I'm sure every single author who didn't get chosen will wonder, why? Why did so-and-so's manuscript get picked and mine didn't? It's a fair question, and one I asked myself last year when I wasn't chosen. And even though it's HARD to tell so many talented writers "no," it can be easy to tell them why they weren't picked. As much as we hate to say it and face it, it's easy to point out what isn't working, but have you ever tried to concisely explain why something does work really well? It can be HARD!
For me, it all started with a gut feeling. I know. That's cliche and totally subjective, but it's the truth. I narrowed down my inbox according to the submissions I just couldn't stop thinking about. There were 6 of them at the start. Then it went up to 8. Back down to 6 and eventually down to a Top Five. (I can be very indecisive at times. lol)
This is what ensued next:
(1) I looked a bit closer at their query and their pages to see if they had that hook, that thing that made their MS stand out above others in the genre.
(2) I became an author stalker. I watched them on Twitter. Hunted them down on Facebook (if I could find them), and spent some time on their websites / blogs. I got a feel for them as people because I needed to make sure whomever I chose would be compatible with me.
(3) I asked myself: What can I offer this author? And can we honestly accomplish the needed work within the time frame we have?
(4) I studied the participating agents list and what they want. (Even though I took this into account, it wasn't the ultimate deciding factor in my decision.) But at the end of the day, the agents are also volunteering their time to come check out the wonderful offering of new books, and it's only fair we give them a little something they want, too.
(5) I printed the query letter of each of my Top Five, pinned them to my wall, and threw darts at them. LOL. Okay, I'm totally kidding. I did NOT do this!!!
In the end, I went with the two that really spoke to me, the ones I just couldn't get off my mind. They are the ones you look at and think: "Damn it! I wish I'd written that!"
But to everyone who submitted to me: THANK YOU! It's such an honor and privilege to know you trusted me with your work and that you wanted to spend a few months working closely with me. I know it's not the same as being chosen, but I hope the emails I send to all of you explaining why I didn't choose your manuscript will be of some help. If nothing else, I want you all to get some helpful feedback from this experience. And remember: You've written a book!!! (And you showed it to a complete stranger.) That's a huge win already! :-)
Don't ever give up. Keep writing. Keep querying.
And keep believing in your dreams.