By Beth Burgmeyer
I recently entered Pitch Wars, a contest put on by Brenda Drake http://www.brenda-drake.com/pitch-wars/. I wasn’t selected by any of the five mentors I submitted to, but one of our other group members, Kamerhe, was. I’m thrilled for her because it could open some big doors for her in the publishing world.
Submitting to the mentors was a lot like submitting to agents. I sent my query letter and the first chapter of my manuscript and waited. At least the waiting period for Pitch Wars was much shorter than waiting to hear from an agent. The response I got back was similar to the response from agents. I never heard a word from two of the mentors. I honestly didn’t expect to hear from any of them because they received hundreds of entries. One mentor sent me a polite form rejection letter – the standard “Not for me” letter. Two mentors send me a very nice personalized rejection letter both saying similar things – they loved the premise and the writing but the word count was too long to work with within the 2 month time constraint of the contest.
So what does “Not for me” mean? I read a great blog post from Sarah Glenn Marsh about this topic: http://sarahglennmarsh.blogspot.co.uk/2015/08/on-why-passes-in-publishing-dont-always.html?m=1
Basically what Sarah Glenn Marsh says is: “Not for me” doesn’t necessarily mean “Not good enough.” She emphasizes how subjective the writing world is and how talented writers get many, many, many rejection letters. An agent can read a remarkable piece of writing, but if they don’t emotionally connect with it, they aren’t going to request a partial or full manuscript.
Yesterday, I had my own experience with this concept. I’m heading off to a big national writers’ conference where writers can sign up for critique groups led be agents. We all receive each other’s pages ahead of time so we can critique them before the conference. The first two submissions I read were equally well written. Both pieces were polished and well written with no major problems with character or plot. In short, both writers knew what they were doing and were strong writers. Yet, as a reader, I completely connected with one piece while I didn’t connect at all with the other piece. I can’t even tell you why because it had nothing to do with the quality of writing. It just wasn’t for me.
So the next time you see the words “Not for me” from an agent or an editor or a contest, it doesn’t mean that your writing was lacking or that your story/characters weren’t compelling. It just means that the agent or editor didn’t connect with it on the level they needed to in order to represent it.
I’m preparing to start submitting one of my manuscripts this fall, so I’m fully prepared the read those dreaded words over and over again in my inbox. But now I have a broader perspective on what those words mean, which will hopefully take some of the sting out of them.