Having missed several RWA chapter meetings, I decided to attend in February. First, I missed being around my writer friends. Just being in proximity with other writers gets me fired up to work on my novel (which has been sadly ignored of late). Second, the program was to be given by an agent, and she was taking pitches.
I have a book I have been querying for longer than I want to admit. I like the story, and I think readers will, too. I just need to bring it to someone’s attention. So I practiced my pitch all the way to Charlotte, which is roughly one and a half hours driving time.
The morning program was interesting as she talked about what agents look for and what turns them off. Then she said something that really caught my attention.
She described a book she loved, but had trouble getting to editors because the main male character is a preacher and the female is a piano player for the choir. And yet, it wasn’t an inspirational novel. It took her two years to find it a home.
My heart sank. My lead characters are a minister and organist, and the book is not an inspirational. It is about two people who want a second chance at love, but are torn apart by family obligations and expectations. They do get a HEA, but religion and/or redemption have nothing to do with it.
After the business meeting and lunch, I bravely took my turn at the table to pitch my book. The moment I said “minister” she shook her head.
“I know,” I said. I didn’t even try to explain that my book was different–mainly because I hadn’t read the other one yet. (I did read it later and it was funny and sassy and nothing at all like my book).
My five minutes up, I was about to thank her and leave when she asked if I was working on something else. I quickly mentioned the historical I am sooo close to finishing and she said she loved historicals, especially that time period, and to send a query when I finished it.
So–I drove home with mixed feelings.
The lesson here is this: Don’t ever be discouraged by a rejection. You may not get a face-to-face explanation of why it didn’t pass the test, but chances are that the agent or editor has already published a book very similar to yours. It has nothing to do with your writing style or the book’s qualities. I once got a rejection from an editor who didn’t like first-person stories. No other reason. So don’t give up. Acceptance depends on so many variables. It does get discouraging, but there is always another chance.
You just have to be ready to grab it when it comes.
And since I did love the book-that-got-there-first, it is “The Happy Hour Choir” by Sally Kilpatrick (Kensington).