Wednesday 4 March 2015

The Art of Rejection with Jason Rohan

Today I am pleased to welcome author Jason Rohan onto the blog to tell us about the rejections he received before finding an agent.
I've been writing for years and even got my first sale at sixteen so when I decided to start writing properly, I did so without any great fear. Silly me.
I finished a children's book in 2009 and sent submissions out to three UK agents, specifically chosen because they accepted email queries meaning I wouldn't have to faff around with photocopies, postage and SAE's. I got an immediate reply asking to see the full manuscript which caught me off guard, not least because I hadn't finished it - terribly unprofessional, I know. Truth is, I was at the 80% stage and struggling for motivation to get over the line so I sent out queries to amuse myself. D'oh!
Dear Jason,
XXX gave this to me yesterday and I love what I’ve read so far, great characters and hare brain plot.
Would you like to send the complete mss through?
Very best,
I politely stalled and knuckled down to write the last 10,000 words over a weekend. To my delight, the agent loved the story, sat me down for a chat to make sure I wasn't a gibbering loon and signed me up. BAM! Just like that.
Months passed and so did publishers, six at least. In my experience, agents don't always tell you how many rejections accrue, to spare your feelings, so numbers are a bit vague. Eventually, we parted ways and I started work on a new story in 2011. Having gone through the loop once already and got an agent first time, I half-expected a similarly charmed repeat but I couldn't have been more wrong.
  I sent out small batches of queries and tracked them all on a spread sheet listing date, agency, agent, response and date of response. Working this way, it took me two months to strike out with every UK agent who accepted unsolicited submissions for children's books - 13 in practice, and that's counting the ones who replied. This was a typical response: 
Dear Jason,
Thank you for giving us a chance to consider your work.
Unfortunately this is not right for us. We receive over 300 manuscripts a week and can only take on a handful of new writers every year. The result is that we have to be incredibly selective, so please do not be too disheartened. Another agent may well feel differently.
We wish you the very best of luck in the future.
Best wishes,
Undeterred, I then decided I would try my luck in a bigger pool, meaning I started querying agents in the US. For the better part of 2012, I sent out some 62 subs and got 31 replies. Of these, five asked for full manuscripts but none offered representation.
The way I kept myself motivated was to send out two new queries for each rejection that came in. I also set myself a target of 200 rejections before I gave up and started sending out a new novel. I didn't quite stick to this as I wrote another book and sent that out, quickly garnering another seven thumbs down.
After five years, four books and 90-odd rejections I finally got a break. I saw a small story in The Bookseller about a new UK agency starting up. Oh, why not? I thought, I should at least complete the set by giving them a chance to turn me down, so I sent off my query - and got a request for a full manuscript. Nothing new there. Except that a month later, I was signed up and, four months after that, I had a three-book deal (after some more publisher rejections, of course).
The thing to remember is that even though a rejection feels personal, it isn't. The agent is very busy and unless your work stands out from the crowd, it isn't likely to get past the first filter, just like with anything else in life. Timing is everything but the more you persist and the longer you strive, the better your chances become.

The Sword of Kuromori is available to buy now. The Shield of Kuromori is published in May 2015. Both books are published by Egmont.
To find out more about Jason Rohan:

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