Not this time

Writers talk about submitting manuscripts and waiting for replies a lot. You hear encouraging stories of manuscripts being accepted by the first publisher who reads it. You hear ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ stories, most famously from JK Rowling, who was accepted by a publisher at the eleventh hour and has gone on to be massively successful. But less often you hear about writers who are plagued by rejection letters, who spend years trying to get off the starting block.

I got my first rejection three weeks ago. It’s taken me this long to write about it - mostly because I wanted to wait it out and see how it affected things (mostly my own outlook). Three weeks on, here is where I’m at:

A rejection comes from a subjective reading. Each publishing house has a different ethos and each reading editor is different. (Just as every potential reader is different.) If one editor, or ten, rejects a manuscript you should take on board their suggestions, maybe redraft, before trying again with a different reader. But not stop trying.

This is all easier said than done. One (now highly accredited) writer I spoke to recently said he has one wall of his office covered completely by rejection letters and prides himself on the collection he acquired when he was starting out. This was meant to encourage me - I think - to keep going.

Yvonne, looking forward to reading that book, posted last week about panicking before she sent out a synopsis. I’m panicking about getting the responses. (That said the letter I did receive was friendly, honest and encouraging.)

So, back on the horse. Anyone have Penguin’s number?

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12 Responses to “Not this time”

  1. Lottie
    July 8, 2008 at 3:42 pm #

    David. Firstly congratulations on completing the mammoth task of actually completing a book. (**Clapping at my desk for you)

    Secondly - Don’t give up hope. As you say every publishing house is different, with different attitudes and motivations for publishing. Just flood them all with your work.

    A friend of ours wrote a book a few years ago after the break up of a relationship (actually I think the book was the cause of the break-up so you have one upon him there!).

    He tried for 3 years to get it published and even traveled to the US in the hopes someone would pick it up. Just as he was abandoning hope, one of the first houses he sent it to contacted him. They had a” change of direction” and the particular editor had always remembered J’s book.

    He is now writing his third and got a lovely big down-payment (is that the word) to do so. Keep on truckin!!!

  2. Yvonne
    July 8, 2008 at 3:49 pm #

    I’m sorry about the rejection letter David but I’m glad that you’re dealing with it so well. It gives me hope for when mine start coming in, and I know they will, because it is such a subjective business.

    Thanks for saying you’re looking forward to reading my book! I look forward to reading your work too.

  3. emordino
    July 8, 2008 at 4:34 pm #

    > Anyone have Penguin’s number?

    I believe it’s 1800-PENGUIN.

    I don’t know why, but I’m finding that joke form hilarious these days. Stop me before I pun again.

  4. david.
    July 8, 2008 at 10:04 pm #

    @ Lottie: Thanks for the encouragement! (And as I said the stories of people who have made it are always welcome) And kudos for J on the big old advance!

    @ Yvonne: Never say never. You could get placed first time out of the cage! (Perhaps we should get a blogger book swap going!)

    @ Colm: For that, I think a kick is necessary… (not a large/hard kick but a kick none the less)

  5. Darren
    July 9, 2008 at 2:34 pm #

    Dude, I don’t have the words. I know it must be an awful set back, but the fact that you produced the manuscript at all is a colossal feat. I’ve been trying to do it for years and am failing miserably. You should be very proud of what you have achieved. Well done!

    (btw, I tagged you)

  6. david.
    July 9, 2008 at 3:33 pm #

    Cheers Darren! :D

    (For the comment and the tag)

  7. Oisin McGann
    July 17, 2008 at 11:18 am #

    David. Was checking out your blog and read about your MS being rejected. I was rejected nine times (by agents, not even publishers!)and I knew it was likely to happen. I sent out three submissions to three different publishers at any one time and stuck each one straight back in a fresh envelope and back in the post as soon as it came back. O’Brien Press get about five thousand manuscripts a year, about two hundred of them are any good at all and maybe one or two get printed. Malorie Blackman was rejected 82 times. Kate KiCamillo was rejected 350 times. Stick with it, it’ll be worth it when you make it.

  8. david.
    July 17, 2008 at 11:42 am #

    Hi Oisín, thanks for stopping by the site and for the comment. The rejection came from a big publisher after months of emails and a meeting to chat about it but I’ve no intention of giving up just yet :)

    Nine rejections isn’t too bad. 350 though… ouch!

  9. Oisin McGann
    July 17, 2008 at 4:16 pm #

    Sounds like you’re doing really well already then. My first contact with an agent didn’t bear fruit but was a big help. Good luck!

  10. Stanley Rumm
    January 7, 2009 at 12:47 pm #

    Hi David,

    Sorry to hear about your rejection, although you did get further with that single submission than I did in 9 years of trying. The hardest part for me is describing what the book (in my case two of them) is about, who it is designed for (me!) and a list of other titles that are very similar if not the same.
    Then, if your submission meets with the right reader in the right frame of mind, who has been instructed to look out for a type of book that reflects your pitch, following the death of another writer in that field from that agency/ publishing house, you might be in with a chance.

    In my case, neither of my books are much like anything else. Both too are very different from each other, which doesn’t help. I did get a few very encouraging rejections, but strangely in the last couple of years especially it is less evident that anyone has even read any part of the submission (ie. form-letters). Has the publishing world become even more shut-shop since around 2005? It seems so to me.

    I’d like to send you a copy of my second book if that’s ok with you? (I had to self-publish it to get it finalised and out of my system)
    It’s called OOYAY and is a kind of kids’ book for adults. Already that is a problem for almost all publishers. Although they talk about Harry Potter, etc. appealing to adults there is no real structural recognition of this within their organisations. My manuscript inevitably ended up being rejected by the childrens’ section no matter where I sent it to.
    It’s nothing like Harry Potter either by the way.
    Another “problem” I’m fairly sure was identified was that it is not a part of a book series. This is deliberate on my part. I hate the recent obsession with not-one-book-but-3/7/13.
    I believe a good story can only be assessed after it has ended. That’s not to say there is no room for serieses.
    I recognise the financial realities of my decision -and the perspective of those in the publishing world, but I live in hope.

    Anyway, if you would provide me with an address I’ll send you Ooyay. It has received nothing but 5-star reviews from websites and individual reviews on -all genuine reviews and actually NONE from people I know (most of whom wouldn’t know how to create a review on amazon or what to say anyway -even if they felt so inclined.)

    No pressure to review it or anything, but I guarantee at the very least you have never read anything like it.

  11. Stanley Rumm
    January 8, 2009 at 12:53 pm #

    Then again, it could be possible that all those publishers and agents who read a couple of chapters were right to reject my books, but I can’t explain the near-perfect reviews and feedback they have both garnered from people who have actually read them (even people I don’t know -and online reviewers/ websites).
    I’ve looked far and wide for even negative reviews that might knock some sense into me to help me quit this “need” to write once and for all, but all’s I get is positive feedback from readers and silence from anyone connected with the world of publishing. Bizarre.

  12. david.
    January 8, 2009 at 4:22 pm #

    Sounds good Stan - I’ll mail you the address. Looking forward to reading it - controversy and all ;)

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