When to Trunk?

The horrible thing about being a writer is that rejection is, plain and simple, part of the business. There’s no way around it. You are going to get rejected. And unless you are one stone-cold badass, it’s going to hurt to at least some degree every time.

Learning to shrug it off and move on is a critical skill, but like an action hero, you’re going to at least wince briefly when you pull the bullet out of your shoulder before you jump back into the fray, literary guns blazing.

After you’ve taken a lot of those hits, eventually the question begins to haunt you: is this ms too full of rejection bullet holes? Should I trunk it?

This is a dangerous question. It can undermine your confidence. It can lead you to chase your tail in an ouroboros of revisions that don’t improve your book, until you’ve devoured everything that was good about it. It can drive you to give up on a book too early, when it could have scored you an agent with one more solid revision pass, a better query, or even just a bit more perseverance. And because we know those potential consequences, this can be a paralyzing and terrifying dilemma.

Well, fear no more! I’m here to give you a simple answer to this question that applies 95% of the time.

  • Always be working on the next book.
  • When the next book is better than this one, query that instead.
  • Until the next book is better, keep revising and querying the old book.

Ta dah! There you go. Problem solved.

So next time you get a bunch of rejections without a matching bunch of requests, stop and assess. Is this book you’re querying still your best work? If not, query the one that is. That’s a no brainer.

If it is still your best, and your WIP isn’t ready yet, then take some time to revise and improve this ms before sending out more queries. Get feedback if you’re not sure how to improve it. Remember, it can always be better… even your shiniest, newest, most awesome book can always be better. It’s absolutely worth the time to make it that way. Don’t trunk a book out of despair after a few rejections, or even 50 rejections. If you figure out why it’s getting rejected, you can probably fix that. Not only will your book get better, but you’ll become a better writer by doing the work.

But if you have another book that’s already better, for sure, and not just because it’s new and you have a new book crush, switch your focus to that. You’re not abandoning the old book; you’re just putting your best and most ready book out there, because why would you ever NOT do that?

If you’re not working on a new book, you should be. It’s the perpetual hope at the bottom of the Pandora’s box of publishing. And it’s what makes you a writer.

Published by Melissa Caruso

Fantasy author of the Swords & Fire trilogy: THE TETHERED MAGE (Orbit, 2017), THE DEFIANT HEIR (Orbit, 2018), and THE UNBOUND EMPIRE (Orbit, 2019), as well as the Rooks and Ruin trilogy, beginning with THE OBSIDIAN TOWER (Orbit, 2020). Melissa's debut, THE TETHERED MAGE, was shortlisted for the Gemmell Morningstar Award in 2017. Melissa loves tea, adventure, and the great outdoors, and has been known to swordfight in ballgowns. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband, two superlative daughters, and assorted pets. Represented by Naomi Davis of BookEnds.

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