Side note: this post is not about my personal situation. It was inspired by conversations I’ve had this week with other writers. I’m not shelving Lily In The Shadows (just yet).
Two weeks ago I wrote a post about querying and rejections. I offered advice on what to do to make it out of the slushpile and get an agent’s attention – and hopefully an offer of representation. Today’s post is about the other side of the coin: what to do when, despite your best efforts, that offer of representation doesn’t come and you’re faced with the decision of shelving your manuscript.
Making the decision your Beloved Manuscript isn’t The One is hard. You’ve put so much effort into it, you love it so much, how do you know it’s time to move on? Here are a few questions to ask yourself before you make your decision:
1- Is your submission the best it can be?
The first question you need to ask yourself is whether you’re getting rejections because of the quality of your submission. If, deep down, you know your query could be better, your first pages could be rewritten and your manuscript could use more polishing, ask yourself if it’s not worth a little extra work. If you think it is, just walk that extra mile and make your submission outstanding.
2- Have you exhausted all your querying opportunities?
The second question you need to address is whether you have queried all the agents interested in your genre/category. If the answer is no, then keep querying. If the answer is yes and you feel you’ve burned all those bridges, it might be time to move on.
3- Is it just down to bad timing?
Maybe there’s nothing wrong with your query or manuscript. Maybe you’re getting rejections because your timing is unfortunate. Ask yourself if you’re querying a genre that’s over-represented in the slushpile. The NewLeafLiterary Tumblr is a great source of info on that matter. Right now, Dystopian, Greek mythology, Sci-Fi, mermaids, vampires and werewolves are not what editors are looking for. Be aware of these trends when trying to decide whether or not you should give up on querying your story.
4- Am I shelving this manuscript forever?
Parting ways with a manuscript you love is hard. But knowing there’s a chance it might still hit the shelves one day can help you putting it aside for now. Maybe, once you have an agent thanks to another manuscript, you can take your beloved manuscript out of the drawer and send it out on submission.
5- Can I move on from here?
Although it may seem unthinkable at the moment, moving on is possible. Write another story. Focus on another project. It may be the one that will get you an agent. And you won’t regret shelving your Beloved Manuscript then.
Have you ever shelved a manuscript you loved? What brought you to that decision? Do share your experience below or ask questions I haven’t thought of!
I have shelved proposals for books that I thought were pretty good but which didnt get traction. If I write a book I make sure I have a contract before committing the time to writing the ms.
You’d damn well better not, missy.
Haha, thanks for your support! I promise I won’t for a long while!
I did this last year with my first novel (that was written in 2010) but then a few months later i realised id made a mistake, it was haunting me. Now, a year later, ive gone back to thinking that the first decision was probably the best one lol
First novels are rarely our best work. Unless you’re ready to put a lot of work into it, it’s usually better to put it away, in my opinion. Thanks for stopping by, Vikki!
You are probably right EM, I should just stop flogging the horse 😉
This is a really helpful check list! Thanks. I like the idea that maybe you put it in a drawer for now, but later in your career it can still be taken out of the drawer and dusted off at a better time. 🙂
I like that idea too! It gives me hope for one mansucript I shelved last year 😉