Getting Our Hopes Up

Dealing With the Tough Stuff, Part 1

If you read my blog regularly, you might be tempted to think the pursuit of publishing is all rainbows and butterflies. (‘Cause I’m just so darn nice all the time.) But think again. Sometimes it’s barbed wire and snarling dogs.

This week we’re going to talk about the aspects of being a writer (agent… editor… human being…) that just sort of, well, suck.

Let’s start with one of my favorite topics: false hope. Or we could call it “unrealistic hope.” Or simply… counting our chickens.

I’m talking about when you meet with an agent or editor at a conference, you give them a verbal pitch and maybe a one-sheet, and they express interest (maybe even exuberant interest) and you walk away from that meeting feeling like your project is as good as sold! It could also be when an agent or editor requests a partial or a manuscript from a query. Or when your mom, your aunt, and your best friend read your manuscript and give you glowing reviews.

Yes! That’s a really good thing! Be happy!

But realize this is the first of many steps.

If an agent or editor likes your pitch or your query, it’s wonderful, but it means little until they’ve read your actual manuscript – more than just a page or two. You could have the most amazing premise ever to hit the page, but if you haven’t executed it well, it can be rejected by an agent or editor in less than a minute. I’ve seen it happen so many times.

And let’s not forget, once you have an agent (yay!), once the agent has submitted your project to publishers (yay!), once editors have said they love it and they’re taking it to pub committee (yay!)—well, less than half of projects that go to committee get approved. It could all end in heartbreak.

So when good things happen… celebrate! But in the midst of all that celebrating, keep a level head and keep reminding yourself… this is great! But I’m not there yet! I have to keep going!

This is a tough business and we all need stay positive. Part of that is to pay attention to every tiny piece of good news and enjoy it, cling to it, allow yourself to be encouraged by it. (Yay!) But it’s also got to be balanced with reality. And what’s that they say? Sometimes, reality bites.

Let’s try to stay encouraged, but let’s be smart too, so that when things don’t go our way we won’t be completely thrown for a loop but instead can pick ourselves up and keep going.

(Which, conveniently, is the topic of tomorrow’s post.)

Q4U: Have you gotten your hopes up unrealistically high in the past? Did you regret it—or was it what you needed at the time?

© 2011 Rachelle Gardner, Literary Agent

Rachelle Gardner

Literary agent at Gardner Literary. Coffee & wine enthusiast (not at the same time) and dark chocolate connoisseur. I've worked in publishing since 1995 and I love talking about books!


  1. Tender Writer on September 12, 2011 at 1:10 PM

    E Anderson Consulting, Yorkshire, are a leading UK based company which specialises in Bid Writing for some of the major companies in the world.

  2. Jane on April 11, 2011 at 7:31 AM

    >I'm trying to live by the mantra, "under-promise, over-deliver." Even if I get exciting news, I focus more on the worse-case scenario than the "counting chickens" scenario just to steel against the snarling dog. It has really helped me stay balanced and realistic–and, if you can believe it–fairly optimistic!

    I have gone done a similar path as you outlined above, Rachelle, and was disappointed to not hear back from an interested editor after a conference…I haven't given up, just wished [at the time] for concrete closure or constructive criticism on how to proceed.

  3. Lauren on April 6, 2011 at 11:37 AM

    >After a nine-month relationship, my agent and I mutually agreed to go our separate ways. She didn't feel she was the best agent to represent my book. I was crushed for a day or two, and then started querying again. I refuse to give up, and I believe that the right agent is out there somewhere.
    Thanks for the post, Rachelle.

  4. Margo Kelly on April 6, 2011 at 11:03 AM

    >This journey toward publication has certainly been a roller coaster ride of highs and lows … and yet, the ride is thrilling enough that I don't want to get off anytime soon … if ever.

  5. patti.mallett_pp on April 5, 2011 at 6:56 PM

    >This post and the comments have given me much to think about. This is a complicated issue, the world of publishing. And writing is intertwined with the core of who we are as people. It is our joy and we all want to retain that joy through the ups and downs, whether we are ever published or not. I just received a letter from a friend today. Though she has never written a story, she writes the most amazing letters. She took a chunk of time out of her busy schedule to do it and blessed me immensely. There are so many ways of blessing others with our words. Publishing will happen or it won't and that's just one chapter in the story of our lives.

  6. iheartya on April 5, 2011 at 4:50 PM

    >I always struggle with picking myself back up after I have reached a goal. I have to remind myself that goal is not the only thing in my life. There are other goals to meet and work towards. This is the first time I have really admitted this problem in writing… maybe writing about it will help me to really admit it and look for solutions to my issue. …moving forward one step at a time. 🙂

  7. Marion on April 5, 2011 at 11:07 AM

    >Elaine, your words are up on my blog (–with a link on my FB page. Thanks to you & your son.

  8. Marion on April 5, 2011 at 8:56 AM

    >Love "your" dog, Rachelle. Reminds me of my dog, though she usually doesn't make that face!
    It's such a balancing act. If you focus on getting published, you can't write. But getting published–or e-publishing & selling lots of books–is WHY we write. (OK, personal growth, yada, yada, yada.)
    I've just started a blog, because that's what you have to do. A huge distraction from revision, which is what I also have to do.
    Ivana, your English is just fine.
    Andrew, keep amazing everyone, especially the doctors.
    Edward, so you self-pub., but how do you feel if you don't get customers? Same diff. (Hope it doesn't happen to you, though.)
    Elaine, your "2 quarters" story is so sweet, I might quote it on my blog. Thanks.

  9. writeintention on April 5, 2011 at 12:13 AM

    >Turning stumbling blocks into stepping stones, that's all we can do.

  10. The Desert Rocks on April 4, 2011 at 10:00 PM

    >May I borrow your handkerchief?

  11. Camille Eide on April 4, 2011 at 9:43 PM

    >Whoa now – I'm just here for the rainbows and butterflies.

    And let’s not forget, once you have an agent (yay!), once the agent has submitted your project to publishers (yay!), once editors have said they love it and they’re taking it to pub committee (yay!)—well, less than half of projects that go to committee get approved. It could all end in heartbreak.

    So there must be at least ONE other person on the planet in this boat right now? Because this post hits eerily close to home, Rachelle. 🙂

    I have long been a girl who keeps her hopes down so low that anything is a treat. While it's fun to ride the wave of positive response, I generally live under a rock until I hear news the sun is shining, and even then, I don't dare tell anyone until I see it for myself. But thanks for the reminder to enjoy the little bits of encouragement while they last, instead of tucking them away in the "I'll take this treat out and look at it when I know it's mine" file. Because when you write from under a rock, sometimes you just need a little inspiration to keep you going. 🙂

  12. girlseeksplace on April 4, 2011 at 9:25 PM

    >I am preparing to query my first novel. I am optimistic but I am also preparing myself for rejection. I know it will need more editing and rewriting before it's publication worthy, but I also know that I have to try. Not trying = failure to me. I'd rather know than wonder what if. In the meantime, I continue writing and reading and learning and doing the best I can.

  13. Melissa on April 4, 2011 at 7:59 PM

    >Great comment, Sally.

    I beg to differ with those who claim that self-publishing is easy and inexpensive. If it’s easy and cost you nothing, you’re doing it wrong. From what I’ve read on the blogs of moderately successful indie authors, they spent between $1000 and $2000 **at minimum** to make their novels as professional as they could. You must hire an editor; preferably this person is someone with actual experience in the publishing industry who is freelancing on the side. Those folks don’t come cheap. Nor do really good graphic designers and proficient eBook bundlers. Then there’s the marketing aspect. I’d definitely consider hiring someone who markets digital products to take that on.

  14. Chris Shaughness on April 4, 2011 at 7:10 PM

    >I guess I've been at this writing thing long enough that today's post didn't even make me blink. It happens. Twice I was disappointed when agents at conferences asked to see a proposal. One I never heard from again, despite our shared love of Bassett Hounds, and the other turned me down because another agent in her firm had already signed a deal for a book with a similar topic as mine. Hey, you either get over it and move on, or you find another passion!

    And I'd like to give you a great big THANK YOU for not using the stereotypical Pit Bull as the angry dog. A much misunderstood and sadly maligned doggie.

  15. Roslyn Rice on April 4, 2011 at 7:09 PM

    >My twin sister and I (co-authoring a book) are quickly learning that investing in yourself might be someone's best option.

  16. elaine @ peace for the journey on April 4, 2011 at 6:17 PM

    >In my Bible, page 976, scripted in ink beside the verse "Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life" (Proverbs 13:12) are these words:

    "Writing rejected 2/07."

    I think that particular rejection was the worst I've known as it pertains to my writing. A publisher held onto my manuscript for six months before declining. I remember closing my door and sobbing my guttural ache. Moments later, I see tender hands reaching beneath the crack at the base of the doorway and my little son saying, "Mommy, here's two quarters. I'll buy your book."

    Although my heart was sick, it also soared in that moment. A seed was planted by tender love, and I knew that all would be well.

    There have been a few other heartsick kind of hopeless moments since then, but I have never forgotten those tiny hands and that huge heart.

    It's a stone of remembrance I keep in my pocket, reminding me of all things sacred.


  17. Andrew on April 4, 2011 at 5:14 PM

    >Unrealistic expectations are better than none at all, and long as you don't let them take over.

    If that happens, you've just become Lindsay Lohan.

  18. Sally Hepworth on April 4, 2011 at 5:06 PM

    >Hi everyone,

    Great discussion.

    Edward – I just wanted to address a couple of your comments.

    When I was researching agents, I was surprised to find that many agents have worked as editors at publishing houses. They have completed their journalism or other relevant degrees, or they have completed internships. On top of this, they have their sales experience and negotiating expertise to bring to the table.

    There is such a lot of synergy between agenting and editing that they cross back and forth, something that makes them even more valuable if they are representing your book – their contacts.

    Now, don't get me wrong, I think self-pub is a wonderful resource for authors who choose to take that route, and if you do, kudos to you. It is great to see the world of publishing evolve, and mostly, it is great to see books become more accessible to people.

    But I see writing as a business. In self publishing, you are the business owner, marketing person, writer, graphic designer, accounts payable clerk etc etc. In traditional publishing, you are still the business owner and as such you keep an eye on the big picture and do your part to help ensure the business is a success. However, in traditional publishing, you have a team of experts working for / with you, with inside knowledge and connections, leaving you to concentrate on your area of expertise, which for me, is writing the book.

  19. Choices on April 4, 2011 at 4:59 PM

    >I am hopeful because a publishing co has asked for my manuscript. It is in their hands as I write. Am I excited, of course, but I am taking one step at a time. Yes, it is a process.

  20. Edward Gordon on April 4, 2011 at 4:05 PM

    >I got attacked and bit by a dog once and it was really unpleasant. That picture reminded me of that experience.

    Hey, some things you just have to get over or heal over. I have a little dog just like that, her name's Morticia. She rules the nutered black lab with an iron fist.

  21. Edward Gordon on April 4, 2011 at 4:03 PM

    >@ Rachelle

    Agents aren't running scared as you apparently think they should,

    I didn't say you should run anywhere, but…uh…Nathan Bransford sure did. Hey, if you have celebrity authors in your stable, great. Traditional publishing will always be there for celebrity authors, but in the next five years, I think even they will start self-publishing. Then what?

    because we know that our years of expertise will be even more valuable in the new age of publishing. We already have experience in the many functions a self-published author must either become good at, or hire others to take care of: editing, titling, recognizing great cover design, learning the potential markets for a book, promoting the book, etc. etc.

    Now that's something I find curious. When did you all suddenly become editors? That used to be a highly valuable skill that one went to school for (Journalism, English majors). My guess is you became editors and publishing consultants around November of 2007 when Kindle came out. Just a guess. We could go on about that forever, however, because even that landscape has changed. Of course everyone needs a good copyeditor and cover artist, and if you're all that and a bag of chips, then I stand corrected. I was always under the impression that an agent was a literary salesperson and contract negotiator. I always imagined their schooling would be more centered around law.

    We've always been here to help authors find readers, and in the new age of publishing, most agents will continue doing that same thing, if perhaps in different ways.

    I just posted an article on my admittedly Charlie Sheen-esque blog about three easy steps to being a successful novelist, and in writing that, I still couldn't find a place for an agent.

    Having said that, there would definitely be a place for an agent selling celebrity work, especially in selling movie rights. But then, if a book is popular, somebody's probably going to offer a movie deal anyway, and I wonder if a lawyer wouldn't be more appropriate then.

    I don't mean to drink the last drop of wine at the party, but you keep pushing the traditional paradigm. And I just wonder why anyone still thinks that way.

  22. Michael Offutt on April 4, 2011 at 3:54 PM

    >I got attacked and bit by a dog once and it was really unpleasant. That picture reminded me of that experience.

  23. Rachelle on April 4, 2011 at 3:44 PM

    >My question is what role an agent has in this new age of publishing?

    Agents aren't running scared as you apparently think they should, because we know that our years of expertise will be even more valuable in the new age of publishing. We already have experience in the many functions a self-published author must either become good at, or hire others to take care of: editing, titling, recognizing great cover design, learning the potential markets for a book, promoting the book, etc. etc.

    We've always been here to help authors find readers, and in the new age of publishing, most agents will continue doing that same thing, if perhaps in different ways.

  24. Edward Gordon on April 4, 2011 at 3:25 PM

    >@ Rebecca

    I can't believe that – in this digital day and age – writers put themselves through such gut-twisting emotions. I agree with one of the above posters: Do it yourself! It is not difficult and, at least, your work is out there immediately instead of waiting years for a marketing committee's yay or nay. And, btw, I continue to read a few agent's blogs simply to remind myself why I went ahead and self-published. Life is too damn short…

    Very well said. Personally, I believe Rachelle is whipping a dead horse. Not only are the odds of every being published traditionally very high, but the contracts tend to suck, the return on investment just isn't there, and I frankly can't see how a major publisher could ever take on a new untested author–unless they just want to flush money down the drain.

    My question is what role an agent has in this new age of publishing?


  25. Write Eat Repeat on April 4, 2011 at 3:21 PM

    >This was a perfect post for today, and exactly what I needed to hear. 🙂

  26. Krisitin Laughtin on April 4, 2011 at 3:15 PM

    >Hope for the best but prepare for the worst–but it's not really the worst, because you can still keep trying.

    (Am I the only one who finds that dog pretty cute despite the snarling?)

  27. MJR on April 4, 2011 at 3:11 PM

    >These days I'm trying to get off the roller coaster and on to a gentler ride–otherwise it's too difficult. I smile and feel good if an agent wants to read a partial, but I don't scream to the heavens about it as I used to. I usually don't tell people about my ms and I keep my expectations low. But you have to keep hopeful and given how difficult it is to get published, these hopes have to be somewhat unrealistic.

  28. Anonymous on April 4, 2011 at 1:47 PM

    >When I get a really painful critique, I go read a book off the NY Times best seller list. There is almost always something in whatever I'm reading that I was just told was aweful and would block my path to publication. I don't use that as an excuse to not improve. I still try to improve my craft, but it takes the idea that I have to be a perfect writer out if my head.

    Not giving up may not mean success but the opposite absolutely does.

  29. Stephonavich on April 4, 2011 at 1:38 PM

    >Because of enlightening blogs (such as this one) I have always had realistic goals and expectations. These posts have given me more insight that when I get published I feel I'll be well prepared! Thank you Rachelle!

  30. Rebecca Stroud on April 4, 2011 at 1:17 PM

    >I can't believe that – in this digital day and age – writers put themselves through such gut-twisting emotions. I agree with one of the above posters: Do it yourself! It is not difficult and, at least, your work is out there immediately instead of waiting years for a marketing committee's yay or nay. And, btw, I continue to read a few agent's blogs simply to remind myself why I went ahead and self-published. Life is too damn short…

  31. Jill on April 4, 2011 at 12:37 PM

    >I think I would die w/o hope. Hope is an important part of reality–the two aren't necessarily in opposition, but hope must be tempered by patience.

  32. Olivia Newport on April 4, 2011 at 12:33 PM

    >A couple days ago I went to part of an event at the local library, the fifth annual event about writing and publishing. I only slipped in for the last hour to hear a particular author I was interested in. I was amazed at how packed the room was with people who had been there all day listening to panels and asking questions. I wondered how many of them would be disappointed confront the business realities of writing and publishing. Disappointment is a fact of life in the industry, but something inside us compels us to stay at it.

  33. Orlando on April 4, 2011 at 12:31 PM

    >Great post. It's not all rainbows and butterflies, and to think it's in the bag will only hurt more when we find it's not. Keeping a level head keeps us strong. Thank you.

  34. Joy Nicholas on April 4, 2011 at 11:22 AM

    >Haha!! Love the pic!! Great post!! As always, so timely.

    I would say I haven't gotten my hopes unrealistically high. Rather, my life has taught me not to count my chickens, that's for SURE! Being married to a Navy pilot, and having our orders for moves changed, for instance, right before we were supposed to leave…? Yeah, I don't count on getting somewhere till I'm there! I got a positive response to an essay query on Friday from a publication and… well, I'd be over the moon if they actually published it!! But I know that I'm still a loooong ways from that!! I'm just trying to be thankful for the nice things they said, though, about the clips I used, because hand-written compliments from an editor are so wonderfully unexpected.

  35. Anonymous on April 4, 2011 at 11:14 AM

    >I've had the same agent request my full manuscript three different times over three years and still hasn't read it even once.

  36. Sandra Cormier on April 4, 2011 at 11:13 AM

    >In the beginning, I did a dance and told all my friends whenever an agent or publisher requested a partial or full.

    At one point, I had a double revise & resubmit with an agent that ultimately ended in a glowing rejection, and that really burst my bubble.

    This business is indeed a roller coaster. And with each rejection and each tiny success, it gets easier to loosen up and stop clenching the handrail. I'm still enjoying the ride.

    I just hope I don't fall off!

  37. Katherine Hyde on April 4, 2011 at 11:11 AM

    >The first time my hopes were raised was at my first writers conference with a fairly early draft of my first novel. A well-respected agent read my 20 pages, raved over my writing, and said she was seriously interested in representing me–if I could fix a couple of flaws. I'm positive I was higher on that meeting than anyone could ever be on drugs. It didn't work out, but the utter joy of that moment stays with me–not because I almost got an agent, but because it was the first time someone in the industry told me I really could write. On the strength of that I felt I could come out of the closet and tell the world I was a writer, even if I never published a word.

    Since then I've had my hopes raised and dashed more times than I care to count, and I really try to keep my hopes in check these days. With response times so long and so many agents choosing not to respond unless they're interested, I feel very fortunate to get any word from an agent at all!

  38. Loree Huebner on April 4, 2011 at 10:55 AM

    >Great post. The very first time I ever queried, nearly 10 years ago, I got a request for a full.

    I really didn't have the knowledge of the business and thought that this was "a piece of cake" {finger snap}

    I fully expected an offer of representation within a week.

    Needless to say, I didn't get that offer. When the rejection letter came, I was crushed. It was a real humbling lesson for me…which I needed at the time.

    When I look back, I can't believe how cocky I was. Who was that person?!?!?

    After having the wind knocked out of me, I took some time to learn more about the publishing business and got back up on my writing horse. I've had other rejections since but none like that first one.

    I'm now thankful for that experience. It's made me a better writer and person.

  39. Anonymous on April 4, 2011 at 10:53 AM

    >For me, the worst is when I've come so close and then it hasn't happened. Last year my novel went to editorial/acquisitions three times–and three times it got shot down. In one of those instances, my agent had called to say it appeared to be a sure thing and she contacted the remaining houses that had it to let them know an offer was imminent. And then… the offer wasn't made after all. I had one day of thinking I really, truly was going to be a published author, so it was devastating to find out I wasn't going to be after all. It was really, really tough to keep going after that. But I have, and I've become a stronger writer since that time. And I'm grateful I have such a terrific agent in my corner who still believes in me and my writing.
    (Interesting to hear that fewer than half of the projects that get to editorial are actually acquired…)

  40. Michelle DeRusha@Graceful on April 4, 2011 at 10:38 AM

    >Oh yeah, high hopes, crashing lows — I do it all. My husband calls me "red light, green light" for a good reason (he's known as "flashing yellow," by the way).

    Speaking of lows…I had no idea more than half of all projects get rejected by the pub. committee. Frankly, I don't even know what a pub. committee is, but it (they?) sounds daunting!

  41. Cynthia Herron on April 4, 2011 at 10:33 AM

    >Rachelle, I'm to the point where the door has been opened from an inch to a crack…a fairly big crack. I feel so blessed, though I know there is still much work ahead.

    I've been writing for many long years, and during that time, I was asked for several "completes" along the way. I believe it was God's way of honing my writing, improving my skills, "seasoning" me.

    I continued to write through our child's chronic illness, two tornadoes, and various other life events. Those things made this "Pollyanna" stronger because I realized that if I could write my way through the bad, then I could, by George, write my heart out during the GREAT!

  42. Casey on April 4, 2011 at 10:22 AM

    >I try to be positive about what I do, the contests I enter, the writing I send to freelance editors, but at the same time I try to be realistic.

    Like you said, I've been watching this enough and have listened to enough conference recordings to know you WON'T get in on the first try. Even with this contest I just recently entered, I don't expect anything from it. Doesn't mean I don't WISH something good would come from it, but I am trying to look at it first and for most as a learning opportunity. :-))

  43. Diane Henders on April 4, 2011 at 10:20 AM

    >I love unrealistically high hopes! They make life fun. While you have that unchecked lottery ticket in your pocket, you can dream of being a millionaire, even though you know the odds are vanishingly small.

    For me, the key is to recognize the difference between unrealistic hopes and unrealistic expectations.

    Hopes bring you joy. Expectations set you up for disappointment.

  44. Laura Drake on April 4, 2011 at 9:55 AM

    >Wonderful post. I'm so focused on finding my agent that I haven't even looked ahead. HALF the projects don't make it through committee? Yikes!
    I survive for the little wins along the way though. As long as I keep seeing progress, and keep breathing, I'll get there eventually!

  45. Sarah Thomas on April 4, 2011 at 9:46 AM

    >Even when they're dashed, I think my hopes are higher than most. It's just my nature. The other day my husband stopped me in the kitchen and said, "I think your book will be published because it's how you share your witness." Then he hugged me and went on about his business. You know, that right there is almost enough.

    That's also why I keep champagne chilled at all times. A glass shared with my husband is great whether it's for celebration or consolation!

  46. Judith Mercado on April 4, 2011 at 9:45 AM

    >Each time an agent has asked for a partial or a full. Each time I have had a short story accepted. Each time I finish another work, I think, this is the time. Finally. One could say I was being unrealistic, but the joy of those moments, even if ephemeral, spurs me on to write more, to write better, to keep going.

  47. Eileen Astels Watson on April 4, 2011 at 9:33 AM

    >You have an as-gentle-as-possible way of delivering depressing news, Rachelle…and on a Monday morning, too.

    I haven't allowed myself to get my hopes up with the publishing goal yet, and I've got to say after reading this post I'm very thankful for that.

    I need to take to heart though your thoughts on relishing the mini achievements along the way. If I follow that advice, hopefully I'll be emotionally prepared to weather the storms should I make it that far some day.

  48. Beth K. Vogt on April 4, 2011 at 9:27 AM

    >We've all got expectations–in ourselves, in the industry, in our agents . . . It's ridiculous to say we don't have 'em. I have glass half-full days and glass half-empty days. I just have to remember where I'm going to get my glass refilled. Me? Other people's validation? As my friend "Wise Guy" likes to say, "Who is my voice of authority?" My desire is to let God be my hope (more and more). And I know he's with me on those days I'm sulking about my progress in the writing world. But, one thing I'm certain of: God made me a writer. Period. End of discussion.

  49. Julie Nilson on April 4, 2011 at 9:23 AM

    >I haven't begun sending out my work quite yet, but I think that reading your blog and a few others from people in the publishing business will help me moderate my excitement and just keep plugging along. (Until I actually see a book cover with my name on it in a bookstore. Then I will FREAK OUT.)

  50. Elizabeth Varel on April 4, 2011 at 9:09 AM

    >I try to balance out my excitement at getting an agent and getting published with how happy I am with my life (husband, family, job). From what I'm reading it's tough to ever break into this industry, and I don't want to go nuts or get depressed over it. I enjoy all the praise I get – either from family and friends or from other published writers and agents – this keeps me from giving up. I really want to accomplish my dream of getting published, but if I don't, I have plenty to be thankful for. But you're right, all those little praises keep the lights on.

  51. Kelly Combs on April 4, 2011 at 8:41 AM

    >I went into writing without knowledge of the industry. When you have multiply people say to you, "You should get that published" or "You should be published," you don't realize the dedication and excellence needed to actually make that happen.

    Now that I know, I realize I may never have a book published. I am a good, but not great writer. I have small successes with places such as Guideposts, and I am okay with that. We can't all be NY Times Best Seller authors. I'm learning to embrace my small successes.

  52. Sharon A. Lavy on April 4, 2011 at 8:14 AM

    >RJS said…at least it's cheaper than the lottery!


    We need our dreams. =)

  53. Rachel on April 4, 2011 at 8:13 AM

    >Great topics this week!

    As for high hopes, I've had my share with my first manuscript. It had lots of great feedback from agents, but since I have not signed with an agent yet, it could be tempting to get totally discouraged. What I have chosen to do instead is look at how blessed I was to have so many agents take their time to not only read my manuscript, but give me notes and some even ask for R&Rs. I am using that to motivate me in the next book I am currently writing (while pondering the revision options on the first). Believing in yourself and your talent, as long as it stays at a healthy level, is a good thing. And as long as our high hopes are backed up with a good head on our shoulders and strong work ethic to pick ourselves back up in the end, I think it's okay to get a little excited sometimes 🙂

  54. Wendy Paine Miller on April 4, 2011 at 8:10 AM

    >I think this post is one reason why it's so important to know who you write for and why you write.
    ~ Wendy

  55. RJS on April 4, 2011 at 8:07 AM

    >I am not sure that it is even possible to do this without having unrealistic hopes. My SO is fond of saying that setting out to be published is like waking up in the morning and announcing that you will win the lottery. Benjamin Hale recently posted about the talent/luck/work tripod and how there are no guarantees, that even if you are talented and work hard, you may still fail. If everyone was realistic about the odds, hardly anyone would do it (at least it's cheaper than the lottery!).

    Mostly I try to put on blinders with regard to the larger process and the horrible odds, and to concentrate on the sliver of the process I can control. I can be diligent about querying; I can write another book; I can try to get better at it. The unreasonable hope is lurking there the whole time, though.

  56. Ishta Mercurio on April 4, 2011 at 8:05 AM

    >Sure, I've gotten my hopes up to an unrealistic level, but I never regretted it. Even when the agent or editor passed on my manuscript, I knew that I was on the right track – that I had a premise that was great, and I just needed to work on the pages some more. It spurred me on to make my manuscript better.

  57. Rick Barry on April 4, 2011 at 8:01 AM

    >Amen, Rachelle. I thought one of my projects was flying high when one acquisitions editor said he was taking my story to pub committee. But then, it crashed and burned when one member of the committee shot it down. However, the cool thing was that the editor assured me my story WOULD be published, just not by his house. I kept shopping it, and he was right. A smaller publisher picked it up, and it's still in print. So, sometimes even defeat can become a step toward victory. Now, back to revising my new suspense story.

  58. David A. Todd on April 4, 2011 at 7:55 AM

    >Yes, I've had my hopes unrealistically high in the past. I'm much more realistic now after years on the conference circuit and the query-go-round. Every writers conference was a roller coaster of emotions. Up high after a 15 minute appointment that went well; in the depths after a major dose of reality in a 60 minute class; high again after the keynote of the evening; lowest after a bad 15-minute appointment.

    Now I try, concerning expectations of how my writing will be received, to remember Emerson's words: "…the good world manifests very little impatience."

  59. Terri Tiffany on April 4, 2011 at 7:39 AM

    >Thank you for an honest great post. I did get my hopes up a few years ago and as I learn more about the industry, I tend to be more realistic. But it's fun to celebrate those moments:)

  60. Heather Webb on April 4, 2011 at 7:31 AM

    >The whole business is one big roller coaster ride for just about everyone involved, it seems. It's so difficult to separate emotions from a great project or one that's near and dear to your heart. A little caution and fortitude goes a long way!

  61. Erin MacPherson on April 4, 2011 at 7:22 AM

    >I had very low expectations on my first project which made it so much sweeter when my project was sold. I think I had much higher (false) hopes on my second project… I guess I assumed that there was a pretty good chance of getting a second deal from my publisher since things had gone so smoothly the first time but lo and behold, that isn't happening. Yes, snarls and barbed wire sound about right.

  62. Linda Jackson on April 4, 2011 at 6:53 AM

    >Rachelle, I have gotten my hopes up soooo many times in this business only to have them plummet, that I now proceed with caution. My husband keeps saying, "You're almost there," but he doesn't know about all the toll bridges that I can still see ahead.

    To Ryan Fortney: Yes, validation is what I seek. I have self-published, sold thousands of copies, gotten fan mail, made required reading lists at middle/high schools, still selling without even trying; yet, I still want an agent/editor to say, "Your work is good enough for us. We want to champion it."

    John 5:31,32 – "If I testify about myself, my testimony is not valid. There is another who testifies in my favor, and I know that his testimony about me is valid."

  63. Sue Harrison on April 4, 2011 at 6:39 AM

    >After six commercially published novels that were picked up internationally, my genre 'died' and I began experimenting with other genres. A large university press expressed interest in one of my literary novels, but that fell through. It's been a long lean-on-God process. But I love to write and I have renewed hope with a new agent. I've learned much – to pray hard, to enjoy the writing process, to appreciate criticism, to blog, and to love the rewriting process.

    Meanwhile, I am writing!

  64. Catherine West on April 4, 2011 at 5:58 AM

    >I'm not sure there is a right answer to this. After all, what is hope? If we have no hope, may as well pack it all in and call it a day. If I have learned anything along this insane journey, it is that hope is vital. If you have a dream you believe in enough to pursue, you must cling to the hope that one day it will happen. Maybe it will, maybe it won't, that's not for us to know at the time. Rejection will come – even for the multi-published authors with movie deals – in some form or another. Hope anyway.
    And try to enjoy the ride, sure it gets bumpy and sometimes makes you sick, but a lot of it is kind of fun!

  65. Jackie on April 4, 2011 at 5:57 AM

    >I think one of the reasons writers may have unrealistically high hopes is that they don't understand to process of getting an agent, getting published etc – that's where your blog comes in. I once held the fairytale belief that once an agent requested your full ms, that was it, mission accomplished. Experience has now shown me this isn't the case -although I do treasure those occasional 'yay' moments. Finding out that half of all submissions don't make it past the editors' meeting is a bit of a blow. But thanks for telling us like it is. It seems a writer's job is to write make-believe, not believe in it.

  66. Katie Ganshert on April 4, 2011 at 5:21 AM

    >Oh, for sure! The day after you offered me representation, I got an email from an editor saying she was interested in my stuff. It wasn't a good combination for my bladder – your phone call and her email. Thankfully, my agent settled me down, which was VERY good, since it took a full year until I got a contract and could do a victory dance.

    Now the hard work is all done….right? 😉

  67. Sharon A. Lavy on April 4, 2011 at 5:01 AM

    >Dear Rachelle,
    How fitting is this post.
    I woke up this morning, still with jet lag from a two week trip to Europe and thought:
    I am 66 years old. I may die unpublished. But I have to keep writing anyway, because I am a writer.
    It is an exciting journey we are on (life) and I want to enjoy the trip.

  68. Rosemary Gemmell on April 4, 2011 at 4:08 AM

    >A down-to-earth post – thanks, Rachelle, we need those too! I'm an optimist, but realistic about the writing/publishing business. Short story writing (which I've doen for years) is all about acceptances and rejections, so we get on with it.

    A few years ago, my historical romance got as far as the full ms being requested from the publisher. Since it was my first novel, and first time sending it out, I dared to get my hopes up. But I eventually received a 'rave rejection'. That novel went out a few more times, but my attitude was more down to earth by then. It's now coming out with a small Canadian publisher in May. I never lost hope, but I knew it was never going to be that easy either.

  69. Andrew on April 4, 2011 at 3:39 AM

    >I hope some 'non-writing' input is ok here…

    I went to the Mayo Clinic for an operation that was supposed to cure a life-threatening illness. All the omens were good, but…

    It didn't.

    After going through the required self-pity I realized that I could either accept each hour of reality as it develops, or live in either hope – or fear – of the future.

    I guess this has given some perspective (my wife would die laughing if I said 'wisdom') – nothing's real until it actually happens. Neither the contract and the guest spot on Oprah, nor the scathing rejections from multitudes of agents.

    Living in hopeful or fearful fantasy is ultimately empty. Be like the Lilies of the Field. Perhaps tomorrow the flowers will blow – but today – aren't they glorious?

    (And I'm having fun now, proving the doctors wrong – day by day.)

  70. Melissa on April 4, 2011 at 2:31 AM

    >“Have you gotten your hopes up unrealistically high in the past?”

    Only when I attach them to my expectations to people. Oh boy, I’ll never do that again! But in the business of writing? No, not really. I’ve accomplished my goals as a freelance journalist. But the business of publishing is subjective, and I understand that this variance between the two fields is the “make or break.” So I don’t get my hopes up too much. I value the knowledge of agents and publishing house editors, because they have so much to share. I was fortunate enough to get a critique from an industry professional on a partial that made my first revisions a cakewalk. That was so awesome! ☺

    Feedback, not acceptance, is the most valuable part of the journey, to my mind. As others have pointed out, the traditional “query and pitch” is only one road one can take. I’ll give it a chance, but I won’t hold out forever. If I write professionally and meticulously, just as the publishing industry itself would have me do, I believe the novels it gives a pass will find a decent market in the world of e-publishing. Let me underscore that “meticulous” part a few times.

  71. Ryan S. Fortney on April 4, 2011 at 2:03 AM

    >All I have to say is: Agents and Publishers? Why deal with any of these people? Do it yourself.

    Sure, maybe you're looking for validation. If that's the case, keep holding on!

    But if you write for yourself, if you write and enjoy what you're putting on paper and you have confidence in what you write, why not do it yourself?

    Yeah, you've got to deal with marketing all on your own, but it's fun, enlightening. I guarantee it's just as challenging as talking to corporate suits. Maybe even more-so.

    It's all about the journey and which road you decide to take. Personally, I think all this Agent/Publisher business is old news.

    I'm an author out-of-the-blue. My first book is on Smashwords and it's selling. Isn't that proof enough?

  72. Leigh D'Ansey on April 4, 2011 at 1:30 AM

    >I've gotten my hopes up many times, but being a natural-born pessimist I never get hopelessly carried away. It's really tough though when you think you've done everything you can and you still can't break through that barrier. I don't think rejection letters were ever what I needed, but I did learn something from most of them thanks to good feedback.

  73. Nancy Thompson on April 4, 2011 at 1:16 AM

    >Oh my gosh, I was just politely rejected by an agent who read my full manuscript. After two long months, she had nothing bad to say, just that she couldn't champion it as she was sure I would want her to. I've never felt so bad in my life. And for the first time in my life, I drank to drown my sorrows. It didn't work so I'll keep pluggin' away. But yeah, reality really does suck.

  74. Kristin on April 4, 2011 at 1:06 AM

    >Since I have chosen a field with a lot of rejection and no guarantees (I also do stand up comedy which also gives heavy doses of both), I've "trained" myself to be very business-minded with each rejection. It's hard, but it's just the name of the game.

    Personally, I try to have lots of non-writing/comedy related hobbies and relationships so my whole identity isn't wrapped up in whether I get published.

  75. Kate Larkindale on April 4, 2011 at 12:56 AM

    >It's a fine line to walk, isn't it. You don't want to get down because yes, it is hard. But at the same time, getting too excited about one small step forward can only lead to disappointment.

    I try to keep everything in perspective.

  76. Carol J. Garvin on April 4, 2011 at 12:43 AM

    >An optimistic outlook needn't be unrealistic. I tend to have a 'glass half full' approach to life and that spills over into my quest for publication. With a positive attitude I can believe if one door is closed to me, God will open a window somewhere else.

    Reality is also easier to accept when we're familiar with how the publication industry functions. It helps us understand rejections are common and what we need to do to improve our odds of success.

    This is a timely post for me. Thank you. 🙂

  77. Ivana Watkins on April 4, 2011 at 12:06 AM

    >I'm a published author in my home country (Croatia), but writing in English is something all together different because I think in Croatian. So yeah, I do get too excited when things look good for me, but I also know there's a long way ahead of me. By the way, I find your blog very useful, thank you.

  78. Naomi Bulger on April 3, 2011 at 11:44 PM

    >Years ago a university publisher requested to see my novella (yay!). It went to the committee, they liked it, we signed contracts (double yay!). Then university funding was cut and the whole press closed down, all contracts null and void. I felt really silly for celebrating prematurely, and suffered a massive loss of personal validation. Lesson learned: the publishing game is a fickle beast. Herd those chickens but don't count them 'til they're cooked on your plate.

  79. Sally Hepworth on April 3, 2011 at 11:39 PM

    >Ah, so many hurdles to cross. I have got excited every step of the way, and probably will continue to do so. I am a writer, after all. It is all about the dizzy highs and the crashing lows.

  80. Keli Gwyn on April 3, 2011 at 11:22 PM

    >When I embarked on my writing journey, I knew from my experience working for a publishing company that success takes hard work and time. I did my best to enjoy each high point along the way but not to let them delude me into thinking my turn was around the next bend. A writer has to climb a lot of hills on the road to publication, but hanging in there can pay off in the ultimate joy ride.