Everyone please welcome Sharon to the garden. We're going to cozy up in the shade by the falls today. Please grab some refreshments and settle in and lets begin.
Sooner born, Ervin has a degree in journalism from the University of Oklahoma. Once a newspaper reporter, she now works in her husband and son’s law office half-days, gleaning material and characters for more novels. She is married to McAlester, Oklahoma attorney Bill Ervin and has four grown children.
Website address: sharonervin.com
Blog address: sharonervin.wordpress.com
AGENTS/EDITORS AND REJECTION
“A friend of your friend is my friend,” I once wrote to an agent.
A young man I watched grow up here in our small Oklahoma town is now a celebrity photographer in New York. He asked one of his famous author friends to recommend me to the friend’s agent, then told me to write to said agent, dropping her well-loved client’s name.
She was gracious, but had a full stable of authors. Maybe another time. I have tried again. She has a great reputation. She doesn’t need me.
Four times I have actually signed with agents. Two of those immediately suffered career-ending ailments. I swear said ailments had nothing to do with me or my work.
A fledgling agent who had worked in publishing for years, liked my writing quite a lot. For weeks we telephoned back and forth, tweaking the manuscript. She had sound ideas and genuinely liked the work and me. We had great rapport. When we agreed the pages were ready, she hand-carried the manuscript to an editor friend.
She called me that evening in tears. We had our first rejection. I tried to comfort her as she sobbed long minutes over the phone, but she was inconsolable.
“I cannot stand this,” she said. “I’m not tough enough to take this kind of treatment.”
“What do you mean? Rejection is part of the game. It will get easier.”
“I don’t want to get used to it,” she said.
“We’ll try again, won’t we?” I asked provoking the sobs all over again.
“She (the editor) is a good friend of mine. If we had any chance of being published in New York, she could make it happen,” she continued, refusing to be comforted.
“What does that mean?” I asked, fearing the answer.
She blew her nose. “Is there any way...could you...make it...” her voice cracked, “Could you make it more compelling? That’s what she said. It just wasn’t compelling enough for her.”
“Sure, I can. I can do that.” Then I thought about it. “What does that mean? I mean, the story itself, or the characters, or what?”
She squeaked, “I don’t know. I’ll call you back tomorrow.” And she hung up.
Her new career was over before it had begun.
When that book was published, eventually, I called to tell her that I’d found a publisher who liked it almost as much as she and I had. We had a lovely visit. I still like her.
Among the rejections, there have been some happy moments. One morning a famous editor called to ask about a manuscript that was finished in draft form, but not polished. Knowing how long publishers take to respond, I hadn’t worried, had sent the first three chapters on a Tuesday. She called Monday of the next week. She suddenly had an empty slot, thought my book was just right. I begged for time. She asked how much time I needed. Three weeks? She gave me two. I hit the deadline, but the book had not developed quite as well as she had anticipated. Plus, she had filled the slot with something else. It was a hard lesson. I have never again queried before I thought a manuscript was ready.
It took me a while to learn there are degrees of rejections. Some are written “To Whom It May Concern,” obviously designed to discourage future queries. Some are form rejections, but signed by a person. Better. Others are addressed to the author by name, may even refer to the work by title, plus they are signed.
Those rejections that contain thoughts, notes on how the work might be improved, are gold. A writer can take heart in those, make suggested changes and resubmit. One must hurry, however, as editors move from house to house fluidly, and available slots close quickly.
The best self-addressed envelope, however, is the one where the enclosure reads: “We have read your submission and, if it is still available, we would like to offer a contract.”
For me, that one came 17 years after I penned the first manuscript. Naturally, I thought it must be a scam. But it wasn’t. Nine of my nearly 20 manuscripts have been published. Now I’m fretting about Number Ten.
And the beat goes on. Some wonderfully successful authors say, “I never feel like I am in, never know if the next book will sell or not.” Me neither.
All Sharon's books
Thank you, Sharon, for visiting with us today.