Never Give Up. Never Surrender

Posted: December 9, 2015 in Writing
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Last week I posted a short piece describing my daughter’s and my reaction to receiving a “pass” from our dream agent, in our quest to publish our middle grade novel, THE LAST PRINCESS.

At first, the comments were mostly sympathetic and encouraging. These were nice; we love the online writing community, and like it or not, our confidence is often reliant on the camaraderie of others. This may be why I blogged this news in the first place; our experience may not have much educational value for you, the reader, but it is certainly cathartic to talk about it.

But then the comments took a turn. The topic of discussion become a series of bitter laments by others who had tried finding an agent but failed, and then testimonials by those who proudly bypassed the process altogether and encourage others to do so, too. Here’s an example:

I don’t wait for the approval of agents any longer. They have wasted enough of my time. For people who are not creative themselves and who cash in on writers’ creativity, agents are far too impressed with themselves. They have some contacts in the publishing industry and when they pass your manuscript around (if they judge it worthy) and run out of contacts, you get a rapid rejection. Invest in a good editor, copy editor, proofreader, book designer, etc. and publish yourself. The days of needing the approval of an agent or publisher to publish your book are over.

There are two problems with this, for my daughter and I personally. And perhaps for many of you, as well:

1) Our book is middle grade. The audience for this book is children from age 9 to 11, primarily girls. How many 9-year-old girls shop for books on Amazon? How many will have the means to purchase a book they discover there, or convince their parents to buy it based on only a couple of reviews (which we can’t control) and a cover image (which we must pay for)? How many children have their own e-readers and an open account with which to purchase new books? Whatever that number may be, it is not high enough to justify the expense of self-publishing and the career of self-promoting. Besides, the traditional market for young adult and children’s books is surging. I still maintain that children buy books they can touch, which means to find them, they need to be in bookstores. Self-publishing is not the way to get there.

2) We’re not quitters. I had a similar response here to this kind of “advice” before.

This “solution” to our setback reminds me of certain advice about dating and relationships. Suppose you have a pal who has gone on a number of blind dates over the last nine months. Several of these were very encouraging, and the most recent led to a second and third date, but ultimately no connection. Would you advise your friend to give up on dating and love altogether and buy a cat, because they don’t judge and who needs the approval of a life-partner anyway? Sure there are expensive vet bills and constantly having to buy cat food and cat litter and cat toys and air freshener, and clipping their nails, and keeping them off the furniture, and getting the cat hair off your clothes. But at least you won’t have to deal with rejection ever again. Because people suck, am I right?

Thanks but no thanks. Nothing good ever came from giving up. There were a thousand points along the path to our current manuscript, and we could have thrown in the towel at any one of those points. But we didn’t. So why should we give up now? Every successful author was once an amateur with a manuscript, struggling to break in to the market. We’re in good company.

We encourage you to join us.


  1. bethaman80 says:

    Right on! Self publishing works for some people, but it’s not for everyone. Also, I’ve really enjoyed following you and your daughter’s journey as you try to get published, especially since I’m looking to start sending out query letters myself in the next couple weeks. It’s a bit of a scary thing to do, so it’s a comfort to know I’m not alone.
    Hang in there and NEVER GIVE UP!


  2. cjlehi says:

    On the other hand, but for a series of near-miracles, Harry Potter would never have made it to bookstores, either, leaving a number of authors to wonder how many other such books never did. The process isn’t perfect; some would argue it’s not even very good, when excellent material cannot break through even the first level of the gauntlet.

    I think your reason number one is all you need to keep going in the way you’ve chosen. The logic seems quite sound. But number two? It’s not quitting to decide to choose another path, nor is it particularly heroic to keep throwing oneself out of the building hoping one will one day fly.

    I hope good things for you. I hope you write more, and often, and that you’re successful in the path you take, whatever it is. We’ll be watching.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I love your comment. Thank you for the encouragement. However I play a video game in which a shadowy figure with a deep voice proclaims, “We’ll be watching” every time you screw up, and I can’t help but be chilled a little whenever I see that phrase.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Norma Berkowitz says:


    Liked by 1 person

  4. John – This publisher is presently open to submissions (no agent required) and publishes MG and YA. They are only a couple years old, but doing very well in the market, and have been actively promoting their titles. I would personally endorse their strong ethics and business practices. It may seem like a long shot since they are in Windsor, ON, Canada but I can assure you they have contracted authors from many parts of the US. Check out their website for submission guidelines.


  5. chris says:

    You described the struggles all Writers and Illustrators go through, if they decide to look first, unpublished, for an Agent. And it’s why I advised you not wait too long to start submitting again, because rejections is just NORMAL in the industry.

    >Every successful author was once an amateur with a manuscript, struggling to break in to the market. We’re in good company.<

    Yes….and no Authors should let it crush them for long, because rejection is as much a part of the business as are re writes, research and writers block! It's to be expected (though quietly hoping it won't happen THIS time, every time:) In fact many Authors will either first try Editors, not Agents or will, exhausting their list of Agents, go on, on their own and start their careers with small presses that do accept un-agented material. Nothing wrong with that!
    One of the best ways to meet top Children's Agents and Editors is to attend SCVWI regional conferences.

    As for Harry Potter, JK just kept on submitting until an Agent she subbed to took her on and pushed the manuscript to the right UK Publisher. More perseverance (not to mention solid writing talent) then miracle I'm afraid as is the case with most of what finally gets published:)

    Liked by 1 person

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