A Guide for Aspiring Authors

We are not interested in science fiction that deals with negative utopias. They do not sell.” – rejection letter for Stephen King’s Carrie

“… an absurd and uninteresting fantasy which was rubbish and dull.” – rejection letter for William Golding’s Lord of the Flies

These are two of the many pieces of Internet lore about writers and the rejections they received before finally landing a publishing deal. Many of the famous rejection stories are about initial pitches or queries sent to agents and publishers that are turned down — sometimes in a very cruel manner. J.K. Rowling, John le Carré, and Dr. Seuss all received multiple rejections before finally getting published. Aspiring writers read and reread these rejection stories, reminding themselves to hang in there and keep trying, keep sending letters, and keep mailing queries and manuscripts to agents who may never look at them.

petermanRobyn Peterman tried something different. She lied. But let’s back up a moment, because her story starts off sounding a lot like all the other rejection-laden tales.

“I’ve always written, but I never finished anything,” explains Peterman. “I have like 50 great American novels up in my attic. Then I wrote a 140,000-word paranormal vampire tome that I was so proud that I finished. I look at it now, and it is so overwritten, but I finished. I sent it out to like 30 agencies and got 30 rejections.”

With the traditional route not bearing any fruit, Peterman tried another approach.

“I went to a convention called Romantic Times, which is a reader/writer convention, that happened to be in Chicago last April. It was amazing. It was like going to school for a week. I was in seminars and classes, and it was great.

“And there was this thing called Pitch-a-Palooza, where a ballroom was lined with New York publishers and agents,” she continued. “They listed who was going to be there, so I picked nine places. You had three minutes to pitch your book before a buzzer went off and you had to get up and move to the next table. Well, I had nothing new finished. I had written about 20,000 words on something for NaNoWriMo — National November Writing Month — that I thought was pretty cool, so I thought, ‘I’ve got a beginning. I’ll pitch that. What have I got to lose?’

Peterman pitched all nine places, all the while playing the part of a novelist with a completed manuscript.

“Basically, I lied — humongously,” she said. “I pitched it like it was a finished book. I’ve been an actor my whole life, and this was like an audition. People were laughing and carrying on.”

And it worked.

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