Your Manuscript Has Been Rejected. Now What?

You’ve spent 100 million hours writing, rewriting and editing and proofreading your novel and then BOOM! every agent and publisher you sent it to rejects it. Now what?

That question could be a hard one. Some writers would just move on to the next project. Before doing that, I ask, what did the rejection letters say? Were they automated, prewritten generic responses like, “At this time, this novel isn’t for me” or were they personalized rejection letters that cited specific reasons for rejecting your manuscript? Maybe the agent or publisher said your sentences were too choppy or it was hard to connect with your protagonist for whatever reasons or your exposition revealed too much. If any of these specific complaints or any others were cited, there’s still hope.

Earlier last year, my novel Operation Soul Cast was turned down an agent who gave me a personalized rejection letter. The agent told me to cut some of my exposition. I followed the agent’s advice and sent the story out again, and it was immediately picked up by Solstice Publishing. Rejection letters can hurt, but if you get a personalized one, follow the advice or consider the critiques. Whatever issues the agent named, even if you don’t believe they are issues, consider revising. Agents are agents for a reason. They are gatekeepers to the publishing industry and more likely than not, if they complain about something in your manuscript, so will the next agent.

Personalized rejections are gold. Sometimes, they’re only a sentence or two, but within those sentences are keys to getting your manuscript accepted for publication. Give your work a chance. Just because it gets shot down doesn’t mean there’s no hope. It simply means you must work harder on fixing your manuscript. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Neither was the publishing industry and neither should your manuscript be. Invest time and effort in your manuscript, and I guarantee it will be published.

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Manuscript Anxiety

I once read somewhere the hardest part of writing comes after the manuscript is complete. Later, I read that all first drafts were trash. I thought the people who wrote those things were idiots. How wrong I was.

Some people have problems putting words on the page. This is why most manuscripts are never finished. I don’t have this problem. However, the closer I come to finishing a manuscript, the more anxious I become.

When you write 90,000 words, you think, “Geesh. I just wrote 90,000 words.” There is a certain level of pride that comes along with that. Then, you think in utter horror, “Damn it. I just wrote 90,000 words.” That means you will have to revise, edit, proofread and polish a 90,000-word manuscript. Needless to say, that is quite the endeavor.

I have an awesome Science Fiction novel I am this – close to completing. But I don’t have $3,000 to pay a professional line editor or any editor to work magic on it. In my manuscript’s current form, I’d be laughed out of every publishing house on this side of the universe before it ever sees print. This is why editing and revising are so vital.

I have been writing Carbon Copies since September of last year. When I put the final words on the page this week, the real work will begin. I will have to read for consistency and make notes along the way. Then, I will have to go back and make the necessary changes which include rewording, rewriting, organizing, deleting and fleshing out characters and scenes. Then, I will have to proofread for grammatical errors front to back at least twice. All that should take at least three months.

Writing is a full-time job. If you want to be a writer, you don’t necessarily have to LOVE the process. You have to at least LIKE it though or have an appreciation for it like red lights. We’re not fans of them, but we do appreciate the fact they prevent others from slamming into us. A manuscript in its first draft is like the bones of the house with a foundation to build upon. The revising, editing and proofreading are what make the house a home. They are the paint, the cabinets, the windows and everything in between.

I write this to give insight on what it’s like to write and be serious about it. Take what matters to you and leave behind what doesn’t.

Inspiration Comes from Everywhere

As you’ll find if you read my blog thoroughly enough, I grew up in the Robert Taylor Projects on the Southside of Chicago. If you do any research, you’ll find it was not the ideal place to grow up, being overwhelmed with drugs and gang activity. But it is where I am from, and I am not ashamed of it.

My uncle Milton lived there as well but for over thirty years. When I was younger, he made a painting on my mom’s wall of the cartoon Tom cutting off Jerry’s head. Blood was everywhere in the painting. My mom was pissed to say the least. I was delighted, until she made him paint over it.

Milton is a very sarcastic person who you’ll either love or hate with hate seeming to be the winner in most cases. Yet he is comfortable with whom he is. On Monday, June 4, 2018, the Chicago Sun Times did a spread on him concerning his upbringing, painting and one of his pieces currently on display at an art gallery. This inspires me.

My family is condensed with people in the arts. I’m a writer, my uncle is an artist and some of my family makes music. Most of us came from those dilapidated buildings, but we have success, college degrees and each other.

Someone once asked me why I never failed to mention that I am from the projects. This person has a painful history, having grown up extremely poor to the point of having no running water in the house. Her childhood was traumatic. She is doing well for herself now, but she shies away from her past. She will not discuss with anyone how she grew up. It is this denial that leads her to question me. How can I, having grown up in the most notorious part of the city, be able and willing to speak openly about it?

I am not ashamed of where I come from. It has made me who I am, good or bad. It showed me that the world can be harsh, but that doesn’t mean I can’t make a difference. It is what inspires me to do better for my children so that they don’t have to experience what I did. The point is, embrace your past to know your future as the Sankofa bird of West Africa tells you.

 

Increasing Book Sales With KDP Rocket

Today, I’m talking about increasing book sales with KDP Rocket. It is a program that is not a subscription that allows you to get inside knowledge on keywords so that you can have a greater chance of your books being found on Amazon by readers. You’re probably wondering why this is so important.

OK. Keywords are important if you want to maximize your ability to sell books. For instance, if you’re writing a book about a warring kingdom, it would be great to know that 1 million people a month through Amazon search the keywords “bloody kings killing.” Would you ever have thought to make that phrase part of your keywords? Maybe not.

On top of this, KDP Rocket tells you who your competition is, how many books they sold and how much money your keywords generate in relation to book sales. You’re wondering now, does it work? Many authors have said it does. Personally, I do not know, but this why I brought it yesterday for $97. There was a hiccup and I never received my pass key (license), but I emailed Dave Chesson, the creator who is a very accessible guy and who apologized, and he sent me my key.

So, I am doing an experiment. I know that shorter ebooks tend to do better than longer ebooks. I also have gathered data from KDP Rocket concerning book sales and competition within a certain genre. I am writing a 20,000-word novella using this information to see if it outperforms my other books. However, there are other variables to consider:

  1. Whether the story is appealing to the market
  2. Whether the book cover is intriguing
  3. Whether the marketing was sufficient
  4. And other things I can’t think of

I am very confident in my writing and storytelling capabilities. I have written some great pieces. If KDP Rocket is all it is cracked up to be, I should see a tremendous jump in sales. I know what the market wants, I know my competition and I know my keywords. Stay tuned, Loyal Reeders, and see what happens.

What It Means to Be a Self-Published, Indie Author in 2018

A lot of writers who do not have book deals classify themselves as self-published or indie authors. They take on that title and expect instant success. Most of the time, if their first book does not do well, these “authors” drop out of the race to being America’s next great writer.

Over the last two years, I have complete several writing projects, including my upcoming novella “Operation Soul Cast” and my collection of short stories “The Book of All Things Beautiful.” And, let me tell you something: being an indie author is not easy. You effectively become:

  1. Writer
  2. Publicist
  3. Editor
  4. Promoter
  5. Finance Guy
  6. And so on and so forth

There is a lot that goes into releasing a book. First you have to write the book. Then you have to edit and proofread it and revise it yourself if you don’t have money to pay a professional. You have to format it for different versions, like audio, hardcopy and ebook. You have to constantly promote yourself. At times, it will seem overwhelming. It is not impossible.

Although I have been writing for years, I am still a novice in many aspects. I do not want to be an indie author forever. I want to be traditionally published, even though I would probably get to keep a lesser percentage of my royalties. So, why am I self-publishing at all?

Big publishing houses want novels, meaning greater than 60,000 words, but usually in the 90,000-word range. So, I self-publish my novellas, very short books, just to get my name out there.  But I have written novels and I am trying to get them published by a big publishing company. I’m not saying you should do the same.

What I am saying is, keep writing. No matter what. Put words on the page. Plan out your steps to write and release your books.

I hope this helps you pen the next great American novel.

Becoming Writer: Formal Education as an Author Versus None as a Writer

Yesterday, a fellow blogger asked me a good question about formal education as a writer versus no formal education as a writer. A lot of writers struggle with this. Some see education as the end all, be all that will make them a best-seller. Others who don’t have this education sometimes feel inadequate.

It took me four and a half years to get my bachelor’s degree which is in the field of Professional Technical Writing. Unlike beginning authors without training, I have a pretty good grasp on grammar and the technical parts of writing. I learned much of this in high school though and a small amount of it in college.

You don’t have to go to school to be a writer. Writing is a craft. Reading and writing will undoubtedly make you better. You just have to read books on the craft of writing and study hard on your own. Don’t just throw something together and think it will sell. You must edit and proofread meticulously.

Being in the Creative Writing MFA has put me in contact with some great influential writers. You can build similar contacts by going to writing workshops or joining groups.

Publishing houses and literary agents tend to take formally educated writers more seriously. If you can get some of your work published in magazines or anthologies, this will open doors for you.

You don’t need a degree or two like I have. You just need to write good stories, and send them to publishing houses and agents who will read them. If your work is good, the book deals will come.

How to Write a Book

Recently, I have been working my ass off, writing, finishing my MFA and going to school while also helping to raise my three daughters. The question I am constantly asked is, “How do you find time to write?”

I don’t find time. I make time. That’s the difference. Life will give you a million reasons why you have to put off writing. You’re busy. You’re eating. You’re working. Something came up. The list is endless. At some point, you have to find the resolve to say, fuck this. Today, at this time, for the rest of this month or year, I will write.

The one thing that all successful writers have in common is they write. They put words on thr page. Whenever someone declares, “This is the book that will make me rich,” they’re most likely wrong. And to the classics, the best sellers, we have all read them and thought, “Why this book? It is nothing spectacular.”

Most up and coming writers are too critical of themselves. They write and think, “This is trash.” Newsflash, all first drafts are trash. However, they are the foundation on which you build. In this way, think of your manuscript as the bones of a house. Editing and proofreading are the paint and construction that makes the house beautiful. It is not done with one draft. It’s done with many.

Anyways, my new book “The Book of All Things Beautiful” is temporarily available for free download on Amazon. Hurry. The offer expires soon. You can search my name, Jermaine Reed, on Amazon and the book will come up. Or follow the link below.

Thank you.