Where did I go wrong?
Tired of rejections in your publishing quest? Chances are good it’s not because your story had an epilogue, or your brother put a jinx on it when he said “romance is dying as a niche” during dinner at Olive Garden last week, or a stranger sitting in a cubicle with no view on the seventh floor wants to ruin your day.
My money is on something you did.
So, here are four of the prevalent, hard-to-explain mistakes I’ve seen at Crimson:
RETURNING AUTHORS DIDN’T GROW. And by “grow,” I mean grasp the concepts and techniques you and your editor worked on in the previous manuscripts. That’s also not the same as missing a big hurdle, like internal conflict or having the characters fall in love too quickly—those points count, of course, but it’s easy enough to send you a revise and resubmit letter for those whiffs.
It’s the smaller offenses piling up that generate the dreaded “it’s just not right for us” responses. For instance, if your editor has devoted a lion’s share of time in the last four books to flagging information dumps, working with you on telling versus showing, calling out chapter arcs that don’t close, noting that random POVs shouldn’t rear their heads at the end of the story … well, at some point an author needs to conquer these issues. In fact, even grammar can become a problem. Yes, there are copy editors in the editorial process. But if we wear them out with a correction per sentence, or even two per paragraph, we’re using valuable resources to fix its and it’s 147 times rather than catching the fact that a sentence would convey its meaning more clearly if you relocated a misplaced modifier.
Yah, I’m going there: Writing fundamentals aren’t issues to fix in editing. They are habits that need to form your entire approach to this industry. When they continue to appear in your submissions, publishers say, “I don’t know how to help her grasp this. Maybe someone else will have a better approach.” And you’re set adrift.
The fix: Use the editing cycle to ask questions! Be specific in reviewing what you don’t understand. Your editor should be glad to walk you through explanations, point you to more resources, and, frankly, hold your hand through the learning phases, because understanding these hallmarks down to your toes is what will move your career forward—and, selfishly, make your editor’s next manuscript with you even more fun.
YOU DISSED YOUR WORK ON TWITTER. Remember that day when you said this story was awful and the characters weren’t cooperating and maybe you should have never picked this career? So does the publisher (and potential agents). Yes, that was a human moment on your part. But so is the “ugh” feeling on ours when the product lands in our hands.
Yah, I’m going there: Disparaging moments at the keyboard are not unique to you. But, likewise, watching an author make the sausage isn’t entertaining for anyone but the author. Human beings don’t respond positively to an onslaught of “I’m not worthy” and “this sucks.” Instead, they say, “Yep. It does.”
The fix: Pick three adjectives that you want to project to your fans then craft every social media post to highlight or convey those traits. And as a hint, don’t pick “suffering artist.” For instance, my three traits are loyal, quirky, and comical. My overall goal is that people read my musings because they aren’t predictable. If I can’t find a way to frame the event, emotion, or opinion I want to talk about through those filters, I don’t say it for the public.
YOU REVEALED THE TIME LINE ON FACEBOOK. Reading “I just finished my fifteenth book!” six minutes before the inbox dings is like having the microwave beep right after you closed the door on the popcorn bag. No way is there a fluffy, buttery treat waiting on the other side of that door.
Something has gone epicly wrong.
Yah, I’m going there: Yes, we on the editorial team are your friends. We liked your kid’s kindergarten picture because we truly think your child is cute. But we also know when you are letting that friendship replace professionalism. Editors are not your beta readers.
The fix: Cultivate beta readers and other professional writers to look over your story. If you’re writing characters with different ethnic backgrounds from your own, consider getting a sensitivity reader to review your work. Let those kernels pop in your own mind for a few days. Review the story for my first point – did you grow? Slow down and give us your best work, not merely your latest work.
YOU LET YOUR STORY GET CRUSTY. Authors send us manuscripts they’ve shoved in a folder, and no, they don’t read them first before submitting.
Yah, I’m going there: If I enjoyed dusting, I wouldn’t pay a house cleaner more than I make an hour to do that for me every other week. Don’t relegate your editors to the hired help category.
The fix: Read yesterday’s manuscripts and cut out references to pay phones, finding jobs in the want ads section of the morning newspaper, Vice President Quayle, and buying a new Fiero.