Last week, I received my first rejection over Artemis Smith and the Virtuous Marriage Quest.
I won’t lie.
Granted, it was different from any rejection I’d received before. I’d only queried my first trilogy, The Destiny of the Dragon, before this book, and I probably received around thirty rejections total, before I stopped querying it and decided to start working on something else. Most of those rejections were silent, though I got a few form rejections, too. One, however, that particularly sticks out to me, the agent included a line about how they hoped that, even though this book wasn’t for them, I continued to query and search for the right agent who was, which was really sweet and absolutely encouraging (obviously, since I still remember it to this day).
Yet this request was an exclusive full request, meaning the agent wanted to read it and have a chance to respond with their decision before I queried anywhere else. I was over the moon. My first request ever and a full, at that!
It’s not surprising that I cried for a little bit, after receiving that rejection.
But I also wasn’t surprised as to why it was rejected.
I wrote a book that’s the first in a quintet about an unpublished writer, Artemis Smith, whose service dog, Ruff Mutt, gets terminal cancer. Artemis, at a loss of what to do to help save his dog, meets a magician named Jack Kitsune, who offers him a deal. If Artemis agrees to enter into a fairy tale story Jack has the magic to create, he and Ruff Mutt will become characters within that story, successfully pausing Ruff Mutt’s cancer until they return to the real world. Yet there’s a catch: in order to ever return, Artemis must somehow fix the tropes within the fairy tale that Jack’s placed him in–a feat he’s never been able to do with his own writing, which has been rejected countless times for being riddled with tropes. If he fails to do so, Artemis and Ruff Mutt will be stuck in the fairy tale forever.
To save Ruff Mutt’s life, Artemis agrees and they enter the story, thus beginning their adventure.
As you can see, it’s a…quirky premise, for sure. I’ve always been concerned about that. And even though I’ve gone through rounds of edits, including beta readers, and received a lot of positive responses, I worried about how this book would sell, as an fairy tale inside an urban fantasy, being the start of a series, from a debut writer.
And right now, there isn’t a market for that kind of book.
Which is why, in this instance, it got rejected by my dream agent.
It isn’t the first time a professional in writing mentioned to me they worried about this book’s marketability (only the second time, sure, but still). A totally valid reason for it to get rejected and a really great reminder to me, as a querying writer, of exactly how many elements go into querying and factor the book’s chance of getting represented (most of which, outside of writing the book, are out of my control).
It’s so easy to forget that publishing is a business. There are so many things agents have to consider: market trends, audiences, what editors are wanting, other books currently coming out and how they compare to the books they are pitching, timing, on top of so many other elements I’m either forgetting or don’t understand. Agents can’t just represent books they like. And I was so excited that this agent liked my book. The story excited them and they loved my writing. No agent has ever told me that.
I was ecstatic to read that.
But sometimes, that’s not enough.
Because a book also needs to have the potential to sell.
And right now, mine doesn’t.
Which left me with a really big question.
What do I do now?
Well, after receiving that email, I cried (because that’s what I do with any emotional situation, let’s be honest). And then I worked out, because I was bummed out and I needed those happy endorphins to be released. I showered.
I went back to my laptop and opened up book two in Artemis’s quintet, Artemis Smith and the Steam Powered Fallacy, and then met my word count goal for the day.
You might be wondering why I did that. Why would I continue working on the sequel of a book that might never sell because the basic premise is just so quirky that it might not ever be plausibly marketable? You might wonder “why”even harder when I admit that I still plan to write the entire quintet.
There’s quite a few reasons, actually.
One, is I absolutely love this story. I love Artemis and Ruff Mutt. I love the adventures they are going on. I love the main narrative they will experience. I love the basic plot of each book, which I have already mapped out. Even if every agent told me it could never be published, I’d still write this story out until completion, editing each book to the best of my ability. Because I want to find out what happens. I want to see the ending. I want to see how the story morphs and evolves and changes as I continue to write it, because already, just writing the first book and the first 35,000 words of the second, it has changed and grown in ways I never imagined, when I first sat down to write this tale.
Because, first and foremost, this story is for me.
Two, just because it’s been rejected once, doesn’t mean it always will be. Perhaps the market will change a year from now and everyone will want more urban fantasy. Perhaps I’ll query an agent with more contacts in that genre or one who has an idea they are excited about with how to market this series. Hell, perhaps I’ll query again and no one will like it, so I’ll decide to self-publish it on my own, simply because I want people to have the chance to read it. It may just be the hopeless romantic in me, but this story’s fate is long but decided.
Three, I’m just too plain stubborn to quit writing. And right now, this is the story I want to write. And I refuse to let one hiccup stop me from chasing my dream.
So I’m going to keep writing. I’m going to continue writing Artemis. I plan to work with an editor on book one, to make sure there aren’t any other major issues that might prevent an agent from liking the book, so Artemis has the greatest chance of winning their heart like he has mine. I’m going to continue writing the series. I’m ahead of my writing goal to have at least 80,000 words written of book two by March 31st and I plan to meet that deadline. I know there’s another stand alone fantasy I want to write this year, too, so that’ll give me a break from Artemis, but I have no plans of stopping his story.
Right now, my priority is to keep up my writing consistency and then finish a draft of book two, before going back and looking at how to elevate book one even more, if I can. Then, I’ll query it more widely, as I work on my new book. I’m even considering editing the trilogy I first wrote, to see if I can make that trope riddled series even potentially marketable (though that’s much more doubtful than this one).
I’m not sure how I’m going to achieve my dream of being published, of being read and, hopefully, writing stories that readers will enjoy. But I do know one thing for certain: I can’t achieve it if I give up now, or after any hiccup that comes up.
So that’s the last thing I’m going to do.