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Go for No!

Most of us look at submissions as the road to yes, authors and agents included. Let’s flip the script. Instead of going for the yes, let’s go for the no.

When we’re putting ourselves out there, as we are when submitting a manuscript, it’s normal to see it as the road to yes. Agents and authors both do this. We look at an agent’s or editor’s list and decide on our own that our book isn’t right for them. In essence, we are rejecting ourselves.

If we can’t get a yes we don’t even bother.

But what if we aren’t seeking a yes, what if our goal was a no? Instead of looking at someone and deciding they aren’t the right person, we look at someone and think, ‘what the hell, let’s do it.”

Imagine the possibilities if instead of looking for one yes, you look for 100 nos. Instead of culling your own list based on fear, you fearlessly send your material into the world and embrace every no you receive, knowing that with each no, you are one step closer to another yes.

Imagine if that editor or agent you would have rejected on your own was looking for exactly what you’re writing.

You aren’t going to get published if you’re not sending out your book, fearlessly, persistently, and determinedly. If you aren’t getting the nos, you’ll never get the yeses.

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12 comments

  1. This is exactly what I did! I made it my goal to get 100 rejections; however, I only got to about 30-something. Funny how that works when you shift your framework. 🙂

    1. I have only 93 to go then! Thanks for the opportunity to think differently about rejections and more positively about possibilities?

  2. Just got another no, so this wonderful posting of yours is exactly what I needed to hear! This may sound corny, but as you say, what the hell: sometimes when I read your posts, I imagine you’re one of those earthly angels that every writer desperately needs during this phase of the submissions process. So thank you, from the bottom of my little heart. Thank you for taking the time to reach out and reframe things for us, reminding us all that we just need to keep at it, keep at it, and then keep at it some more.

  3. Thanks, Jessica! Following this post, I will cast my net further and be happy with receiving a ‘no’. A ‘yes’ would be nicer, but at least I will have given more agents the option of liking the work. Recently, I have only queried those who appear a perfect fit and state that they rep all of the genres in which I write…or at least someone in the agency reps what I have in progress or in mind for the future. While I’ll continue to query with a project that’s on each individual’s wish list, I’ll let them decide if they want represent this, my total output …or perhaps pass a particular project to a colleague or friend.

    Backing up your statement that you never know what an agent really likes/wants until you query, I went to a talk where the person listed all the genres she wasn’t interested in. She circulated in the social gathering that followed and asked me what I wrote. ‘All the things you don’t rep.,’ I said. ‘How-to, picture books…’ But she noticed I had one of my traditionally published calligraphy books in my bag. ‘Oh,’ she said, ‘but I love papercrafts…’ And we became a partnership for 10 years, until last month, when she retired. (Being agentless after being represented, I now feel ‘vulnerable’, or as I imagine it would feel to be standing naked in the middle of a fully-clothed crowd. Hmm. Should I avoid querying a one person agency again? I know there are some excellent ones, but…)

  4. Thank you so much for this! Recently received by 13th no on my first novel-to-be. I was starting to have doubts, even though I really believe in it. This puts things into perspective. I really appreciate it.

  5. I love this!!! Takes the pressure off. And will make researching for ‘the right’ agent a lot less stressful! I realized recently that I’ve only sent out 23 queries this year ( most in last 6 months ) ….That’s not many!

    My book has never been in better shape so why am I so finicky and hesitant?!?!

    I’m going to go for the no!

  6. Next year I am going on submission again for the first time in a long time (life met Murphy) and, like Kari, my goal is 100 rejections before I tuck that manuscript away for another day. To get to that goal I have just this week made a list of 145 agents who will get the pleasure of reading my query.

    I also read a post this week by another author who has a lovely approach to rejections. She pops a bead into a jar for every rejection. When she stops querying that manuscript she plans on making a necklace with those beads.

    I love the idea of wearing your rejections. I’m thinking of doing something similar 🙂

  7. Thanks for this! I was submitting to fantasy, romance, and mystery agents because my work contains elements of all three, and it didn’t go very well (I got 123 nos – all of which I proudly collected in a scrapbook!) I didn’t let it get me down – I am fully cognizant that mashing up genres as I do is a tough row to hoe!

    I did fear I was annoying the heck out of every agent on the planet, though, by submitting work which didn’t precisely fit their wish list. I was afraid they were thinking I hadn’t even bothered to research them or anything! But, let’s face it, contemporary Gothic fantasy for adults that takes place in the southern US and does not contain any vampires or werewolves isn’t on anyone’s wish list (except maybe that of readers like me!) I knew it was always a long shot whenever I queried anyone, so it’s nice to be assured I wasn’t just acting like an irresponsible amateur. Because…well, you never know! Some agent somewhere might be a member of my target audience.

    Anyway, thanks. I’ll just keep plugging away…

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