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Anne R. Allen's Blog


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Anne writes funny mysteries and how-to-books for writers. She also writes poetry and short stories on occasion. Oh, yes, and she blogs. She's a contributor to Writer's Digest and the Novel and Short Story Writer's Market for 2016. 

Her bestselling Camilla Randall Mystery Series features perennially down-on-her-luck former socialite Camilla Randall—who is a magnet for murder, mayhem and Mr. Wrong, but always solves the mystery in her quirky, but oh-so-polite way.

Anne lives on the Central Coast of California, near San Luis Obispo, the town Oprah called "The Happiest City in America."

Anne blogs at Anne R. Allen's Blog...with Ruth Harris 
and at Anne R. Allen's Books

Sunday, July 29, 2012

How To Get Your Book Rejected: A Former Big 6 Editor Gives 5 Tips for Sure-Fire Rejection.

...Some lighthearted "advice" from Ruth Harris 

First, a reminder: next week we're going to have a visit from a MOVIE STAR! 

On August 5th,, Golden Globe Winner and Academy Award-nominated actor Terence Stamp, who is also a novelist and memoirist, will be here talking about his writing process and his new publishing company.

You know how I’m always talking about the importance of Social Media? Well here’s an example. An iconic movie star has asked to visit our little blog, because here in the e-age, blogs can be as important as The New York Times in reaching the public.

See why you need to have a blog searchable by your own name, with your contact information displayed prominently?  This week we have a lighthearted look at rejection from Ruth Harris, who had to tackle mountains of slush in her days as an editor at Dell, Bantam and Kensington.

We know you seasoned scriveners would never make these mistakes, but do pass on the info to your newbie friends out there. Everybody was a newbie once. And even though we laugh at this stuff now, I think we’ve all been guilty of a few of these. I know I did that thing with the heroine looking in the mirror in about 5 stories as well as my first novel.

Do notice that Ruth has hot new covers on her Romantic Women's fiction titles--and a new title for them. They're now the Park Avenue Series. Full of Mad Men-era Manhattan glitz and glamour. Sizzling summer beach reads!

Crave Rejection?
5 Never-fail, 100% Guaranteed Tips and Tricks To Absolutely, Positively Raise Your Anemic R-Quotient: by Ruth Harris

Are your Rejection-levels too low? Is publication coming too easily? Did your publisher's promo/ad campaign turn your book into an overnight blockbuster? Did that mega-million movie deal just fall from the sky into your lap?

If the answer is yes, if you feel you are not paying your dues, if you are not receiving an adequate, soul-satisfying number of rejections, here are some sure-fire, failure-proof ways to pump up your faltering R-score.

1) Choose the Wrong Agent

  • You’ve written the best horror-thriller-mystery ever. 
  • Your villain makes Hannibal Lecter look like a pussycat. 
  • Your victims are so vulnerable, defenseless and forlorn a stone would weep. 
  • Your prose sparkles. 
  • Your grammar is of such flawless perfection a revision of Strunk & White is being written at this moment to acknowledge your excellence. 
  • Your manuscript has not one single typo. 
  • Your use of the Oxford comma and the activating hyphen are impeccable. Your ending will cause the reader’s hair to stand on end. 
  • You’ve worked for years, neglected your spouse and children, gone without food and sleep. The time has come at last for submission. Which lucky agent will get first look?
If you are determined to add to your pile of rejection slips, the answer is obvious: send it to agent who specializes in Romance.

OTOH: If you might just conceivably be interested in avoiding rejection, why not do some research first? Find out which agent specializes in the genre you write. That agent will be up on all the latest developments in the market you’re trying to break into and will have close contacts with the editors who are looking for exactly what you write.

2) Embrace the cliché.

Oooooh, a dog! Everyone loves dogs. One who’s smart—or maybe a smart-ass. One who talks! Maybe even uses the f-word. Wow! A talking dog! A dog who talks dirty! You want to reach the widest readership possible. So you think of a plot in which the smart/smart-ass trash-talking dog helps the hero/heroine get the job/meet Mr. or Ms. Right. What could go wrong? Every agent and editor in town knows all about it. He/she has read that story a million times. He/she knows the ending from the first page. Yawn. Fidget. Rejection guaranteed.

More ideas straight out of cliché-ville:

  • Start your book with the MC looking into the mirror and contemplating The Meaning Of Life. 
  • Or the girl who wakes up to find bite marks on her throat and realizes—OMG!—her boyfriend is a vampire. 
  • And don’t forget the where-am-I? opening: the guy who opens the door to his house/condo/garage/office and steps over the threshold only to discover he’s shattered the time-space continuum and is lost in a strange, far-away galaxy.

Moral: Read, read and read. Become familiar with the work of the bestselling writers in your genre. Study—and then analyze—your market. Figure out what’s selling and what’s not selling. If the characters or plot have been done so many times they’ve reached cliché status, you must come up with the genius twist, the brilliant why-didn’t-I-think-of-that?

3) Work the phone.

  • Keep in contact! Make the connection!! That’s what phones are for, aren’t they? 
  • Call the agent you’ve just sent your manuscript to every morning and then again every afternoon. 
  • Be sure to track down his or her home phone/cell phone so you can call in the evening, too. 
  • Once at dinnertime so you can interrupt the meal. 
  • Then again later to wish him/her good night. 
  • And don’t forget 3AM so you can wake the agent up. 
All you want to know is if s/he has read your book and give him/her the opportunity to tell you how wonderful it is and how your book is going to change the future of publishing.

Is that too much to expect? They’re professionals, aren’t they? Their living depends on their writers, doesn’t it? Of course they want to hear from you. They’re been on tenterhooks waiting for you to call. Of course they’ll drop whatever they’re doing to talk.

Um, no. Of course they’re going to reject you.

Conclusion: Hands off the phone! No matter how anxious you are, no matter how desperate you feel, stifle that impulse. Go to the gym. Binge on ice cream. Watch reruns of Law and Order. Do the laundry. Do anything! Just stay away from the phone.

4) Have fun with anachronistic language.

You’ve written a Victorian-era romantic suspense novel. You’ve researched until your notes are longer than the manuscript. You’ve had to buy new glasses—your eyesight has deteriorated because of the time you’ve spent on Google and in the library. Every frill and furbelow on your heroine’s dress is accurately described. The descriptions of period architectural details from plinths to fasciated entablature would impress even Frank Lloyd Wright. You’ve researched period hairstyles in such depth that your characters—literally—never have a hair out of place.

Then they open their mouths to speak.

“Been there, done that,” says your elegant, gentleman of high birth.
“Whatever,” shrugs the heiress he’s courting.

You’re into nails-on-a-blackboard territory.
You want an agent to shriek in horror? You’re hoping an editor will cringe and reach for the smelling salts? You’re on the hunt for rejection?

Congratulations. You’ve just succeeded beyond your wildest dreams.

Lesson: Watch your language—and your dialogue. Just as fashion changes so does the way people speak. 1940’s slang is different from 1960’s slang and the way people talk today is different from the way they talked back in the 1950’s. Listen to what people say—and notice the way they say it. Vintage movies provide a guide to appropriate dialogue: whether your characters are soldiers in World War II, gangsters in the 1930’s or advertising executives in the 1950’s (Mad Men, anyone?).

5) Be a trend setter with grammar and punctuation!

Just because every grammar guru insists that subjects and verbs have to match doesn’t mean that you have to be a slave to “the rules.” You’re much more imaginative that that! You’re a creative person. You don’t follow trends. You start them!

Just because professional writers heed the suggestions of proofreaders doesn’t mean you have to. So what if “Sue” becomes “Margaret” halfway through your manuscript. The editor will know who you mean. After all, “Sue” and “Margaret” have the same color hair, don’t they?

Same thing with that tangle of it, its and it’s and their muddled thicket of antecedents. You know exactly what you mean and who you’re referring to. And if you know, so will the reader. Well, won’t they? Isn’t that their part of the job?

And just because Speed Kills, don’t for one minute think that applies to you! Go ahead. Send that manuscript out without editing, cutting, revision, proofreading. You’re different. Your first drafts are magic. Even your mother says so.

Last of all, on your pilgrimage as you search for ever more rejection, don’t ever ignore the always-reliable habits of the lazy writer:
  • Exclamation point infestation.
  • Adverb excess and adjective overload.
  • Repetition of the same words and phrases.
  • Comma mistreatment and semi-colon abuse.
  • Typo tolerance. 
So, fellow scriveners, if you find the experience—and the pain and resulting soul calluses—provided by rejection essential to your journey to success, now you know exactly what do to and how to do it to get more of what you need and want. Good luck!

How about you? Do you have some favorite rejection-getters of your own? Anything you used to do that you cringe about now?

Whether you're a newbie sending out your first queries or a seasoned writer who’s looking at all the publishing options open to today’s writers, there’s no better place to learn how to avoid doing embarrassing stuff than a writers conference. Anne will be teaching at the Central Coast Writers Conference in San Luis Obispo next September. Early Bird discounts are available if you register now.

Plus a FREE BOOK ALERT!! The elegantly plotted academic cozy ACADEMIC BODY, by Anne's mom, Shirley S. Allen, will be free for Kindle on Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday of this week. Also going free at the same time is my Kindle short story, BETTY JO STEVENSON RIDES AGAIN.

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Blogger Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

What about talking cats who are vampires?
Great list - very funny as well. I'm sure a lot of people have done those things though. I know exclamation overuse was one of my favorites.

July 29, 2012 at 10:26 AM  
Blogger Lexi said...

Erm - what about the fastest-selling novel EVER, 50 Shades, which starts (I know this as I've looked at the sample on Amazon - won't be buying, won't be reading) with the heroine looking at herself in the mirror so she can tell the reader what she looks like?

Funnily enough, this didn't earn her an automatic rejection. If big money is involved, publishers and agents suddenly become less critical...

July 29, 2012 at 11:14 AM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Alex—That's a *black* cat you're talking about, right? ;-)

We're speaking of the leave-no-cliché-behind law, aren't we?

Lexi—I wonder how many times this gem got rejected before someone decided to publish it. Do you know? Does anyone? I'd love to know the back story.

July 29, 2012 at 11:38 AM  
Blogger E.J. Wesley said...

Loved this, Anne! :)

July 29, 2012 at 12:17 PM  
Anonymous Mindprinter said...

Great post as always, Ruth and Anne. A sunday without this blog is truly a day without sunshine. Always look forward to the tips and great writing here. :) ditto!!

July 29, 2012 at 12:40 PM  
Blogger Mister Teacher said...

So I should NOT have my Victorian-era, super-intelligent, vampire dogs texting, "Wr u at? LOL!" as they look at themselves in the mirror and hurtle through space??!?!
Because to me, that sounds like the premise for greatest novel EVER!!!

July 29, 2012 at 1:20 PM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

E.J.—Thank you!

Mindprinter—So so happy to make YOU happy!

MisterT—To me, sounds like the premise for the greatest novel EVER rejected!!! lol

OTOH, considering the current state of publishing, you never know!! Maybe worth taking a shot. ;-)

July 29, 2012 at 2:24 PM  
Blogger Christine Ahern said...

Great and entertaining post. Exclamation point. Oh, when I think of my first manuscript. Full of POV dances, adjectives followed by more adjectives. Explanation points!! Oh yes. Lots of those. I do still use sentence fragments. Do it on purpose. It's how I think, I guess. Try not to overuse them, though. Could get annoying. I guess!

July 29, 2012 at 2:48 PM  
Anonymous Pauline Probyn said...

I really enjoyed this post, and these are good reminders.

Ruth, Fifty Shades of Grey is one of those self-publishing success stories. Wikipaedia states it was on The Writers' Coffee Shop virtual publisher site. I have not and have no plans to read this. A lady in my book club said that after the first eight sex scenes that she is now skipping them as they area all regurgitated anyway.

July 29, 2012 at 3:07 PM  
Blogger Donna Hole said...

I'm sure I made lots of errors in the beginning; and probably repeat some still. That grammar stuff always kills me.


July 29, 2012 at 7:54 PM  
Anonymous Jennifer Tanner said...

Hi Ruth,

Hilarious post! I remember an agent saying that she'd found coupons from Cracker Barrel enclosed with a submission. Heh.

I read a historical regency contest entry where the heroine glanced at the Picasso hanging over the fireplace. (No, it wasn't a time travel historical.)

My peeves are overused words and phrases. I'm obsessed with find and replace in Word.

July 29, 2012 at 8:55 PM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Christine—Perfection! Been there. Done that.

Pauline—Thanks. Getting readers to skip sex scenes is a milestone achievement—definitely something to be proud of.

Donna—That grammar stuff is important. That's why God made editors. A good editor is worth his/her weight in gold.

Jen—Cracker Barrel coupons? That's a—shall we say?—different approach. But, as the lottery radio ads in NYC say: "Hey! You never know!"

Re the Picasso: Oy. I was being silly but little did I know...

July 30, 2012 at 5:53 AM  
Blogger Rose Munevar said...

I had a blogger friend read my first 3 chapters of my first draft, and she pointed out my overuse of adverbs. When I redid it, I couldn't believe how many I had stuck in there! So thankful for the advice. By the way, I gave you 5 stars for your book- How to be a writer in the E-Age on Amazon and Goodreads, and dedicated my blog post today to promote it. I LOVED it! It's everything I needed right now to get inspired.

July 30, 2012 at 7:51 AM  
Blogger Anne said...

Thanks again for another great blog! I am not an artist, not a writer but find that your advice works just as well there as in writing. The thing I like about your blogs and crh is that they both tell me things that I am interested in so will attempt to do the same if I ever get a blog up.

July 30, 2012 at 9:08 AM  
Blogger Meghan Ward said...

Ha! I've definitely been guilty of the Sue/Margaret mistake - changing a character's name and not catching every reference. Most recently I did a search and replace to change "Talia" to "Thalia." This resulted in my characters eating a lot of "IThalian." Thanks for a great post, Ruth and Anne (I still think you should open a Ruth and Anne's restaurant.) I look forward to Terrance Stamp's visit next week!

July 30, 2012 at 9:12 AM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Rose—Shocking, isn't it, the things we do we aren't even aware of? That's why the 2nd or 3rd pair of eyes is so important.

And, yes, Anne & CRH's e-guide IS fantastic!

Anne—Thanks so much!

Meghan—Search & replace does have landmines, that's for sure.

If Anne & I DO open a restaurant, there's one thing we will never serve: baloney!

July 30, 2012 at 9:21 AM  
Blogger Cathryn Leigh said...

Ah a nice smile to my Monday morning. :}

I am thankful to say that the last time I had paragrpaphs describing outfits at the very begining of a book back when I was around age 10.

Of coruse, this now means that I have no clue what my characters look like... Thankfully there's this thing called notes. I've started to use them for more than just plot, setting and costume musings. *grins*

(I will say people have asked me to read there stuff on the writing site I"m part of, and unless soemthing else grabs me, if they start with a descirption of the character, I'm done.)

Very good advice, very humorusly done. I might have to take some of it *giggles* :}

July 30, 2012 at 9:26 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Rose--Thank you so much for the kind words about our book--and for taking the time to write a review. Reviewers deserve a special thanks from all of us!

July 30, 2012 at 9:26 AM  
Blogger Anne Gallagher said...

Ruth, A little late to the game, but I'm glad I made it over. Oh yes, #4. I write Regency and those contractions or lack thereof are a killer. I have to be in the right mindset to write otherwise everyone is talking the way we do today.

I won't tell you what other errors I've made along the way, but my punctuation has come a long way.

July 30, 2012 at 9:43 AM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Cathryn—*smiles back* Have you tried Scrivener? You can list characters in the Research panel or on the notes panel--hair color, eyes, clothes, back story etc. Very efficient & convenient.

Anne—Yay! Let's hear it for punctuation! We've all made a million errors. We continued to do so. Part of the job. ;-)

July 30, 2012 at 10:56 AM  
Blogger Cathryn Leigh said...

Ruth - I haven't fully gotten into Scrivener yet, but I have a plan to. I'm just being slightly stuborn because I know how to make Word do what I want, so I often use multiple word and excel files (and prinouts in binders) to keep track of my notes. I'm pretty good with organization.

July 30, 2012 at 1:27 PM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Cathryn—It's the eternal question: stick with what works for you or make the change to something that might be better. lol

Scrivener was created by a writer for writers. The big plus is that you don't need to have lots of windows & apps open. Everything you need is right there.

July 30, 2012 at 1:43 PM  
Blogger Charley Robson said...

Not technically a new addition, but a carry-over from Point One . . . sparkly grammar. Anything that sparkles must die. Horribly. With fire. And a lightsaber.

Other than that . . . blast it, I think you got all the best ones! I shall sit down and have a good long think about this now.

Awesome post! :D

July 31, 2012 at 7:25 AM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...


Actually, I thought of another one: starting a book with a character's dream. Or, even worse, writing a whole book & then telling the reader at the very end that it's a dream.

Justifiable homicide?

July 31, 2012 at 7:57 AM  
Blogger Jemi Fraser said...

Hmmm, so I need to add in a trash talking doggy vampire! Got it! :) (teehee)

July 31, 2012 at 10:31 AM  
Blogger Jemi Fraser said...

Hmmm, so I need to add in a trash talking doggy vampire! Got it! :) (teehee)

July 31, 2012 at 10:31 AM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Jemi—You never know till you try! ;-)

July 31, 2012 at 10:36 AM  
Blogger Jennifer Hillier said...

I laughed my way through what's probably the best advice ever! Great stuff!

July 31, 2012 at 7:44 PM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Jennifer—Thank you. My day began with a smile thanks to you!

August 1, 2012 at 6:29 AM  
Blogger Juan Gonzalez said...

Great advice! Grammar seems to be my weakness but I still do not allow it to compromise what I write. I may not follow the rules but I make sure my reader will understand what I am writing.

August 5, 2012 at 9:47 AM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Juan—thank you. Clarity is crucial!

August 5, 2012 at 12:56 PM  
Anonymous Annie Neugebauer said...

Oh, this was just great. I love me some snark. =) Very clever.

August 8, 2012 at 9:31 AM  
Blogger Sandy said...

I had not realized that was Terance in 'Priscilla Queen of the Desert"...

August 8, 2012 at 9:44 AM  
Anonymous Denise D. Young said...

Great post! I'd add to point No. 3 ("Work the phone."): "Stalk agents/editors at writers conferences," and "send them tweets to follow up on your submission." That will really get their attention and let them know you're desperate--I mean, uh, passionate.

August 8, 2012 at 9:53 AM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Annie—Thanks! I enjoyed writing it (as if you couldn't guess).

Sandy—You need your GPS! Pretty sure you meant to comment in the Terence Stamp blog. ;-)

Denise—excellent addition! Even the clueless sometimes need extra inspiration. lol

August 8, 2012 at 10:29 AM  
OpenID ninabadzin.com said...

Ha! Fun (but still helpful) post.

August 8, 2012 at 11:56 AM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

NIna—If you say, so! lol

August 8, 2012 at 4:40 PM  
Blogger M. Christine Weber said...

Hahaha! Fantastic post. And I'm afraid my emails have a severe case of exclamation point infestation. *le sigh*

Always love your humor. :0)

August 10, 2012 at 11:18 AM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

M Christine—Thanks! (notice exclamation point!) Love "le sigh" ;-)

August 10, 2012 at 12:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great tips...but just so you know, Mad Men actually is about ad execs in the 60's, not the 50's. :)

August 14, 2012 at 11:29 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Anon--Ruth's books span many decades. They're not all set in the 1950s, by any means. (You'll notice one is called "Decades") The TV series Mad Men starts in early 1960 with the Kennedy/Nixon campaign as I remember. Still very much part of the 1950s in style and ethos.

August 19, 2012 at 7:21 PM  

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