If you’re a serious writer, you’ll eventually submit your work for publication. And if you ever submit a manuscript to an editor or agent, you’ll at some point probably experience rejection. Although having a book that you’ve put your heart and soul into generate less excitement than you hoped, taking that risk is part of the process. Be encouraged! Guest author Adina Senft is here to share how rejection opened other doors for her.
How Rejection Got Me a Three-Book Deal
by Adina Senft
Rejection. It’s the one word we writers dread, no matter how much experience we have, or how nicely it’s phrased.
“We’re passing on this one.”
“Great writing, but not for us.”
“Do you have anything else?”
Or, as one publisher told me, “We have no idea what to do with this.”
Even after you make that first sale—or the fifth, or tenth—rejection is still part of the writer’s life. Proposals get turned down, ideas are nixed, and the writer is left wondering, what do I do now? Was that last sale just a fluke?
A couple of years ago I was in this position. Seven proposals in a row had been turned down, and I lost heart. So instead of coming up with yet another commercial idea, I decided to write a non-commercial one—one that might not sell, but that was interesting and challenging. And if no one bought it, at least I was flexing my creative muscles and having a little fun along the way.
So I wrote an Amish vampire novel.
In the CBA, this is a running joke—take the two best-selling subgenres and do a mashup. It’s bound to be a hit! Leanna Ellis did it in adult fiction (Plain Fear: Forsaken, Sourcebooks) but I wrote YA, which hadn’t been done before. I finished it and sent it to my agent, and the rejections started streaming in. You see, what the jokers didn’t realize is that the two subgenres have zero crossover. No one who buys vampire books is going to buy an Amish novel, and vice versa. And for some of the teen imprints in NYC, the Amish are as strange and exotic as vampires!
I sent it to my editor at FaithWords, and it came back posthaste. But in her note, she said a funny thing. “We can’t publish this, but if you ever wanted to write straight-up Amish fiction, we’d be interested.”
After rejecting seven proposals in a row? Amish fiction? Me?
Then I realized that, having grown up in a plain church, I was uniquely qualified to do it—it had just never occurred to me before. This may seem like the biggest “duh” in the world, but I’d been writing contemporary teen stories with glitz and glamour—a far cry from bonnets and buggies.
I was scheduled to meet with my editor at RWA in Orlando, so I came up with a hook, drafted a sell sheet, and pitched the Amish Quilt trilogy to her over a salad. She got so excited she literally bounced in her chair—and a month later I had a contract, on no proposal, no pages, nothing. Just an idea on a sell sheet.
The first book, The Wounded Heart, is out on September 27, with The Hidden Life to follow in June 2012, and The Tempted Soul in 2013.
Every so often I marvel at the chain of events that brought me to a genre I really enjoy. But most of all, I thank my lucky stars for that rejection!
Adina Senft grew up in a plain house church, where she was often asked by outsiders if she was Amish (the answer was no), she made her own clothes, and she perfected the art of the French braid. She holds an M.F.A. in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University in Pennsylvania, where she teaches as adjunct faculty. Writing as Shelley Bates, she was the winner of RWAs RITA Award for Best Inspirational Novel in 2005, a finalist for that award in 2006, and, writing as Shelley Adina, was a Christy Award finalist in 2009. Three of her books have shortlisted for the American Christian Fiction Writers Carol Award for book of the year. Of her fiction, publisher and industry blogger W. Terry Whalin has said, Readers will be lost in the vivid world that [she] paints with incredible detail and masterful storytelling. A transplanted Canadian, Adina returns there annually to have her accent calibrated. Between books, she enjoys traveling with her husband, playing the piano and Celtic harp, and spoiling her flock of rescued chickens. These days, she makes period costumes and only puts up her hair for historical events and fun.
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