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...