But when it comes time to query your novel, how public should you be about the process - particularly your rejection ratio?
I have seen many writers discussing their rejection stats very publicly. To me, that always seemed counterproductive. I've heard repeatedly that pretty much the first thing an agent will do when they think they might be interested in representing you is Google your name. What if they do, and they find a blog or Twitter feed full of rejection stats? Even if the mention seems harmless - maybe something as simple as a running total in your sidebar - it could be potentially damaging, and color the opinion of the agent who was about to fall in love with your work.
I think sometimes we forget that the querying process is about professional communication. During the discussion about the queries hashtag and its various benefits and drawbacks, I read on another blog a commenter who said, in no other industry would it be acceptable to pull actual quotes from business cover letters (which are personal communications) and post them in a public forum, regardless of intent. I thought that was an excellent point, and I think it can be applied in this case, as well. If you were applying for a job in a traditional - but highly competitive - field, would you want to attach your name to the number of people who had turned you down? Absolutely not! You would want the HR managers at AwesomeCompany to think that every company you were interviewing with was champing at the bit to offer you the position. And I think the same rule should apply here - keep quiet about your rejections, and let the writing speak for itself.
I'm not alone in my opinion on the matter. I've heard agents say that's not a smart idea (both in real life and on Twitter), but when I turned to the Internet to try to find some evidence/quotes for a reader, I came up short. Being a journalist by trade, I didn't think that was right. So I contacted Weronika Janczuk, literary agent with D4EO Literary, and asked if she would mind sharing her opinion on the subject. Because she is seriously awesome (I mean, really, really awesome), she graciously agreed. I think she worded it perfectly, so here's verbatim what she had to say:
I think this is one of those odd reverse-psychology things.I think Weronika's last paragraph brings up a great point - I love those post-signing stories, where we hear all about how many queries it took. Things like that keep me going, and I know they keep my writer-friends going as well. And once you've signed, there's absolutely nothing damaging about admitting that it took you 50 rejections to get there - in fact, it might just help encourage a fellow writer who is close to calling it quits.
If I saw, for example, that someone had a 75% request rate based on the query and the sample pages, I would totally want to read that submission and, if I loved it, try to get in the race for the writer.
If I saw that the request rate was 5%, I would immediately go into reading the submission with a 'this will probably be terrible' mentality, and it will be harder for the writer to amuse me.
Of course, there are always those stories about writers getting 100 rejections before they find the agent and go on to be bestsellers, so a simple statistic wouldn't keep me from falling in love with a story if I did, in fact, love it.
My suggestion is for writers to not share the details. I'm not an agent who's going to go through a potential client's blog entirely, but I will skim a few posts and the one thing that could really turn me off is a really snarky/negative attitude. Anything else is okay (for me), but that means nothing when other agents may feel turned off by the sharing of such details.
I totally think it's okay for writers to share after they sign with an agent, and I think it's totally okay for writers to be like 'Been querying for three weeks, one partial request, hoping,' but a really detailed breakdown can be kind of unnerving and off-putting.
But until you actually sign on with an agent, it's probably best to keep your rejection talk to a minimum. If you need to let off some steam, email your crit partners, or get a group of writing friends together for coffee and trash the agents who rejected you in the privacy of your own home. If you don't have anyone to vent to, there are a ton of great communities out there that you can dive into to find some people (just remember that everything you say on forums can probably be attached to your name, too, so keep it professional. Mostly I'm suggesting that you find friends/support groups here and then take it to a private chat or email if you want to complain about anything. Also I've only used about half of these so I can't speak to the level of awesome/not awesome):
- Absolute Write
- NaNoWriMo Forums
- SCBWI (especially your local chapters/crit groups!)
- Writer's Digest forums
Special thanks to Weronika Janczuk for answering my email so quickly!