A Soft No? Or a Hard One?

Wednesday, September 01, 2021

 I've gotten hard nos--lots of them. Over two hundred (no exagggeration or stretching of the truth) of 'em. When I was trying to get an agent or publisher interested in my book, I submitted it over 140 times. Some replied with "no thanks." Mostly, I got no response at all. 

No response--in the publication world--means no. Sometimes the agent or press has a long response time, but after a couple of years, I got the message from the majority of the people I queried. They were not interested clueless about how totally brilliant and soon-to-be award-winning my manuscript was. (I mean this jokingly--at least semi-jokingly.)

Once, I received a rejection email less than twenty-four hours after I'd sent in a prospective short story. Or maybe it was an essay. I'm not sure. The email said something like, "It doesn't fit the tone we're interested in."

I seem to remember my essay/short story was an on-the-cusp piece. It could have been serious, or it could have been funny. I don't remember which direction my submission took but whatever it was, they didn't like it. 

Seeing the possibility of simply pivoting my way to success, I sent back a quick email, saying something like, "I could easily rewrite this so it has a ______  tone," and the editor (a woman, I remember) fired back an immediate answer:

"Please, do not send us anything else again."

What she was trying to say? What did she mean by that? Seriously, that one stung. Perhaps my writing--in her opinion--stunk so much, she'd file a restraining order if I submitted anything in the future? That one was a double-hard no.

However, I've gotten some rejections recently that made me think they were soft nos... and yet I simply accepted them, turned around, and left. Let me explain:

I had a friend who read my book and said, "You need to contact church groups." She also suggested fraternities and sororities. That one I'm still working on, but back to the church possibilities.

Since my novel is historical fiction (it's about the Tulsa Race Massacre) and since there is a tiny religious/spiritual thread that's woven through it, I approached a few churches--churches that I thought might be open to having a book group focusing on my novel. I just dropped in, spoke to the church secretary in each case, and when they said no, they didn't have book clubs, I thanked them and left.

I did it all wrong. Not only that, but when I screwed up the way I did it, I also took their soft no and considered it a done deal. 

So perhaps they don't have an ongoing book group... Probably the church secretary is not interested in setting up one... But maybe, the pastor of the church would be.

Launching a book group would be a win-win. The church would get their faith community involved in a different way, and I'd get a chance to reach more readers, probably in a deeper way, because I'd offer to join them insist I get invited to the group's get-together.

My education--when it comes to who I need to contact--came about after being invited to Margo Dill's church book group. It's next week, and I'm so excited, I can barely keep from squealing inside. Of course, Margo (my publisher) set it up, so all I have to do is show up... and hope they liked the book.

What did I learn? I am going to set up some appointments with some pastors, and begin with a conversation. I hope that during the dialogue, the pastor embraces the idea of having a book group, and that they're intrigued enough by my book to give it a try.

So, how have you taken a soft no and turned it into a yes? Determined minds want to know...


Cathy C. Hall said...

Gosh, Sioux, a soft no in the South is just being polite. It really means "no way in heck" but we're too nice to say that. I think that's why a firm no always seems so rude to me. :-)

Having said that, a wishy-washy "we'll see" is a yes in my book and I will pursue that. Sometimes, I've worn an editor down but more often, it eventually becomes a pretty hard no. Again, the wishy-washy response is another way of being polite. And I'll take politeness any day, even if it's really a hard no.

God luck at the book reading!

Cathy C. Hall said...

Ha! Just realized I wrote "God luck." A Freudian slip? :-)

Margo Dill said...

I’m excited to go to the church group with you! I think all of this is an excellent idea!

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

In addition to asking if they have a book club (we do!), ask if they have discussions on race and racism. Many of these discussions revolve around a book or documentary.

We do this too. And I would gladly put you in touch with Pastor Sean.

Sioux Roslawski said...

Cathy--I'm confused by civility or Southern charm that cloaks a no. Certainly I don't want people snarling a no at me, but I appreciate a clear-cut no because otherwise my dense head tries to figure out a way to change a wishy-washy no into a yes.

(And thanks, Freudian slip or not.)

Margo--I am beyond excited.

SueBE--I would appreciate getting in contact with your Pastor. Thank you in advance.

Renee Roberson said...

As a fellow southerner, I am dying over Cathy's comments. You can add a "Bless your heart, that's a heck no!" to her observation. I'm also one that tucks my tail between my legs and runs off when I get a no. Only if someone flat out asks me to send something else will I respond. But I've never published a book and had to promote it, so I'm not the best person to ask! I find these things build momentum--once you go talk to Margo's church group, other people in the group will want you to visit with their specific groups, mention the book to another group, and so on. You will do great!

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

I'll talk to the Pastor and get the ball rolling!

Angela Mackintosh said...

Holy moly that's a harsh statement! The idea of the editor filing a restraining order is hilarious, Sioux. Wow, yes, I guess that's a hard no, but I applaud you for trying to work with her.

Cathy, my friend Ann and I were talking about rejections and writing problems one time and she wrote GOD TIMES! (Instead of "Good times!") Now that's our customary closing.

I didn't know church groups had book clubs. That's a great idea. Have fun, Sioux! GOD TIMES!

Sioux Roslawski said...

Renee--But you will. Someday, you WILL be the author of a published book. And then what a splash you'll make in the book world.

Yeah, I'm sure I'll be jetting all over the place and talking to groups. ;)

Sue--Thank you. I guess I owe you a fudge drive-by.

Angela--I thought so too. I thought it was a bit harsh, but oh well...

The "God times" story was a funny one.

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