Rejections! Oh yes! Thank God because I only want my best in print, but in my haste and excitement, I’ve sent out pieces too early, before they were truly ready. It’s only in hindsight I can appreciate these form rejections.
But the personal ones have been so educational. The first is encouragement to keep at it–it is good to receive a letter saying that while they cannot use this particular piece, they want to see more from me because they enjoy my style of writing. The second is pushing me to dig deeper into a story. And third, realizing that although a story is just right, they feel they cannot sell enough copies to make a profit, that they hope another publisher will see it differently.
Marketing can shoot down many proposals; it *is* a business after all, but even marketing can be wrong. It’s a guessing game, a gamble. Nobody knows if a book will soar or tank. Some books make a splash, other books grow in readership steadily, and some books tank even after throwing good money into advertising.
Publishers are often averse to taking a risk on an unknown author. So what’s a writer to do? First believe! Have the courage of your convictions. Focus on the craft. Learn the business. And try again. Thank God the big Five aren’t the only options. There are mid-sized, smaller, independent publishers as well as self-publishing. This is a great time to be writing, shining, reflecting the Light of Christ. In an ever-darkening world, your light needn’t be big to dispel the darkness. Be salt and light. Be “So Good They Can’t Ignore You.” ~ I love this title of Cal Newport’s book and taking it as my motto for this writing life God has given me. Follow Vijaya on her blog.
The road to publication can be a long, arduous journey. While many press on ahead and overcome the obstacles and setbacks, others lag behind wondering if they’ll ever make it. They might even wonder if it’s worth the price they have to pay. I’ve seen a few give up and walk away from their dream and passion.[spacer height=”20px”]
Let’s face it, rejection can be difficult. And criticism—even given constructively—is no picnic. And the waiting can be torture. Watching others rise to the top can make us envious and cause us to question our own talents and abilities. We begin to doubt ourselves and focus on our weaknesses, wondering if we even have what it takes.[spacer height=”20px”]
When that discouragement sets in, we are faced with the decision to quit or keep moving forward, trusting the One who empowers us to do whatever He has called us to do. God has a plan for us, and His timing is always perfect. Take to heart these words by Sarah Young in Jesus Calling:[spacer height=”20px”]
“My plan for your life is unfolding before you. Sometimes the road you are traveling seems blocked, or it opens up so painfully slowly that you must hold yourself back. Then, when the time is right, the way before you suddenly clears—through no effort of your own. What you have longed for and worked for I present to you freely, as pure gift.
Do not fear your weakness, for it is the stage on which My Power and Glory perform most brilliantly. As you persevere along the path I have prepared for you, depending on My strength to sustain you, expect to see miracles. Miracles are not always visible to the naked eye, but those who live by faith can see them clearly. “[spacer height=”20px”]
If God has given you the gift of words, trust Him to open the right doors of opportunity in His perfect timing. While you’re in the waiting stage, do whatever you can to hone your skills. Take a class. Attend a conference. Join or start a critique group. Study books on the craft of writing. Start a blog. Update your blog. Enter a contest. Submit a magazine article. Write a devotion and submit it to www.ChristianDevotions.us (that’s where I got my start).[spacer height=”20px”]
Whatever you do, don’t quit. Keep writing for the Lord, and remember the words of Jeremiah 29:11: “I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for” (MSG).[spacer height=”20px”]
How have you overcome obstacles and conquered discouragement on your own road to publication? We would love to hear from you.
Now that we’re ready to dig into our various writing projects and (gulp!) even think about submitting a few…we face a common enemy: Fear of Rejection. To encourage your hearts, our faculty shared some of their rejection stories. Now you can say to yourself, “If they were rejected and look how far they’ve come… I can submit my work too.”
“My first rejection letter said my picture book didn’t meet the editorial needs of Peachtree Publishing.Poof…my great idea didn’t turn into a children’s book that kids adored, parents raved over, and teachers chose for story time. Instead of giving in, I geared up. Within a year, I attended my first writing conference where I learned all writers experience rejection. Eleven years later I don’t send out a manuscript until I’m confident the writing is my personal best. Yes, I’m cautious, but I’d rather take my time than send a weak manuscript. Before submitting, I share my manuscript with a writer’s group for critique, hire writing coaches to work with me one-on-one, and read, read, read. Don’t concede when rejections come. Gear up to learn how to write for the market, the publisher, and the reader.”
“As I look back on the book proposals I’ve had rejected, they were rejected because something wasn’t quite right. Maybe the focus wasn’t strong enough, the concept wasn’t fresh, or the writing was mediocre. But every rejection has made me refine my concept, polish my writing, or scrap the whole thing altogether and start over. Then, when the acceptances come, it’s a glorious thing—a book I can be proud of and one that would represent the Lord in the best way possible. I’ve learned to receive acceptances and rejections as divine redirection that pushes me further into God’s will.”
Rejection can be brutal. At my very first writing conference I took a Bible study I’d written to pitch. It was the late 90s and no one but Kaye Arthur and Beth Moore were publishing Bible studies. Even though this was a huge Christian Conference, no publishers were taking pitches for them. But the conference staff suggested I talk to a nonfiction editor and take his continuing class. I met with him in a 15-minute appointment and it was tough. He suggested I take my in-depth Bible study and rework it into a cross-stitch or quilting gift book.[spacer height=”20px”]
I wasn’t rude and thanked him for his time, but I was so upset I left my proposal on the table. When I got to his class the next day, he proceeded to use my proposal (with my name blacked out) as an example of how not to write and not to follow God in publishing.[spacer height=”20px”]
I was devastated and when I got back home, I locked away my writing. I was certain I’d heard from God and that dream was dead. Then the next year a got an anonymous scholarship to the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. Since it was anonymous, I had to go or risk wasting someone else’s money. Once there, God showed up in a big way and I sold my very first article to Focus on the Family.[spacer height=”20px”]
God resurrected the dream I thought was dead. But God did more than that. He also birthed a passion to shepherd other writers as they try on the dream God has given them. As much as the enemy meant this for evil, God has used this for good in my life and in the lives of others. I praise Him for all He’s done and continues to do.[spacer height=”20px”]
I wrote my first book back in the 1980s, and pitched it far and wide to dozens of publishers. Much to my dismay, fewer than half of them responded (and all rejections). No one gave a reason why.
When I started working as an agent almost nine years ago, I decided that I would be the nice guy. I would always give a reason for my rejections. Within a week, I discovered that most writers don’t REALLY want to know. They just want to argue with me.
Writers, if you should ever receive actionable feedback from an editor or agent, thank them for it and consider it gold. Even if you disagree. These are the people who could make all the difference in your career.
In the Bible, even for the prophets, God sent them human teachers. If it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for you.
On Thursday we’ll share more rejection stories from our faculty to encourage you to keep on, keeping on! Do you have a rejection story (or two) that you would like to share to encourage other writers? We want to hear them! Please leave your contact information in the comments, or send Carol Federlin Baldwin a private message on Facebook.
For the last two Thursdays, we’ve been hearing what our team and attendees are looking forward to at the 2019 Conference. Today we hear from some of our faculty. For more information about each one of these workshop leaders, please consult our Faculty page.
Tessa Emily Hall, Author and Associate Agent Hartline Literary Agency
Since I began attending this conference as a teen writer, Write2Ignite holds a special place in my heart! Every year I look forward to returning to this campus, which is cozied in the mountains, and being surrounded by people who share my passion for writing for the youth. I am always shocked at how much this conference can pack into these two days—inspirational keynotes, informative workshops, encouraging meetings with professionals, and more. This year, I especially look forward to catching up with old friends and meeting new ones. And, of course, hearing from the social media expert, Edie Melson! If I have a chance to glean from the other sessions, I would love to hear Daniel Blackaby’s workshop, “Tolkein, Lewis, and Christian Imagination,” as well as Tony Snipes’ workshop on jumpstarting your writing business. But it looks like I wouldn’t go wrong with attending any of these workshops!
Lori Hatcher, Author and Editor of Reach Out Colombia
So many kind people have shared their knowledge with me over the course of my writing journey. What I’m most looking forward to is sharing some of the tips and tricks of the trade I’ve learned with others so they don’t have to figure it out on their own. I love helping writers polish their writing, so the 15-minute critique times are always fun. I get to read what others are writing and (hopefully) add some sparkle or shine.
Edie Melson, Author and Director of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference
I call it eavesdropping on God. Because I’m part of the faculty, I get to hear some of what God’s doing in ways others don’t. It’s so encouraging to see the care our Heavenly Father takes with each dream and calling. I also look forward to “geeking out” on technical discussions of grammar, publishing and the writing craft![spacer height=”20px”]
Jean Hall, Picture Book Author and Blogger
I’m looking forward to spending time with old writing friends and making new ones. I’m also excited to help attendees hone their skills at writing picture books. I relish every opportunity to teach people about something I love as much as creating picture books.
Kim Peterson, Writer, Freelance Editor, Writing Mentor
I am looking forward to meeting aspiring writers and helping them find answers to their questions about writing. I also enjoy seeing how their ideas develop and their writing skills grow during the conference as they learn new techniques and they make new writing friends. I also enjoy hearing from returning conferees. Many share how God provided a great contact for them, or they’ve sold an article, or their new picture book or novel is now in print. I love rejoicing with them!
Kenzi Nevins, Junior Agent at C.Y.L.E
I’m super excited to talk about this exciting and constantly-growing industry I’m so passionate about, as well as hear pitches from some amazing writers and illustrators! I love spreading awareness about the illustration industry and some of the changes in it in regard to publishing. Also, I adore hearing about people’s books! Whether it’s the genre I represent or not, I’d love to talk to you and help you figure out what your next steps are.
Terri Kelly, Author
On Friday, what sounds fascinating to me is Tony Snipe’s talk on five things he learned in corporate America. Who doesn’t want to learn how to jumpstart their writing business?
Since I’ve written strictly non-fiction, I want to hear all about how to deepen your Middle Grade/YA Novel from Kim Peterson. I’m ready to dip my toe into fiction for kids.
And of course, Jean Hall’s going to give me everything I need to know about writing picture books for children in her class on Saturday afternoon. I expect I’ll be ready to pen a picture book as soon as Write2Ignite is over.
Can’t wait to go! How about you?
I have heard about W2I conference for years, especially through the eyes of good friends Carol Baldwin, Jean Matthews Hall and Donna Earnhardt. Now I finally have the opportunity to experience it myself and I am totally excited! I agree with Carol’s assessment that this conference exudes “encouragement and helpfulness” and I hope my contribution, “Using Verse to Get to the Heart of Your Story” fits into those themes. I am enjoying learning about the wonderful staff, and can’t wait to meet Deborah, Diane, Gail and Brenda. I always come away from conferences with new insights, great inspirations, and a host of new friends. I know this conference will offer all of that and more, and I can’t wait!
I am so excited there are times I feel like I’m going to jump out of my skin. What am I looking forward to? In a nutshell:
catching up with old friends, making new ones, soaking up all the goodness, learning from you all, and sharing what I know generously.
What a grace-filled weekend it’s going to be with my fellow Christian soldiers!
God bless, Vijaya
Fellowship with my tribe. And if I should find a kindred spirit to work with? Even better.
Check out these bookshelves! These are just some of the books which Write2Ignite team member, Brenda Covert, has edited. (She edited all of the books on the second shelf and about half on the top shelf.)
Brenda took time out of her busy writing, editing, and grandparenting schedule to answer some questions about what she does and the common mistakes writers make.
CAROL: Do you specialize in editing certain types of manuscripts?
BRENDA: I specialize in editing Christian or family-friendly works for any age. I’ve edited everything from picture books to adult novels, both fiction and nonfiction, and that includes a cookbook or two! I avoid horror and erotica. I don’t read them, so they wouldn’t be a good fit for my editing skills.
CAROL: What are the five most common mistakes you find in manuscripts?
BRENDA: 1) A common mistake new authors make is trying to tell the entire backstory before diving into the story the readers were promised. Don’t waste time doing that. Bring on the drama! Bring on the conflict!
2) This doesn’t happen often, but if an author doesn’t create a timeline of events for themselves, there may be a character who does something unexpected, such as going back to work a few days after dying. Quite entertaining, to be honest, but I’m going to ask the author to fix it.
3) Comma mis-usage. They may be sprinkled indiscriminately throughout the manuscript like pepper, or used too sparingly, but not being sure of comma rules is normal. After all, there are 47 comma rules, and they represent job security for editors!
4) Plagiarism is a problem I’ve seen with poetry, borrowed anecdotes, and occasionally news articles. Just because something is on the Internet doesn’t mean it’s in the public domain and free to copy. Do your research and know copyright law!
5) Including lyrics (because they are meaningful). Even when you give proper credit, you stand a chance of being sued by the owner of the copyright, so always request permission to use, even if you only want to use a line or two! (You will likely have to pay a fee for use.) Otherwise, I tell my authors to use only the song title and share why the song is meaningful without quoting from it.
CAROL: What is the most common advice you end up giving writers?
BRENDA: Make sure to include as many of the 5 senses in your scenes as you can. Make your readers feel like they are there, wherever there happens to be!
CAROL: If you had a HUGE platform to shout out what you want writers to know, what would you say?
BRENDA: First impressions matter! Whether you intend to self-publish or hope to land a contract with a traditional publishing house, you’ll want to take your time to polish your manuscript. Definitely don’t rush to self-publish. If you want readers to clamor for your second, third, or fourth book, your first book has to shine, leaving them wanting more.
CAROL: How did you become an editor?
BRENDA: I started young, grading classmates’ spelling tests! English was always my favorite subject. Every employer I worked for after graduating from university ended up asking me to proofread documents. Once I began writing educational teaching materials for children in 2002, I received on-the-job training to be an editor as well. I moved on to work for a publishing house in 2011. Of all the resources that line an editor’s office, The Chicago Manual of Style is the single most vital tool!
CAROL: What is your favorite part of being an editor? Any success stories you’d like to share?
BRENDA: I love helping authors polish their manuscripts so they can present their best to their readership. I delight in those “a-ha” moments when I’ve offered a suggestion for solving a problem, and the author gets excited about the re-write! As an editor for Ambassador International, I saw a huge number of manuscripts become books, and many of them line my shelves today.
Freelance author and editor Brenda Covert was first published for pay in 1999 with an article in the May/June issue ofToday’s Christian Womanand a Thanksgiving poem inClubhouse Jr. Since 2002, Brenda has written more than four hundred short children’s stories for Union Gospel Press’sSundayschool curriculum. Her stories, most of which are written for the nine-to-eleven age group, entertain as well as offer a lesson on living for our Savior.She also published numerous scripts for use in schools, the two most popular beingK.C.’s DreamandThe Constitutional Convention.Additionally, she has written poetry for the Adult Bible Study published by Union Gospel Press.
Brenda has been editing since 2002, first in the educational field and then in the Christian/family-friendly market. Her editing experience goes from picture books to chapter books—including Johanna’s Journey: Call to Freedom (a finalist for the 2015 Selah Award)—to YA novels and adult fiction and nonfiction, including inspirational books and Bible studies.
Brenda has two grown children, a new grandchild, two blogs that she promises to devote more attention to, and more cats than an allergic woman should have! (Want one?)
Whew! There’s a lot to learn when you’re striving for rejection. Here is your last round of ideas to help you to master the art of losing an editor in ten ways.
Way 8: Don’t Edit Your Work
No one’s work is perfect. So, to seal a rejection of your manuscript, skip editing. Editors who receive manuscripts with typos, grammar issues, run-on sentences and inconsistent storyline have no choice but to slam-dunk your manuscript into the trash bin.
“Don’t submit a story without editing and proofreading it first,” said Courtney Lasater, editor of Keys for Kids.“A polished page will make your story shine!”
Successful freelancers often take a break before going back to edit their work. Allowing themselves to be refreshed while distancing themselves a bit from their work helps them look at it with fresh editing eyes later. Sometimes they will print it out and get away from the computer to edit. During this process, they verify that a problem was presented and solved, that the story flows, characters are appropriately portrayed, and that each scene serves a purpose.
But if your goal is to avoid publication, you won’t need to worry about the editing stage.
Way 9: Don’t Read Your Story to Anyone Else
If you want to fail miserably, don’t let anyone else read your manuscript. Writers who hope to be published have their work read by friends or family members. But a children’s writer who hopes to be published should invite children for whom the book is intended to read and critique their work.
Writers gain great insight as to the quality of their work. Did the children stay engaged? Were they excited when reading the rescue scene? Did they ask any questions about the story? Did they want to read it again?
“Don’t submit a snoozer,” said Stephen O’Rear, senior associate editor of Clubhouse magazine. “If they squirm (or fall asleep) before you finish, then it won’t work in print either. Try cutting run-on sections or adding humor to hold a kid’s interest.”
Way 10: Don’t Welcome Any Changes by the Editor
If an editor has accepted your manuscript for publication, don’t worry. You can still strain the editor/writer relationship and lose your chances of future publication opportunities. Simply complain about any additional edits they have made in the final version of your story.
“Even if it’s purchased, edits will be made,” said Kate Jameson, assistant editor of Clubhouse Jr. She emphasized that the reason for changes is often not because they don’t think the story is good. “We want the piece to match the tone and style of our magazine. Even authors who have been writing for us for years get edited or asked to rewrite the story. So, don’t get attached to your story exactly the way it is.”
Kandi Zeller, editor of teen devotional publication Unlocked, encouraged aspiring and seasoned writers: “We love freelance writers,” said Zeller. “They are an important part of God’s kingdom: they share the Gospel with their words!” She encouraged writers by stating that even if a manuscript is rejected, it does not mean the author is a bad writer or that the editor wouldn’t be interested in working with them in the future. “It just means that particular piece was not a good fit for the devotional. If you do receive a rejection, please try again.”
Zeller’s statement reflects the attitude of most editors. They desire to work with freelancers and are willing to work on building relationships with them. Don’t let a rejection discourage you. Think of it as simply a redirection notice.
I hope this series was helpful. And I hope that instead of losing an editor, your takeaway will be how to win the heart of every editor you meet. Do the extra work; go the extra mile. Build those relationships and you will find yourself published. If you feel truly called by God to write, continue to pursue the calling.
If you missed the previous posts in this series, you’ll find them here:
Cindy works as marketing manager and brand storyteller for Child and Parent Services, a nonprofit child abuse prevention organization. She has written more than 525 articles for publication and a handful of book excerpts. Her published portfolio includes children’s stories, kids’ activities, profiles, how-to, humor, and human interest. Cindy’s website here.