Monday, November 20, 2006

Straight Talk For Less than 50 Cents

Every writer struggles to understand rejection.  You have a brilliant idea and craft a query letter or a book proposal.  Then you come up with a list of possible book publishers and submit your material. Then you wait (some times months) for an answer—which comes from the editor. And it’s a form letter with nothing personal and no insight for you to improve on the next submission.

I completely understand the unfair nature of a form rejection letter.  I dislike sending these form letters but as an editor, I have little choice.  It’s not my responsibility to critique the writer’s work or tell them why I returned their work. Also there are simply not enough hours in the day to accomplish even a brief specialized note to these authors. Since January, I’ve rejected over 350 submissions with my part-time editor role. You can assume the volume of submissions is even higher many other places. You want to manage your own expectations about receiving any details from the editor about the reason for the rejection letter.  I continue to receive rejection letters for my own submissions—often form letters.  Now many writers will resist seeing the rejection letters.  If they have a literary agent, they feel like they don’t need to see these letters. It’s not true in my view. If I work with a literary agent, I encourage that agent to send me the rejection letters. Why? Then I know my materials are being submitted—and processed through the publishing houses.  It’s frustrating to ask an agent about your book proposal and hear, “I showed it all around and everyone passed.”  Who is “everyone?” The rejection letters give validity that the agent is indeed working for you.  I’ve dissolved my relationship with agents who don’t send rejecStraight-Talk-covertion letters when I’m one of their clients. It’s something else to consider in your own relationship with a literary agent.

Out of my own frustration about not being able to respond to writers and give them reasons, I wrote Straight Talk from the Editor, 18 Keys to a Rejection Proof-Submission. This new Amazon Short gives six keys why book ideas are rejected, six keys to guarantee rejection and six keys to gain the editor’s attention. Now you know how I came up with 18 keys in this original piece. I could have used this article in many other ways. It could have appeared as a magazine article or as the first chapter of a new book project. Instead, I sent it to Amazon.com for their Amazon Short program. It’s not free but at 49 cents, it’s certainly affordable for every person and you receive it instantly as a PDF download.

It’s part of my ongoing commitment to educate writers and help them understand how to improve their submissions and distinguish their submissions from others.  I hope you will check out Straight Talk from the Editor, give it a Five Star Review on Amazon—and tell all your writer friends about it.  My greatest hope is for you to study these words and apply them to your writing life.  We need more writers who understand the process and can give editors what they need. It’s the editor’s hope for each email and each package. When the rejections pile up, it’s easy to grow discouraged.

Every editor and every literary agent that I know is actively looking. The key is giving them the right project at the right time at the right place.

13 Comment:

At 10:13 AM, Anonymous Anonymous Left a note...

I love your idea for creating an Amazon Short, Terry! I've just paid my 53 cents (including tax) and downloaded it. I'll post a review of it on Amazon when I've had a chance to read it.

Do you offer any guarantees...if we follow your 18 suggestions and still get rejected, can we blame it on you? :-)

Laura Christianson

At 10:41 AM, Blogger Terry Whalin Left a note...


Thanks for picking up Straight Talk From the Editor. I look forward to learning what you think about it.

As for any guarantees, you can blame whoever you want to blame for the rejection--that's a personal call. But I can tell you that the rejection is nothing personal--it's just business.

From my years in the publishing, I know there are no guarantees. As an acquisitions editor, I have many books that I've championed which were turned down. Every book that gets into print and out into the marketplace is nothing short of a miracle. And if that book finds an audience and sells--it's an even greater miracle.

I'm simply eager to help writers find the right door of opportunity. The doors are out there but you sure have to knock on a bunch of them for the right one to open.

Book Proposals That Sell

The Writing Life

At 3:32 PM, Blogger Vicki Caruana Left a note...

These amazon shorts are very cool. Gives me some ideas for things to go along with workshops that I lead at writers conferences. You always know what's "new" in writing and promotion Terry. Thanks for sharing your insights.

At 6:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous Left a note...

Very good article...infomational for sure...looking forward to reading some more posts placed on this topic...will be checking this page again..have saved in favorites and bookmarked...thanks

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At 12:10 AM, Blogger Pat Left a note...

Terry, this is a great idea. Can you direct us to the info on how we can create Amazon Shorts? I can't find it anywhere. What is the business arrangement for this? Looks like a great opportunity for writers. Thanks for yet another great tip. Happy Thanksgiving.

Pat Sikora

At 6:44 AM, Blogger Terry Whalin Left a note...


Most of your questions about how to create an Amazon Short will be answered on the Amazon Shorts FAQ page. On the business arrangement aspect, it's a split between Amazon and the author (60/40 with 60 going to Amazon but it struck me as fair). You have to sell a lot of Shorts to make much income. It's much more of a marketing/ ministry piece from my view.

Book Proposals That Sell

At 3:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous Left a note...

Mr. Terry,

I can't wait to get home and download the short. Thanks in advance. If it's half as pithy and useful as your blog, I'm sure it will be money well spent.

Now... I know this is spitting into the Grand Canyon, but you seem like a really reasonable guy.

I completely understand that editors and agents are too busy to send personalized rejection letters. I get it. I understand.

But let's call a spade a spade. This is Catch-22. You gatekeepers aren't getting the material you want. We "makers" aren't making the material you want to sell. There's a cycle of non-communication that ensures this will never change.

"I'm too busy fighting fires to acknowledge everybody who sends me their idea for a firefighting plan."

I'm all for "that's just the way it is, dude." But the cycle perpetuates itself. You are the gatekeeper in a position of power that can change it.

I waste my breath on you, Mr. Whalen, because you above others seems to still have a remaining shred of empathy for wannabes like myself.

At 3:14 PM, Blogger Terry Whalin Left a note...


You are right on track. I wrote my Amazon Short--and Book Proposals That Sell to give writers the tools so editors and literary agents receive much better quality materials. It's the real reason behind my motivation.

If I receive better material, then I will have better proposals to pitch and more successful books. Everyone wins in my view.

Book Proposals That Sell

ps. Dwight? One more thing, please learn how to spell my last name--not Whalen. It's Whalin. As they say, the devil is in the details.

At 4:52 PM, Blogger Gina Conroy Left a note...

I'm visiting from the Carnival of Christian Writers and I'm very excited to have the opportunity to read Straight Talk and find out what editors really want!

At 5:35 AM, Blogger Eduardo Loureiro Jr. Left a note...

Hi, Terry!

I've tried to buy your short e-book at Amazon, but I've heard from them that it would not be possible since I'm a Brazilian customer and, for tax reasons, they are not selling the Amazon Short Collection abroad.

So I'd like to know if there is any other way to purchase your book.

Sorry for any english mistakes. :)

Best regards from Brazil,

Eduardo Loureiro Jr.

At 6:42 AM, Blogger Terry Whalin Left a note...

Hello Eduardo,

I wrote a post about this difficulty of the Amazon Short not being available outside of the US a while back--and the solution is there. I called it look for the work around. Email me directly--I couldn't find your email--and we can work it out.


The Writing Life

At 10:24 AM, Blogger Greg Boutin Left a note...

Terry, I tried to pick your short on Amazon, but Amazon tells me that sales of this piece to my country are restricted and I can't get it here. I'm in Canada and promise I won't use it for any non-peaceful purpose...

At 10:27 AM, Blogger Terry Whalin Left a note...


I could not find your email address. Please email me at: terry@terrywhalin.com and I'll give you another option OK? Thanks, Terry


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