How to Enjoy the Publishing Process
There is nothing more painful for authors than the rejection that comes during the publishing process. (Well, maybe writing synopses, but we don’t speak of that.) When I started querying my novel, I tried to think of a way to make the inevitable rejection a fun and inspiring part of the journey. Rejection needed to spur me on rather than discourage me, and as with any unpleasant task, a little reward goes a long way. I wanted to train myself to be Pavlov’s Dog, salivating for more every time I got a “Thank you so much for submitting, but…”
To accomplish this, I mapped out the publishing process in a chart (my own bowl of dog food, if you will) and I’ve been rewarding myself for each and every milestone, including the rejections. It has made the whole thing a lot more fun. So, to continue with my questionable metaphor, if you’d like to join me in “Pavlov’s dogging yourself into a rejection eating machine,” then keep reading.
Part One: Understanding the Publishing Process
So you’ve finished your manuscript, congratulations! Now it’s time to wade into the less murky than you’d think waters of the publishing industry. The checkpoints on your journeys will be: 1) Writing a Query Letter, 2) Finding/Querying Agents, 3) Receiving Manuscript Requests/Finally Landing an Agent, 4) Receiving Rejections from Publishers/Getting a Yes!
Once your manuscript is ready to be seen by industry professionals, you’re ready to write a query letter. A query letter is a pitch of your manuscript to a literary agent. There are great examples all over the web of how to write an awesome query letter, including on the Scribbler Blog. I’d recommend having someone take a look at it before you send it out. I used Scribbler’s Query Letter Critique. For $25 they’ll give you professional grade feedback.
Once your letter is perfect, do some research and select agents to send it out to. I used QueryTracker.net during this stage. They have profiles on most agents, and you can use the site to track who you want to query, queries you’ve sent out, and requests and rejections you’ve gotten. Also, if you’re like me and internet stalking is one of your favorite pastimes, then you’ll love the feature where you can view a chart of every query each agent has received, whether they made a request or not, and how long their response took. This is the stage where you’re going to get the most rejections. I’m running at a 25:1 rate of queries resulting in rejections vs. requests, but the good news is that it only takes one “yes.”
After you start getting manuscript requests, the next stage is being offered representation by an agent. There is a lot of movement once you get an agent’s offer. You have to talk to them on the phone, notify other agents looking at your manuscript so they have a chance to offer you representation as well, and actually make a decision of who you’d like to represent you in the sale of your manuscript.
Next, your manuscript is going out to publishers where you could be, and probably will be, receiving even more rejection. But hopefully one day, you’ll get that call from your agent that your book is being published! This is the place I stopped my chart, but you could continue it until you hold your beautiful, magical book in your hands.
Part Two: Mapping
Now that you’ve got the publishing process down, it’s time to map it out. There are endless creative ways to make your own chart, but you must include rejections with the successes as a normal and expected part of making progress. It helps dispel the belief that a rejection is a step backward. If you create your chart in a way that makes rejections just another item to check off the to-do list, or even something to celebrate, it becomes less devastating.
Be creative or simple with your chart. Grab your favorite productivity tools: bullet journal, poster board, sparkly gel pens, etc. Then write a simple flowchart in your diary, create a gigantic chart to hang over your writing desk, or design a mysterious crop circle roadmap, whatever gets you going. Just make sure that it’s made in a way that you can mark each milestone as it happens.
Every time you pass a step, cross it out with those sparkly gel pens. The steps I included are these: first query rejection, first partial request, first full manuscript request, first offer of representation, signing with an agent, finishing agent manuscript notes, book sent to publisher for the first time, first publisher manuscript rejection, and finally, book sold. If you are a self-publishing author, then you can model your steps off of your own process. Maybe include completing your edit-ready draft and finding your cover artist.
Part Three: Rewards
The most fun and important part of the chart is the rewards section. Pick things that are pure fun. Throw productivity out of the window, and be a little childish. For example, I love spending six dollars on an Irish Cream Cold Brew from Starbucks. Good use of my money? Debatable. Delicious? Oh, yeah. I also love watching six hours straight of a TV show. Normally, I’d feel guilty for “wasting” that time, but when it’s a reward for an important step on my road to publishing, I don’t have to. Choose things that give you the impulse to shake your booty a little with happiness.
After choosing some great rewards, the next step is to actually give them to yourself. I found myself skipping over rewards or pushing them to the backburner in order to send out more queries, edit my manuscript just a wee bit more, etc. Don’t fall into that trap. Pick out rewards and stick to them.
You’re going to face buckets of rejections on your writing journey. Finding a way to make it expected, not a big deal, and something to celebrate will make that journey more enjoyable. So, when that first query rejection comes in, buy yourself the most expensive latte on the menu, check it off your to-do list, and toast yourself for being one step closer to being published.