Giving Up

  • By: Jessica Faust | Date: Nov 14 2006

I was thrilled with the response my post Coping with Rejection got. I felt such a shared sense of comaraderie and enjoyed reading how others deal with this necessary evil. One comment asked the question:

At what point does the agent who’s been getting rejections on a manuscript give up on it? And what happens to that book—is it shelved away forever or do you wait a few years and see if new editors at the old publishing houses are more receptive?

The first answer is my cop-out (but true) answer. It depends. When does an agent give up? It depends on the agent (some are more tenacious than others) and it depends on the book (some grab hold of you and never let go, and for some reason you refuse to stop.) It’s like smoking, you keep saying, “just one more.” And it depends on the rejections. If each and every rejection is saying the same thing and that “thing” starts ringing true to me, I will usually suggest to the author that we find something fresh to send around. If, however, I think all of the rejections are filled with nonsense and each and every one is completely different I will continue to plug away at it.

What happens to a book after we quit submitting also depends. Sometimes you’ll find out, months later, that an editor is looking for exactly what you’ve got. Sometimes editors have come back after rejecting something. The market has changed and suddenly she has a place for it and sometimes the market does a complete 180 and you’ve got the hottest thing going. And sometimes we’re lucky and the first editor I submitted to leaves and I can try someone fresh at an old house.

Even if I have moved on to a new project I’m always keeping those old ones in the back of my mind. You never know when you’ll get a call that you have the perfect book for.


6 responses to “Giving Up”

  1. Avatar Anonymous says:

    Would you say 12 submissions? 20? It’s hard to figure what’s tenacious, and what’s beating a dead horse, when you hear that if an agent doesn’t go on forever trying to sell a project they’re not acting in the best interests of a client.
    I’d love to know what’s an unrealistic expectation on the part of an author.

  2. Avatar jfaust says:

    I wish I could answer that so easily. There’s no set number. If there are only five houses seriously doing cozy mysteries than five is all you’re going to get. I guess you have to base your decision not on a number, but on the agent’s enthusiasm and, more importantly, reasoning. If you get 5 rejections, all saying the same thing, then maybe your agent is right to say it needs revisions first. I think the key is whether or not you and your agent are on the same page and whether or not you feel she’s acting in your best interest.


  3. Avatar 2readornot says:

    Thanks for sharing this…I’m not there yet, but it’s always good to know the ins and outs going in 🙂

  4. Avatar Anonymous says:

    This is a great topic, Jessica. I have a follow-on question–when does an agent give up on a client? After being unable to sell one, two, ten books for them? I’m assuming the client is pleasant to work with, willing to take feedback, and keeps producing. I know of one agent who hung with a client through 10 years and 11 unsold manuscripts and then got a deal for over a million on the 12th. But this seems unusual. Is it hard to keep up the enthusiasm for a client whose work, for whatever reason, just isn’t selling? Is there anything the client can do to maintain an agent’s enthusiasm in this case?

  5. Avatar Bernita says:

    I know the expression “dream agent” is a horrible cliche…but…

  6. Avatar Nonny says:

    “If you get 5 rejections, all saying the same thing, then maybe your agent is right to say it needs revisions first.”

    Yeah, if they’re all saying the same thing, that’s what I would think: revision time. *g*

    I know this is iffy for authors on their own to do, but I’m curious if it’s different for agents. If the work is rejected by several publishers and the author revises based upon their comments, can said work then be resubmitted to those publishers? Or is that a no-no?

    Just curious. 🙂