Rejection Confection

So you’ve written a book. Yay! And you’ve edited it until it’s sparkly and shines. Double yay! You spent months pouring your blood, sweat, tears, heart and soul to complete your masterpiece.

Now what?

Some people submit directly to a small press or epublisher. Others take the huge leap into indie publishing. But so many of us search for a literary agent.  And what do all agents require? An awesome query letter.

UGH! I don’t know about you but I find writing queries way harder than writing a book. It’s hard to compress an entire book into a one page letter. If you think that I’m about to give advice on how to write a great query letter you’re sorely mistaken. The only advice I can give is to go find somebody who knows what they are doing and ask them to help you. That’s what I did. Oh and check out QUERY TRACKER. This is the site I’ve spent inordinate amounts of time on researching. It tells you everything you could possibly want to know about an agent. What they represent, whether they are taking queries, who their clients are, how many people have queried them, response times. And if you need a pick me up they’ve even got a section with success stories.

So you picked your agent. You’ve sent your query and are waiting with bated breath and fingers crossed. You check your email fifty-nine times a day like a nut job waiting for those magic words to pop up in the subject line. RE: QUERY.

And more often than not, instead of seeing, “I love it. Of course I’ll represent you and make you a superstar.” You get a rejection. Boy, do they stink and each one is like a little dart of self-doubt directed right at you writing heart.

But rejections are apart of the writing business. And writing is subjective. It’s impossible to please everybody. So expect to be turned down often. There are three types of rejections that are common.

No Response Means No

This is my least favorite of all rejections. I realize that agents are people too and that they get inundated with queries. Yes, I understand that they get busy but so do we. And if we took the time to write a book, research you and submit chapters of our work to you, you could at least have the decency to tell us no. A no, can be a bummer but at least we know. There’s no wondering if they received it, no waiting, no holding out hope for a response. And seriously how hard is it to send a form letter?

The Form Letter 

I’m okay with the form letter. I once got a form rejection four minutes after I sent out a query complete with a synopsis and fifty sample pages, which the agent asked for on their site. Unless they were super speed readers they probably didn’t read my query. But a quick no is always better than a slow no. It’s easy to move on from those.

The Personalized Rejection

This can be a tricky one. I received a very sweet one this week.

Ms. Pope

Thank you for submitting to our agency. There was some excellent prose in your first chapter and I was entertained by your writing, however I will not be able to offer you representation. It’s not your quality of work so much as the tight market and the fact that I only represent a very limited amount of commercial fiction. I truly believe this industry is very subjective and hope you find a home for this project somewhere else.

That was nice. Did it take the sting out of being rejected? A little. But it was still a no.

I’ve also got a rejection that stated my hero was low-class and that real people didn’t act the way I had written them. Ouch. That rejection also caused me to wish that agent never sold another book and that his agency went under. I know. I know. Mean. But writers have feelings because we are people and sometimes it’s better to say nothing at all than to tear apart somebody’s hard work.

On the flip side not everybody is rejected all the time and when that reply comes, asking for more it’s a very nice feeling.

YOUR TURN! Tell me what you think about rejections. Had a nasty one? A sweet one? Are you querying? Have an agent? How did you get yours? Query a publisher? How did that go? Of course any and all comments are welcome.


24 thoughts on “Rejection Confection”

  1. Nice post, Jamie! I really only queried a dozen or so agents before I decided to go Indie. I just didn’t want to wait 2 years to see my name on the spine of a book. It was a good decision for me, but certainly it isn’t for everyone. I am going to write a more mainstream romance and try the traditional route again, later this year. Welcome to the Rejected Club. Maybe we should have jackets made…

  2. Ahh… been there, experienced that. I find rejections make me more determined to succeed. I find all the publishing options today to be comforting. Never give up, never surrender!!

      1. Ah! You’re right! Tim Allen was some sort of space captain in both movies. To infinity and beyond!

  3. Yep, have received all three types of rejections. I think the no reply one burned the most as she had requested the full off a pitch at a conference. The least she could have done was say “no thanks”. Oh well, life goes on. On the personalized ones (which thankfully, I’ve gotten more of) I’ve used to help me create a stronger story. Hearing no is never fun, but you can use it to make you stronger and as Casey said, push your determination to succeed.

  4. Ah yes, the good old days. When I started querying, at first I got form rejections. Over time, I started getting the nicer, more personal ones, so I knew at least that my writing had improved. Then, all the rejections (and I’m talking thirty or more) were saying the same thing. Nice writing, love the voice, don’t know where we’d put it on the shelf. That’s when I started looking at indie publishing.

    While I studied and learned everything I could about self-publishing, I was still sending querries and getting rejections. What finally made me take the SP leap was all the contest finals I was getting and realizing that people really loved what I was writing. I also realized that for all the time I was investing in rewriting my query letter, researching agents and editors, and honing the dreaded synopsis, I was wasting precious time. I figured even if I did get that magical “Yes” from an agent, it would be another two years before I would have a contract and a book on the shelves. Call me impatient, but that’s time I’d rather be moving forward and getting my work out to the masses and finally making money writing. I was watching a ton of other people be successful, and I wanted in. For me the prestige of being published was not my goal. Making a living at writing and sharing “Exraordinary stories of an average teenage life”, was.

    SP is very hard work and I’m still learning so much, but I’m excited every day because I’m working for myself, earning money (enough to buy lunch and a new pair of shoes LOL), and I’m in control of my end product. That independence is worth the hard work for me. I also love that I’m getting wonderful reviews and that people are getting to enjoy stories that might never have seen the light of day. I also feel a sense of satisfaction (smug as it may be), that I’m not having to share my profits with an agent and a publisher who will treat me as if I’m working for them. I believe those relationships should be a partnership and should share equally in the profits. Until that happens, I think many more people will jump off the query-go-round and go indie.

    Whatever path you choose, rejection is an inherent part of the publishing business. My only advice is not to take it personally and to keep working hard. Somewhere along the way, your dreams will manifest if you stay focused on the end game. Thick skin and fast fingers, my friend! Hang in there.

    1. I’m still not sure why it takes so long to hit the bookshelves. With all the technology out there it seems like the process should be quicker.

  5. I hear ya sisters! I recently had a contest judge tell me my writing was fluff. She/He said they hated everything about my ms, that I should figure out what the romance genre is and when I do I should rewrite my whole story. The score was the lowest I’ve ever received. For the record, there were two other judges- their comments were nicer and their scores higher. But I couldn’t let those hurtful comments go. So I wallowed. A lot. But by the third week, I’d had enough of my pity party. I love to write. It’s what I do. And maybe my writing does stink, but, at the very least, I still have the passion of a great writer. Just for giggles, I wrote down a cheesy fan fiction story I’ve had bouncing around in my head for a while. I posted four chapters, got over 1,000 hits and received some nice reviews. It felt good and most importantly, writing was fun again. I’ve been trying so hard to get this one story published, I forgot why I started writing in the first place.
    Rejection hurts, no doubt about it, but it’s inevitable in this business. Having a sense of humor helps, too. My husband reminded me of a couple of quotes from Monty Python and the Holy Grail..”It’s merely a flesh wound” and “I’m not dead yet!” Hey, maybe we can print that on those jackets 🙂

  6. I’m sorry about your rejection letter, Jamie. I used to send out “revenge queries”. The day I got a rejection, I would send out two more queries to different agents to make myself feel better. Don’t give up!

  7. I got rejected via phone…sorry, I just don’t think I’m the agent for you…”you really don’t need me,” he said. Then, 3 months later he called me back and signed me that day.

  8. When I got my first rejection, I was thrilled! No, I’m not a masochist or glutton for punishment. But having a rejection meant that I had . . . something to reject! In other words, I had written a novel. A complete novel, and at that time my dream was just to finish. The dream of publication was a bit farther off (and still eludes me temporarily — shaking fist!). Now, though, rejections kind of suck, even though I’ve never gotten a mean one 🙂

  9. I got two rejection emails the same day; the first one said my writing flowed beautifully and my writting was very commercial and would be saleable (great, you would think) then came the big BUT they weren’t making an offer at this time. The second rejection (about the same material) said I needed to go to school to learn how to write! Go figure. I guess writing is truly subjective. Hang in there Jamie … one of these days you will get a yes, but you can’t get that yes if you don’t keep submitting your work.

    1. I hope you requeried that agent! The worst kinds of rejction are the ones that are so close you can taste success

  10. Susannah, I think that is a great way to look at it, when you have a finished manuscript, then you have achieved something that many people dream of but few are able to complete. Yay, us! Every word written brings us closer to our goals, whatever they might be. Great post, Jaimie!

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