH said, “No. I’m sorry, that’s not going to work.”
The telemarketer’s response? “Yeah? Well f**k you!”
(Clearly this guy needed a few hints about how to handle rejection, a little remedial customer service training, and perhaps some serious anger management therapy.)
It’s very difficult to separate your work – whether it’s promoting a creative product like a book or selling a line of construction supplies – from yourself. When someone doesn’t like your book, they’re not saying they don’t like you, despite how connected you might feel to what you’ve written. If everyone liked the same kind of book or movie or TV show, we’d only have one kind of book and movie and TV show. (Well, some critics, bemoaning the lack of originality in movies, may say that we do, but that’s another argument.)
For instance, once I became a voracious reader of romance, I became addicted to the hero’s point-of-view. Consequently, I no longer read books in first person POV. Not because those books are bad, or because thousands of other people don’t like them, but because my reading time is limited, and I prefer to read those stories that have the qualities that I prefer. Likewise, I find present tense extremely off-putting, so I won’t read books written in present tense. (Yeah, that makes me one of the only people in the world who hasn’t read The Hunger Games, but I just can’t get past the first page.)
We need to face the fact that tastes differ. Not everyone likes broccoli. Not everyone likes Tom Cruise movies (um…that would be me). Not everyone will like what you write.
You can’t control what other people think of your work because people’s opinions are subjective – that’s why they’re called opinions and not facts. But you can control your own work. Hone your craft. Write the best book you can.
Some people may not like it, and that’s okay — even expected — so try not to take it personally.
And whatever you do, no matter how you might be tempted, restrain yourself from saying “F**k you.”
In the writing world, rejections are so common that Dictionary.com uses “The publisher rejected the author’s latest novel.” as an example for how to properly use “reject” in a sentence. In other words, if you want to be a writer, you have to learn to handle—or at least live with—rejections.
It took me a long time. I wanted people, specifically people in the publishing world, to love my stories and characters as much as I did. They didn’t.
The thing is, I’m stubborn, but for the most part open minded. I will keep banging my head against the wall, but I’ll also listen to anyone suggesting a better location on which to smack my forehead, or a better method of walloping my head against hard objects.
I finally sold my first book just last month. This particular book was rejected forty-seven (47!) times by editor and agents. I had fifteen full requests that ultimately ended in rejection. (I blogged about the whole crazy journey on my personal site.)
It is the third book I’ve finished, and queried the heck out of those two other books as well. So yes, I’m familiar with rejection. I also know that there are good rejections, the kind that teach you something new, or give you invaluable advice on how to better position your book in the market.
VALHALL’S KING, my debut book, will be released sometime late summer or early fall of 2015. I’ve rewritten the manuscript twice since I first queried the book. Those edits were all based on great feedback from editor and agents. I learned from their comments and am forever grateful that they took the time not only to read my work, but to say what they thought about it and suggest how I could make it better.
You think think that I just started the query process to quickly, maybe I did, but I my first pitch was after the project placed second in On the Far Side, The Fantasy, Futuristic, and Paranormal RWA chapter’s contest for unpublished writers. The editor judging the contest thought it was publication worthy, but rejected it because of a pet peeve. She didn’t like mythology mixed with Sci-Fi. So I figured I would find another editor that wouldn’t mind those elements of the story and I did, but it took two years and loads of more rejections.
I don’t like rejections—who does—but they are part of a writer’s life and the only way for me to live with them is to turn them into something useful. Cheryl’s Lesson’s from a Saleswoman posted earlier this month are an excellent way to learn how to do just that. My hardest lesson was #3: Reflection and Introspection. It’s easy to get carried away and give too much weight to all rejections. When I first started pursuing publication, I didn’t have enough confident in my own writing voice. I listened to every critique partner and every rejection, trying to incorporate their advice. Guess what happened when I received conflicting comments? I had a complete meltdown. It took some time, but I finally learned to listen to all feedback, but only use what resonates with where I want to take the story.
That said, I still have what I refer to as “I may freely address you as piss midget” moments when my inbox is showered with nos. The name comes from Dylan Moran’s character Bernard Black, a frustrated novelist and the owner of Black Books. Here’s one of Bernard’s rejection moments. Mine can look like this, minus the smoking.:-)
What’s the best rejection you’ve ever received?
As fate would have it, I was sitting with all three founding Janes at a mini-writing retreat when I realized that this month’s blog topic would be the perfect opportunity to get convention tips from a wealth of knowledge and to see where Susan, Cassiel, and Nancy are on their publishing journey.
My Best Tip For Going to Conference by Susan Lute
Hi everyone! It’s good to be back. Thanks Jessie, for the invitation, and for the opportunity to talk about one of my favorite topics. But first, what have I been doing since I last visited See Jane Publish? Well…sometimes it doesn’t seem like a lot. Life takes over, you know? In the bigger scheme of things, I’ve written a few words here and there (har har). I have a contemporary romance out to a Harlequin editor, a fun story that takes me back to my writing roots and my first published novel, Oops…We’re Married? I’m working on a new contemporary romance series with my bestie, Darla Luke, novelettes (for the busy woman) set in Sellwood. There was the booksigning for The Dragon’s Thief (which is in print now, btw) at Jan’s Paperbacks. That was enormous fun. I’m working on the second book in the Dragonkind Chronicles, Dragon’s Fire, and the second book in my Falling For A Hero series, tentatively titled Bear’s Full House. I hope to put The London Affair and The Broken Road into print novels by the end of summer. AND I still have The Day Job. Whew!
So my best tip for going to conference? Go with a plan. An agenda. That could be, you want to attend workshops on a specific subject like craft, publishing, or organizing your writer’s life. You might want to learn more about traditional publishing houses, so would attend the spotlights and talk to editors. Maybe you want to talk to as many agents as you can to discover what kind of agent you might want. Just be sure to know what you want an agent to do for you. The publishing world has turned on its ear. There are new players in the game, and some of the old players have had to scramble to redefine their roles. Agents are one of them. Perhaps you want to learn more about navigating Indie publishing. Whatever it is, have a plan. My second tip…yes I always have more advice than you want to hear…when you get to conference with your plan, go with the flow. Be flexible. If a door opens, go right when you think left is the way to get to what you want. I know it sounds counter intuitive, but sometimes the best things happen when we’ve put a plan in motion and then the Universe decides to give us a hand. My final advice? Have fun.
Where in the World is Cassiel Knight?
During the year, from about April to October, writing conferences fill the calendar. One of the huge upcoming ones is Romance Writers of America’s annual conference, held this year in San Antonio. Over 2,000 authors and aspiring authors are deciding what to pack–just how important are those writing books anyway and how much room do I need to leave for all the books I’ll bring back?–and asking if they’ll be able to find their way among so many attendees.
When Jessie asked me to share my own important tip for attending conferences, it was a no brainer but frankly, not an easy thing for many writers to do: Be courageous.
What do I mean by this? Go up and chat up that agent or editor? Say hi to Nora Roberts, Cherry Adair, Sherrilyn Kenyon or any number of big name authors. Instead of sitting at a table with friends you see all the time, go find a table and make new friends. Participate in workshops by engaging the presenter. See someone off in the corner looking terrified? Go say hi.
All of those things require courage for many of us. However, if you can push past the fear, you’ll find a whole new world open to you–a new world of friendships, connections and some fan-girl squealing. Open yourself to the full experience and grab it with both hands. I promise, you won’t be disappointed.
Cassie Knight is one of the founding members of See Jane Publish. She writes paranormal romance with kick-assitude and is published with Samhain Publishing, Kensington/Lyrical Press and Champagne Book Group. Her latest release is THE DEATH SKULL, Relic Defender, Book 2 at Amazon.com – Kindle, Barnes & Noble – NOOKBook or Samhain Publishing
Catching up with Nancy Brophy
I’m going because I am President of my local chapter. I’m going because I haven’t been since about 2008. And I’m going because my writing career needs a boot in the ass.
And I am excited – kind of. While all the above is true, I hate crowds and have to force myself to behave well around strangers, which includes smiling and actually speaking. That’s right stringing several words together to form a complete thought (worthy of being heard) and not forgetting to include both a subject and a verb.
Many, many times I’ve lectured myself using an abundance of cheery, get-your-butt-moving affirmations including, “They’re more insecure than you are.” “You will never sell another book if you don’t take some action – any action.” “Breathe. In. Out. Again.” And sometimes when I am hopeless, I give into – “I am good enough. I am smart enough. And doggone it, people like me!”
When I wrote that last sentence in my first draft, I ended it with a question mark rather than an exclamation point – and, no, I didn’t see it as Freudian at all.
So what are my tips for going?
Pack scotch, it’s cheaper than the mini-bar.
Try to lose that crazed look when you realize in the middle of a conversation you know exactly what the next scene of your WIP should be. And really the person sitting across from you is sometimes offended if you put the words she just uttered into your villain’s mouth. (Even if they are perfect.)
Get your nails done.
Pluck your eyebrows or chin hairs, shave your legs and elsewhere before you go.
Make it to the airport before your plane leaves without you.
And know – this one is the important one – that you are where you are supposed to be at that moment in time. Make the most of it.
You might surprise yourself.
This July, I’ll join thousands of other hopefuls at the RWA Conference in Texas. We all arrive with stars in our eyes and leave with a Vegas hangover caused by too much noise, bright lights, information, star encounters and parlayed dreams.
I’ll be attending my seventh conference and unlike my past performances, things will be different this year. Of course, I say this every year.
I first attended in San Francisco in 2008. Maybe you remember me? I’m the one who met Suzanne Brockmann and treated her like a common writer, not realizing she was a New York Times bestselling author and the award night emcee. Thank you to the ladies in the Goody Room who snickered behind me as I told her that I hoped to run into her again. They set me straight as to her New York Times and RWA status to my own chagrin.
Or how about meeting Linda Howard in the elevator and being so star struck that I couldn’t find my voice? When I did, I said something completely memorable like: “I’m a big fan!” This encounter was only to be followed up by running into Roxanne St. Claire, who introduced herself to me in the same elevator and then waited. I didn’t recognize her, and the discomfort was felt by both of us. I know her now, and should I see her again, I’d be truly star struck.
I remember the awe I felt by sitting next to a Golden Heart Finalist and seeing their pink ribbon. I wanted one of those, and I’d get one, first in 2010 and again in 2012. Wearing the ribbon myself, I was the recipient of envious stares and unmasked anger. Writing is a personal business, and if you don’t final in the Golden Heart but are constantly reminded of those that have, it can be frustrating. Thankfully, they give you a cool Golden Heart pin to wear on your badge. So, the envy of the ribbon might go away, but the pin symbolizes your perfection and angers many for years to come.
Of course, the Golden Heart is junior high compared to the doctorate of a RITA. And how about getting an agent and that first sale and all the steps in-between?
National has been good to me. With two Golden Heart Finals and friends that I cherish, I think of all the lovely steps ahead with enthusiasm and joy.
I take my victories as they come. I’ve reached a very nice plateau only to realize the mountain waits to be climbed.
I make my living doing sales and marketing. Any career salesperson will tell you that rejection is part of the game. I don’t know how many rejections it takes to equal one sale, but I can say that it is more than a two to one ratio. It truly is the tenacious person that wins, but that tenacity has to be rooted in a foundation of listening and learning or your message or product will quickly be ignored.
Here are a few pointers from a professional saleswoman on rejection:
Lesson #1: Grin & Bear It
The hard truth is – Everyone isn’t going to love your product (book or story). The sooner you accept this fact, the better off you’ll be. Simply thank the person for their time and move on. Customers (readers) are allowed to have an opinion, but you don’t have to accept their opinion as an ultimate truth. Handle their criticism gracefully, don’t resort to arguing, and get cracking on your next product (book).
Lesson #2: Listen with an Open Mind
Often we are quick to go on the defensive. By immediately taking a defensive stance, you may be missing out on an opportunity to learn something new. Especially when the rejection is coming from an agent or editor.
Lesson #3: Reflection and Introspection
Once you have listened with an open mind, it is your call as to whether the input or rejection is valid. Often I see salespeople (writers) try to twist and mold themselves and / or their products based on one person’s criticism. Take the time to reflect on what the person had to say, if they have valid points – learn from it. If they are being petty or completely miss the point of what you are trying to accomplish, then toss their opinion on the trash heap. It’s your call on what you decide to do with the opinion presented and sometimes the best action is to ignore it.
Lesson #4: Move On
This lesson is perhaps the hardest to learn. As human beings, we often seek out and dwell on the negatives. Just the other day, I was on Amazon preparing to write a review for a great book I just read. I found myself reading the few negative reviews and completely ignoring the vast number of overwhelmingly positive reviews. Sheesh! (By-the-way, I didn’t agree with any of the negative posts. In fact, I don’t think many of the negative reviewers actually read the book.) Don’t dwell on the rejection. Learn what you can, then MOVE ON to your next project. How can you apply what you’ve learned if you don’t start something new?
Lesson #5: Be Prepared
You know rejection is going to come your way, so prepare yourself mentally. Think about how you deal with rejection today. If it rolls off of you, great! If you churn over it, beating yourself up in the process of trying to digest it, find a more constructive way to work through it. Yes, that last part is easier said than done, but you have to find a way to remain sane and healthy.
How do you deal with rejection? Leave a comment and let us know….
Tomorrow we—as a nation—will celebrate ultimate victory. We’ll blow shit up in honor of the birth of a free nation. Tyranny’s defeat. The start of a despotic campaign to subjugate a native population under the guise of progress and freedom. But do we Janes want to talk about that? Hell no. We’d rather talk about pain and misfortune, aka REJECTION.
I’d love to tell you that I handle rejection with grace and aplomb but most of you already know I’m a big, fat, hairy liar who gives Pinocchio a long, hard run for good money. So for the sake of you, my dearest reader, I’ll stick with truth—straight-up bourbon-infused truth.
Rejection sucks wind harder than a one-nostriled asthmatic marathoner with emphysema. Rejection blows worse than a cheap hooker with rusty braces. Rejection feasts on the precious pearls of love and wisdom that drip from our curled…well, you get the picture.
It hurts. I used to think sad panda was just a cute emoji but I’ve discovered it’s an actual and factual emotion. Sad panda sucks sweaty jock ass. But after sad panda abates—with the love and encouragement of excellent friends and copious amounts of booze—it’s time to read WHY rejection happened.
I’ve been rejected a few times now and only once did I shout, “Alright!” and fist pump the heavens. That first rejection meant I could go PRO in RWA and it’s the only rejection that felt good. I highly recommend it to all of our new chapter members. If the pin was better, I’d demand they go PRO just to sport it.
But I digress. I’ve been rejected by three publishers in various ways. Silence was my least favorite. They even said in the confirmation e-mail that no news was the news if they didn’t like it. The second house was via a form letter—professional but gave no clue as to why. But my third—and the publisher I am fixated on—gave me feedback. Actual someone-took-the-time-to-tell-me-there-were-issues letters. I LOVE those letters. They give me hope. They tell me if I’d like to address said issues and rewrite the book, I can RESUBMIT! Holy crap, honest-to-goodness HOPE wells in me when I read those words. And it keeps my ass in the chair and my fingers on the keyboard.
So to sum up, rejection is no one’s end game but it is a big part of the game. A long con instead of a quick shell game, if you will. Keep writing, finish books, submit to agents or editors and repeat. Over and over until finally, CONTRACT.
And now it’s time to share: Tell me either your worst rejection or your funniest.
Dearest Readers–Please welcome guest blogger Wendy Lynn Clark!!
I love betas.
Nope, I’m not talking about the tropical fish.
I grew up on my great grandma’s 80s category romances. (Romance runs in the family.) Those aggressive-bordering-on-abusive alpha heroes made me hot as cayenne-spiked chocolate, usually on the innocent heroine’s behalf. Discovering the sweet steadiness of beta heroes, like Jennifer Crusie’s Nick in Crazy For You, was like biting into one of those chocolates and discovering salted caramel underneath. It was a completely different reading experience and a very welcome change.
Although I discovered them later, the beta hero has as old a pedigree as the alpha. While Mr. Darcy was arranging the rescue of Elizabeth Bennet’s family from scandal, Mr. Knightly was offering insightful counsel to his incorrigible busy-body, Emma. In Clueless, the modern retelling of Emma, college-aged Josh often bails out party girl Cher when her schemes go awry, but never attempts anything behind her back. Why would he? Presuming to control her, even for her own benefit, is not his way.
Beta heroes are not threatened by a woman who holds more power. They offer a different vision of masculinity than the alpha 1950s stereotype of a man who takes care of everything. Their masculinity knows how to love, support, and show tenderness without losing the rough-and-tumble ruggedness that makes them a man.
Some screen writers, such as Joss Whedon, consistently show heroes who yield gracefully to their feisty heroines. Oz and Xander from Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV series (and Pike from the movie) know when to stand strong and when to get out of their heroine’s way. Likewise, certain actresses seem particularly suited to play sexy super-women who never dumb down for love. Milla Jovovich is super-human and still super-desirable in her action films (Resident Evil, Ultraviolet). No hero would dare arrange anything for Angelina Jolie’s Lara Croft (or Kate from early ‘90s Hackers). The recent Disney movie Frozen further illustrates the sea change. Unlike The Little Mermaid’s Prince Eric, who single-handedly defeated the sea witch while Ariel lay helplessly awaiting his rescue, good guy Kristoff stands back and allows his heroine to deliver the final, well-deserved punch.
Betas have been around a long time and there’s no end in sight. Here’s one great curated list of romance novels featuring beta heroes, and here’s the wild west list of Goodreads. Whether you’re in the mood for cayenne-spiked truffles or sweet salted caramel, there’s a tasty flavor in the chocolate box of romance for everyone!
Wendy Lynn Clark has just released the San Juan Island Stories, a sweet collection featuring mostly melt-in-your-mouth beta heroes and a few piquant alpha/gammas. The most unique flavor of chocolate she ever tried was the Douglas Fir truffle from boutique chocolatier Kathryn Taylor on Orcas Island. It was delicious.
This month we’ve talked about the alphabet soup of yummy heroes: alphas, betas, and gammas. But I wanted to add one more to spice things up: the theta hero.
In the hero club, the alpha is the confident (okay, sometimes arrogant) leader, and the beta is the nice guy (not to say boring!) who brings cookies and sandwiches to the club house, and the gamma is the capable one who actually knew how to build a tree house. Meanwhile, the theta hero is… playing pirate in some other yard by himself.
Thetas are often dark heroes — the lone wolves and wounded, wandering souls. They never want to be leaders but they’ll stand in second place to no man. They make their own rules and go their own way. They are too self-aware to be arrogant (after all, they got those scars by losing) but too damaged to be easily won over by friendship or love. Like an abused stray, they take many times the work to lure closer, but once convinced to come in from the rain, their loyalty and commitment never wavers. Where the alpha glowers and the beta grins and the gamma gets to work, the theta watches and thinks. He’s a complicated hero for difficult times.
Oh, and he’s sexy. But I didn’t need to say that, did I? :)
In case you hadn’t guessed, thetas are one of my favorite heroes to write. Much like a gamma, they combine the best features of an alpha and a beta, but with their own delicious twist.
And for your brainstorming convenience, here’s a handy triptych of theta heroes, all handily played by the same actor.*
Now aren’t you inspired to try on a theta hero?
Indy had all the fun of being a globe-trotting adventurer/professor without the dreary administrative issues of an alpha. Deckard was as sensitive as a beta even while looking bad-ass in a trench coat. And Han… Well, we all know Han shot first! No do-gooding gamma here.
If there is one downside to a theta hero, it’s that his lone-wolf wandering can seemingly make domestic bliss an unlikely scenario. But heck, we need more conflict in our stories anyway. He just needs the right mate to give him a reason to come home… or to go wandering with him!
Who are your favorite theta heroes? Share in comments.
* And yes, I am super psyched for the next batch of Star Wars movies. J.J., fail me you shall not!
I think our internal romantic preference may be permanently set at the dawn of our adult hormonal lives – in that dim, dark, scary pre-teen place where we transition from total child to official angst-ridden teenager. That’s right. I’m talking middle school, or as we called it back in my day, junior high.
Those were the days when my friends crushed on the latest pop star or celebrity. Bobby Sherman and Davy Jones, simultaneously actors and singers, were popular cross-over hits for a lot of my friends. (Who’d dating herself now, Gina? Yeah, just wait for this next one.) My tweenager crush?
Not actor Leonard Nimoy. Mr. Spock. Star Trek TOS debuted the week I started sixth grade and I was totally hooked. Pugnacious alpha Captain Kirk, in his serial shirtless glory, cavorting with alien babes at the drop of the Prime Directive, was never even in the race. Mr. Spock, though, was a guy who knew how to solve problems in ways that didn’t involve mutual concussions, the risk of interspecies STDs, and a prolonged stay in sick bay.
I tell you, I learned how to play chess for Mr. Spock, it was that serious.
Fast forward to the mid-eighties, when I discovered Georgette Heyer’s Regency romances. Heyer was notorious for writing Regency alphas (aka “rakes”) – what she called her Mark I hero. She had some Mark II guys as well – they had a stronger altruistic backbone and less womanizing, but still embodied the Regency masculine ideal, either through military service, excellence in sporting pursuits, or responsibility for the management of their estates.
But she only wrote one Freddy Standen, the hero of Cotillion, and once again, I was in love.
Freddy can’t compare with his Mark I cousin, Jack. He isn’t handsome. He’s not sporting-mad. Although he’ll inherit his father’s title, he has no responsibility for estate management. His entire family consider him to be a fool. Indeed, he says of himself “Got no brains.”
But he’s a Pink of the Ton. His taste, tailoring, and social address are above reproach, and he has a heart soft enough to allow himself to be talked into a false engagement with the heroine, Kitty, so she can escape her skinflint guardian and enjoy a month in London.
Kitty, who had ulterior motives – and a Mark I fiancé in mind – when she makes her bargain with Freddy, changes her mind about him over the course of the story. She informs Freddy’s incredulous sister that she believes Freddy is the most chivalrous person imaginable.
“I daresay Freddy might not be a great hand at slaying dragons, but you may depend upon it none of those knight-errants would be able to rescue one from a social fix, and you must own, Meg, that one has not the smallest need of a man who can kill dragons!”
Heyer nails it with that statement. The perfect hero is the one who has the tools to help his counterpart – whether heroine or, in the case of M/M romance, co-hero – solve the difficult story problems at hand. Not solve them on his own – because then he’d be a controlling know-it-all jerk – but with the brains to understand the issues and the heart to share the journey.
In spite of the Vulcan mojo, Mr. Spock has a heart the size of the Neutral Zone, and commits it entirely to his missions and his friends. Freddy, in spite of what he believes about himself, has the brains exactly suited to steering naïve Kitty through the complex shoals of Regency London society.
My own Curmudgeonly Husband has recently begun watching past seasons of The Walking Dead. One night at dinner, he looked at me, deadpan, and said, “Don’t worry. If you turn into a zombie, I’ll be sure to shoot you in the head.”