Rejection – An Example of What Not to Do

snoopy rejection letter

So there’s this writer named David Benjamin who uses his blog to recap his latest rejections. I didn’t hear about him until he started trending on Twitter for his reflections post-meeting with Jennifer Johnson-Blalock from Liza Dawson Associates.

NOTE: He took the original down but you can find a copy of David Benjamin’s post on this blog.

If his blog post were an elevator pitch, it would read something like this:

Misogynist, ill-prepared, wanna-be writer meets with a no-nonsense, hardworking agent at a conference. After completing the list of “Things You Should Never Do When Pitching to an Agent”, he drones on and on about the unfairness of it all while throwing insults at the agent for good measure.

His plan involved schmoozing the agent by talking about her interests and then presenting her with his material, from his “extensive oeuvre, that matched her deepest literary heart’s desire.”

That’s where his plan went wrong.

When you meet with an agent at a conference, you have ten minutes to make a lasting impression. What this guy did is not the lasting impression you want to make. Don’t waste it talking about things unrelated to your book. If he wanted to touch on the agent’s interests, then he should have related it to the work he was pitching.

Jennifer Johnson-Blalock is a fan of the Gilmore Girls. If I were pitching to her I might use that to segue into my WIP, or work-in-progress.

I see you’re a fan of the Gilmore Girls. Hester, the supporting female lead in my WIP, is a bit like young Lorelai Victoria Gilmore. Instead of showing up at a hotel in Stars Hollow to live in the potting shed behind the Independence Inn, Hester shows up on the steps of a funeral-home-turned-bookstore where she….

By the time I got to the part about the demons, the loaded handgun, and the ex-girlfriend, we’d have a full six minutes left and the agent would be totally captivated. If she wasn’t, then I hope I would use the opportunity to learn something and not create a cringe-worthy experience like this guy.

The moral of this blog post is getting face time with an agent is priceless. Make the most of it. Practice, practice, practice so you don’t waste even a second. They want to hear about your book, but for them to get excited about it, you have to be excited about it.

Speaking of books, I’m heading back to the funeral-home-turned-bookstore to see if the antagonist revealed himself yet. Only finishing the manuscript will tell!

Six Terrifying Things I’ll Try in 2016

After reaching a certain milestone birthday, I decided to start giving myself a present. This present went beyond new yarn that may never unravel from its skein, or boots that I may only wear a handful of times before donating to charity.

One year I decided to be less judgmental. Another year I decided to focus on avoiding gossip. As I get a handle on one thing, I add something else. I never master it completely, because all humans are imperfect, created with an array of flaws which makes them susceptible to free will. I can keep trying, and for the most part I do.

For 2016 I decided I would take on six things that terrify me. (If I’m being perfectly honest, the thought of making this list alone takes me to the outskirts of Anxiety Attack Land.)

  1. Use a chop saw (aka miter saw).
  2. Cook without setting anything on fire.
  3. Attend Bouchercon 2016 in New Orleans.
  4. Read something I wrote to a crowd.
  5. Write and mail a query letter to an agent.
  6. Set up the Amazon store for our family’s business, Hammerhead Woodcrafts.

Some of these might not seem that scary on the surface. Consider however that with each birthday that creeps up on me, I experience a little more social anxiety. Things that never bothered me before are suddenly problems of epic proportion.

Speaking of terrifying…let me introduce you to my favorite Doctor Who villain, the weeping angels.

What terrifies you? Will you challenge yourself to try something terrifying in 2016? Let’s talk about it in the comments section below.

Do You Compare Yourself to This Girl?

A couple of days ago, I read an NPR article about the word girl in book titles. The article discussed how publishers promote books by comparing them to other books. While they were talking about the title, comparing books is a tactic authors should consider using when shopping their books around to agents and publishers.

Jane Friedman, Co-Founder and Editor at The Hot Sheet, Columnist at Publishers Weekly and Instructor, Media Studies at University of Virginia, agrees when it comes to comparing your books to other authors in a query letter, “This can be helpful as long as you do it tastefully, and without self-aggrandizement. It’s usually best to compare the work in terms of style, voice, or theme, rather than in terms of sales, success, or quality.”

Back to the topic of titles, however, Goodreads’ list of books with the word girl in the title contains several hundred entries. Here are the top twenty entries:

  1. The Diary of a Young Girl
  2. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
  3. The Girl Who Played with Fire
  4. Girl with a Pearl Earring
  5. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest
  6. Girl, Interrupted
  7. The Other Boelyn Girl
  8. Stargirl
  9. Kiss the Girls
  10. The Girl Who Chased the Moon
  11. Gone Girl
  12. Morality for Beautiful Girls
  13. Wintergirls
  14. The Goose Girl
  15. The Welsh Girl
  16. There’s a Boy in the Girls’ Bathroom
  17. The Little Match Girl
  18. Story of a Girl
  19. The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon
  20. Living Dead Girl

As you can see, the list covers a wide range of genres including, but certainly not limited to, cozy mystery, horror, historical fiction, and young adult. The use of ‘girl’ in the title is hardly a new trend (Pioneer Girl, anyone?), so why does it work?

“I have talked to other crime writers that have been urged by various professional people in their life to put the world girl in their title,” Crime novelist Megan Abbott said in the NPR interview. She went on to say the use of ‘girl’ in the title isn’t about the content, but instead is a kind of shorthand letting others know what to expect.

Maybe it’s because, as Cyndi Lauper said, Girls Just Want to Have Fun?

Over the weekend I revamped one of the stories in my largely unpublished short story collection, Haunted Women of the Appalachians, which is still in an editing loop the size of the High Roller Ferris Wheel in Las Vegas, for the WV Writers annual writing contest. The NPR title has me rethinking the story’s title. Maybe I should add “girl” to it and see what happens.

What do you think? I’d love to hear your theories in the comments section, below.