I got two rejections last week. One of the upsides of having an agent is that those emails don’t come directly to me anymore. But one of the downsides is that my agent seems to store them up and I tend to hear about two at a time which is a real double whammy. I also get more feedback these days as the editors give at least a line or two about the book, giving a couple of positives before they get to the reason why they turned it down.
I thought the feedback would be a good thing, give me an idea of what I need to work on in my writing. But they’re so contradictory that I don’t know what to take from them. One of this week’s rejections said they didn’t like Maeve, the antagonist, whereas an editor who turned me down before Christmas said Maeve was a great character. It’s making me realise how hugely subjective the whole thing is. What one editor loves, another says doesn’t work for them. And what should I take from the comment that ‘they didn’t sufficiently connect with the heroine’? Is that in my writing or is it just a personal reaction? I can think of dozens of books where I didn’t love the heroine but I still enjoyed the book. Do editors need to feel a deep personal connection with all the characters to take a book on?
I’m getting better with rejections though. These two made me mutter and moan for about half an hour whereas when I first started submitting rejections could knock me back for days. Of course, it helps if there’s a few positives in there as well. One of these said that Beltane was ‘crisply written’ which took some of the sting out of it.
I asked the other Write Romantics if they’d had any really positive rejections. Jessica got a reply from an agent that said:
‘There’s an awful lot I like about it. However I am afraid in the current tough market I do have to be completely bowled over by something to take it on….I’m sorry that it’s been a near miss for me.”
Jo received this lovely rejection from a publisher:
‘As we are finding the market so competitive at the moment, we will unfortunately have to pass on the book, but personally I think you have great potential and would encourage you to keep going as you have qualities we have previously seen in other newbie authors who have made it big.’
Both Jessica and Jo said that these emails kept them going through the dark days of other less tactful rejections.
And we’ve had some of those. Helen R received:
‘Sorry but this market has collapsed and I don’t think we could find a publisher for this.’
Fortunately she can laugh about it now (particularly as Crooked Cat are publishing her novel next month) but it must have hurt at the time. My worst one was from a very well-known agent who gave me the standard two line rejection and then tried to sell me her book on understanding the publishing industry.
I know rejections are part of the process and if I talk to non-writers about it they always quote J K Rowling. Everyone forgets how many times she was rejected (apparently it was twelve which doesn’t seem that many to me anymore!) but it’s become urban myth that she was knocked back a lot. Margaret Mitchell got 38 rejections before she found a publisher for Gone with the Wind and Beatrix Potter was rejected so many times she decided to self-publish The Tale of Peter Rabbit and look how well that worked out! Louise M Alcott was told not to give up teaching and it took Agatha Christie 5 years to land a publishing deal.
So if you’re feeling down about a rejections try to remember that you’re in really great company. Pretty much every writer I can think of, other than PD James and Georgette Heyer, have been turned down. Which just goes to show that editors are as prone to mistakes as the rest of us. Except perhaps the editor who told Dan Brown’s agent ‘it’s so badly written’; he might just have had a point!
If you’ve had any particularly unhelpful or really positive rejections then we’d love to hear about them. You can leave us a comment by clicking where it says ‘Leave a comment’ or ‘comments’ in teeny, tiny type below.