Part 4: “By Proxy,” my Beta Group, and yes…MORE Rejection
It turned out that By Proxy didn’t want to be a short-story (fellow authors, you’ll know exactly what I mean by this!) and by the end of October I had a full-length novel of 70,000 words completed. But, I had learned my lesson about jumping the gun. No premature queries this time.
First, I took Suzanne’s tome of advice and combed through By Proxy with a fine tooth trying to catch every single one of the 18 mistakes she’d found in It’s You. They were there. Less than before, but some of them were still there and I tried my best to catch them all.
Second, I put together my first Beta Reading Group – made up of my mother, a college friend, a friend from my NYC days (the aforementioned DC Susan), a friend living abroad in Switzerland and a local friend who used to work in copyediting. I had my group. They had two weeks weeks to read and return the manuscript to me. They also agreed to answer 40 (yes, I know, they’re saints) questions and give me feedback about By Proxy.
INVALUABLE feedback. Want to know what they said? I needed to warm up my heroine. I needed to commit to the Christian undertones or let them go. They wanted more sensory details. I made a full page list of suggested edits and went to work. I finished two weeks later feeling good about By Proxy and started the querying process again.
But, this time, because I felt a little (a little = SUPER) burned by so many agent rejections with It’s You, I decided to query publishers directly. I made a list of boutique (and mega) houses that would publish a “sweet” Christmas romance. I sent my queries to eight, sat back, and waited.
Want to know what happened? You probably already do. Yes. More rejection. Ouch…but! The tone of the rejections was different this time. Here are two actual examples (the first from an editor at Harper-Collins, and the second from an editor at Entangled):
“You’re clearly a wonderful writer with a strong voice and I can see readers enjoying this warm, affectionate story. Plus, I loved the unique proxy storyline which I haven’t seen done before. Nice job! However, after reading a good deal of this, I’m not sure how this would fit into our list. There is certainly a market for these sweeter contemporary romances, but unfortunately, I don’t think this one is quite right for us at this time.”
“I was able to read BY PROXY this weekend and wanted to give you my thoughts. Like I said, I think this is a very unique and interesting premise, certainly one I haven’t seen before, and I liked the characters’ spunk and chemistry. Overall, though, I do worry that the story reads a bit too religious for our line. We’ve been fairly cautious to keep any religious undertones out of the Bliss line because our mission statement has been specifically secular, and I do think the small tidbits of religious elements I’m seeing in BY PROXY cross that line for us. For this reasons, I’m afraid this will have to be a pass for me, but I’m very glad I was able to get the opportunity to give it a read, and I hope our paths will cross again down the line with a different project!”
Between these two responses I knew that I had a big decision to make…was I going to write Inspirational Romance (specifically religious romance) or Contemporary Romance (with small-town traditional values, but no overt religious message)? I had to figure out which one By Proxy was. If I didn’t, it wasn’t going to sell.
Stay tuned tomorrow for Part 5 and the grand finale: A Very Important Edit…which led to the nail-biting conclusion, My First Contract!