Optimism is NOT Arrogance

Arrogance is the belief that you are BETTER than others. Optimism is the belief that you have the same CHANCE as others. We all have the chance to achieve our dreams. Don't ever let anyone tell you differently.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Slow Going

No word from Caitlin after the barrage of rejections - but that's ok, I'm still working on revising the whole story to be third person.  It's not really as hard as you may think.  Most of the narrative translates pretty easily, just changing "I thought" to "he thought".  Some of the inner dialogue has to go, or I had to make it be outer dialogue.  But the action, plot, etc. is still pretty much the same.

One of the questions I asked Caitlin was along the lines of "boy, I hope I'm not damaging your reputation by having you send out this crap", but she laughed it off.  Here's what she said:

"...don't worry about my reputation!  Editors pass constantly on things from every agent.  Even when I have big money auctions for books there are still tons of editors who have passed for one reason or another."

Of course - I just saw the "BIG MONEY AUCTIONS" part.  


Monday, February 21, 2011

A Second Chance?

My friend Mary posted a question on the last blog - will these publishers consider a re-read if I re-write?  The answer is dependent on the publisher, and the editor.  Most publishers that we're targeting have multiple middle grade editors, so we'll try those again.  But in terms of the same editors, that depends on how the agent handles the rejection, what the rejection is about, and the relationship the agent has with the editor.

Take Scholastic for example:  after the initial rejection, which I shared the other day, Caitlin wrote this back to her:

"To be honest, I'm hearing the same thing from other editors about the dual first person narrators.  If Kevin were able to rewrite the book in a more traditional style--maybe close third person narration--would you be interested in seeing it again?

If not, please don't hesitate to tell me.  I know you must have a desk (or e-reader these days) full of manuscripts."

Now, I'm not entirely sure of the relationship between Caitlin and this editor, so I don't know if they're best buds, or just barely know each other, but here's what the editor responded back:

"If the author revises, I’d be happy to have a quick look, though we’re not really looking to publish a series (so I might not be the right editor)."

Note the caveat:  they're not really looking to publish a series.  That tells me that the initial read didn't grab her to the extent that she's willing to really consider it, she's just being polite.  Otherwise, the publishing a series would've come out in the first rejection.  Also notice that she said that they're not looking to publish a series, so she's not sure she's the right editor, as opposed to the right publisher.  Lots of nuances that make me think, "ok, probably not gonna happen there."  Nevertheless, she gave Caitlin the opportunity, so we'll probably try her again once I've rewritten it.

Now when Egmont rejected, I asked the same question:  would she resubmit, and here's her response:

"...In Egmont's case I think I would go to a different editor there who hadn't seen the book before."

No reason why, but probably because she knows the editor too well and doesn't want to pester her.  I'll post the letter about Egmont later.  It could also be that she wanted someone who hadn't been tainted from the first reading trying to get past that with a re-read.  Someone fresh off the dock will have an unbiased view.

In any case, you can see that it's very hit or miss, and a very fine line to walk - which is why it's so important to get an agent.  Going direct is black or white - they either like you or they don't.  An agent has a relationship that can be utilized to allow re-submissions, or to get more info regarding their reasons for passing, etc.  Very helpful.

More to come.  Halfway through the revision now, but still haven't heard from Caitlin after I sent her the first three chapters.  Was I on the mark?  Was the new third person narrative working?  Inquiring minds wanna know!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Scholastic Letter

By the way, I share these with you not to solicite pity or encouragement; I know rejections are part of the game.  I share them so you can see what they look like, and how it all works.

First - here's how Caitlin broke the news to me.  As I said - an awesome agent!

"Regarding the narrator issue--you remember we talked about this right when I signed you up.  My personal feeling is that kids would not have a problem with the dual narrators.  With computer and video games and graphic novels these days they are way more sophisticated than editors give them credit for being.  But, it may be a case of not being able to get to the kids because of the editorial/publisher screen.  Sometimes you can't fight city hall.  (And, it's very unfair, because, let's face it, if Rick Riordan or Stephanie Meyers wrote a book with dual first person narrators it would be hailed as editorial genius.)

So I don't want to give up--the manuscript is still out with 6 editors--but I do think you should spend some time thinking about if/how you could tell the story in a more traditional format.  The most commercial way to go would be a close third person--i.e., using he/she but keeping the viewpoint and voice very close to the character.  

Mull it over and let me know what you're thinking okay?"

See, she believes in the narrative as well, but also is a realist in that the kids aren't the ones doing the editing and story selection - the editors are.  Right, wrong or indifferent, they're the ones you have to please.  And the dual first person narrative (so far) isn't grabbing them.  Who knows, maybe one of the other five remaining will jump on it.

Here's SCHOLASTIC's point of view:

"Hi Caitlin,

I’ve now had a chance to read Kevin Sheridan’s THE TIMEPIECE CHRONICLES. There’s so much to like here—and I’m always looking for literary, commercial middle grade fiction—but I’m afraid this is a pass for me. I simply couldn’t get past the narration style, and I thought it would be a problem for middle grade readers.

I’m sorry I don’t have better news. Thank you for thinking of me. I hope we’ll be able to connect on a project in the near future!"

Now to their credit, these are professionals, so they are paid to make these types of decisions, and something new and radical like this isn't an easy decision to make, or a risk they may want to take.  But I focus in on the words "THERE'S SO MUCH TO LIKE HERE"!  That's what gives me hope.  And as a wise man once said, there's always hope.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Scoreless after two...

The lineup just ain't getting it done.  Either that or the dual first person narrative is really an issue for these people.  Which is interesting because it hasn't been an issue for anyone READING the dang thing!

Especially the target audience!

Anyway, here's where we stand:

  1. Simon and Schuster - ground out to second.  A good hard liner, but couldn't find the hole.
  2. Harper - struck out looking.  Form letter rejection back to Caitlin.  Nice.  Shoulda kept them on the bench
  3. Hyperion - weak grounder to the pitcher.  Shoulda kept them at the 9 spot.  Rejected for various reasons (I'll post their rejection letter tomorrow)
  4. Scholastic - A strong out to left field.  Well hit ("so much to like here") and is considering a re-read if I re-write it with a new narrative.
  5. Grosset and Dunlap/Penguin - Struck out looking.  Another form letter rejection
  6. Egmont - didn't even run out the grounder to first.  Likely to pass because of the voice issue.
  7. Henry Holt/Macmillan - APinch Hitter!  The editor we sent it to is leaving Holt, giving me a chance to revise and resubmit.  Sweet!
  8. Delacorte/Random House 
  9. Putnam/Penguin

Still on the bench (unless they leap off and force me to play them):

I'll post the first of the rejection notices from Caitlin tomorrow.  She's been awesome in her optimism and encouragement.  I've already started the re-write changing from first to third person, and it's not as bad as I thought it'd be.  But it will slow things down.  We've got six more editors to hear back from by March 7, so hopefully the re-write will be for naught, but if it's required...well, consider it my closer warming up in the bullpen.


Monday, February 14, 2011

Don't these people recognize GENIUS?!?

Ok, well, I'm not THAT conceited.  But yet again, another editor has passed, and yet again, it's for largely the same reason - the dual first-person narrative.  So here's a lesson for all my future novelists/mega-millionaires, and it's called PLEASING THE GATEKEEPERS!

See, my book has alternative first person narrative.  First Jeff talks a while, then Ben comes in and perhaps interrupts him - it's all in good fun and from the kid's perspective (those few that have read it), they really enjoyed the banter.  Each boy has a distinct personality, as Caitlin and I worked hard to make sure, and two first person narratives allows me to split up the main characters and still show what's going on with the intimacy of the first person narrative.

But apparently no one else is buying it.

The Scholastic people just passed as well, and I'll post their letter tomorrow, but bottom line it comes down to the narrative - they think it's too disruptive.

So - that's four out of four who passed due to that reason.  Once or twice is a personal thing - more than that, you may be looking at a trend.  Six letters are still out, so there's still hope, but juuuuuuust in case, Caitlin has recommended I look at what it would take to make it third person.

Is this selling out?  Would I be compromising my artistic ideals just to sell a book?

You bet your bottom bucko I would.  

See, my goal is to be a writer - a full time, no B.S. writer.  To quit my day job.  To lavish in the luxury of knowing that royalty checks will continue to roll in well into my 80's.  To watch my story come to life on the big screen, to sit next to Angelina Jolie as she discusses the role of Jeff's mom and what I intended when I wrote that character.

I dream big.

BUT - as unrealistic (or what I like to call OPTIMISTIC) as that all sounds, it doesn't get started at ALL unless I get my foot in the door.

So that's what I'm gonna do - WHATEVER IT TAKES TO GET MY FOOT IN THE DOOR!

Sorry for the yelling.  But it's an important point.

You can be a struggling artist your whole life, and if you feel good about it that's great.  We each have a goal - a destination that we're striving for.  If you're serious, you do whatever it takes to get there.

And someday, hopefully, you'll all hear about that magnificent, brilliant dual first-person narrative technique that Kevin Sheridan made famous in his middle-grade novel series THE TIMEPIECE CHRONICLES.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

My Rejection Letter - Hyperion

Now as Caitlin said, Hyperion is a tough nut to crack.  They pay well, but that means they're also VERY choosy - so if one little thing doesn't make the grade, the whole thing doesn't.  So you can guess they were very nitpicky.  Here's what the editor said:

Hi Caitlin,

I hope you’re doing well and enjoying this sunshine. Thanks for sending me THE TIMEPIECE CHRONICLES, which I have now had the chance to review. As we discussed over lunch all those weeks ago, I think that there is a lot of promise in the premise and I enjoyed reading Kevin’s work. There are a lot of great hooks here and I particularly appreciate the educational aspect of the story—it’s always great to slip history lessons under the radar of reluctant middle grade readers. That being said, I’m concerned that there are some inconsistencies when it comes to the time travel aspect of the plot, (though I understand that closing time travel loopholes is no easy task!). Further, I feel that the constant change in perspective, while at times humorous, disrupts the pacing and doesn’t allow the reader to get to know each character on a deeper level or to fully immerse themselves in this exciting story. For these reasons and others, it is with regret that I’m unable to make a publishing offer.

I appreciate your thinking of me, in any case, and wish you every success in finding the right publishing home for THE TIMEPIECE CHRONICLES. Please do keep me in mind for future projects; I hope that we’ll have the chance to work together soon!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Three up, three down...

Ok, so I rearranged the order of the lineup a bit (actually, Harper jumped off the bench and said "PUT ME IN"), and after 1 inning, here's what's happened:

1) Simon and Schuster - ground out to second.  A good hard liner, but couldn't find the hole.
2) Harper - struck out looking.  Form letter rejection back to Caitlin.  Nice.  Shoulda kept them on the bench
3) Hyperion - weak grounder to the pitcher.  Shoulda kept them at the 9 spot.  Rejected for various reasons (I'll post their rejection letter tomorrow)
8) Egmont (From the UK!)

Still on the bench (unless they leap off and force me to play them):

I'm still optimistic - it's only the first inning and Caitlin requested a March 7 response, so there's still a lot of ballgame yet to play!    

Here's what Caitlin said about the rejections:
"Try not to get discouraged!  [Harper] has very high standards (she handles the Narnia books and Shel Silverstein's estate for example) and Hyperion doesn't buy many projects at all (although they pay very well when they do, so I always try.)"

So heck - they were big swingers for the fences, and like all home-run hitters, they're either hit or miss.  

Next inning!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Pass - Simon & Schuster

Here's the actual rejection letter from the editor at Simon & Schuster:

"Hi there!

So I took a dip into this (tried to get to it quickly, since I was so in love with that last manuscript you sent my way!).

I think the idea and story and voice are all fun here, but to be honest, the back and forth of the two characters with one intruding on the other was jarring for me, personally. I had trouble getting fully immersed in the story when there was that ongoing voice shift.

I’m sure that’s a really subjective concern and some people might actually love it! But I’m afraid it means I’m not the right editor here.

Thanks so much for sending my way, though, and I’m really hoping we can get one together sooner than later!"

A good rejection to be sure, because the only thing holding her back was the alternative narrative, which, as Caitlin pointed out, we kinda knew going in wouldn't be for everybody.  So, no getting down on this one.  Although, the writer in me wishes for the adjective "amazing" rather than "fun".  But I'll take it...

Also note what I pointed out earlier - that this editor loved Caitlin's last submission - a good rep and good history.  Excellent signs.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Ground Ball to Second!

Ok, sports fans, to recap our current lineup:  The following editors agreed to review my manuscript after my agent Caitlin pitched it to them.  Here they are

1) Simon and Schuster
2) Scholastic 
6) Egmont (From the UK!)

And on the bench (for no particular reason)
Harper (Just plain Harper I guess)

So far, one strike out:  Simon & Schuster passed.  Now as I promised, I've included all rejection letters and have also posted Caitlin's pitch so everyone can see what the process is.  Take a look and let me know what you think.  I like the pitch, and I was very glad to see the editor at S&S's reaction to Caitlin's submission.  Obviously Caitlin has developed a good reputation for sending quality work along, which made me very happy.

So first batter up, knocks a hard ground ball to second.  A good stroke, but not enough to get on base.  NEXT BATTER!

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