For my first Rejection Wednesday, I’d like to share my latest rejection letter, and tell a tale about my toughest rejection to date. (Identifying names of the agents/agency have been omitted, for privacy’s sake).
This lovely was waiting for me in my inbox a few days ago, a response that came roughly four months after the query was sent.
“Thanks so much for your query and interest in our representation. I was very glad to have a chance to take a look. Regrettably, I don’t feel sufficiently excited about the material to take it on, but please remember that reactions to fiction are entirely subjective, so I do recommend that you try some other agents. Best of luck to you in finding a home for your work, and thank you for thinking of me.”
Ah, the bane of every writer’s existence, the standard form rejection letter. This is the letter that says, in a nutshell, “You’re lucky you got a response at all, thanks for playing.” It’s a copy-paste, the same letter sent out to hundreds, with your name and title tacked into the [insert name of rejected manuscript here] placeholder. It can be tough, indeed, to put countless hours into your masterpiece only to receive the agent form of a brush-off. Tough, yes, but in agent world, it’s the cordial norm. Agents are busy, they don’t have much time to read through the mountain of (let’s face it) crap they get handed, so you can bet if you don’t catch their eye in two seconds flat, it’s standard form rejection time.
What’s worse than a standard form response? No response. The writing equivalent of waiting for a high five that never gets returned. Not even a fist bump. Not even an acknowledgement of your hand hanging awkwardly in the air. But while standard form responses and no responses are rough, there is one form of rejection that just may be the worst.
It’s what I call the late stage rejection.
You’ve finished your novel. You’ve edited it, shined it, polished it some more, then packaged it in a nice little box with a giant bow that says “PLEASE READ ME”. Next, you’ve undoubtedly spent countless hours on your query letter. Revised your tagline, your summary, your title, banged your head against the wall, asked for feedback, and revised again until you finally achieved perfection. Then, you sent those puppies out into the literary agent abyss.
That’s when the “No’s” start rolling in.
Rejection 1. Rejection 2. Rejection 3. You stack ‘em high until finally, FINALLY, there’s a bite. An agent is interested, yippee! You’re on your way to being a published author, baby!
The agent requests a partial manuscript. Then, after a month or two of deliberation, they request the full novel. After several more frustrating months, they ask to call you to discuss your masterpiece. “This is it,” you think. “The first real step forward in my career as a novelist!”
But not so fast. Said agent wants revisions before they agree to sign you as a client. And you’re only too eager to comply. You take every note given to you. You touch every chapter, overhaul key concepts, and morph that baby into the marketable novel you’ve always dreamed of. Then, you send the finished product to the agent within the month.
And then you wait.
You send a polite email asking if the manuscript was received. You wait some more with bated breath, nails chewed to stumps, for that “Yes” that doesn’t come. For a response you were so sure you’d receive, but don’t.
You were wrong.
Folks, this has happened to me, and it sucks. The THISCLOSE rejection. The ALMOSTTHERE rejection. The CLOSEBUTNOCIGAR rejection.
And I’m sure it’s going to happen to me plenty more times on my road towards publication.
Because rejection happens. And guess what? Whether that rejection comes as a figurative slap in the face, or as a form of ghosting, or anywhere on the spectrum in between, it’s still rejection, and it’s still going to sting. Some forms of rejection cushion the blow a little more than others, maybe. But the outcome is still the same.
However, here’s the silver lining. Each rejection makes you tougher. It thickens your skin. Furthermore, it’s a learning experience, in the writing world and in life. As a writer, a lot of standard form rejections probably mean your sample pages or query letter need a bit of work. The late stage rejection at least tells you that you’re on to something, even if you’re not quite all the WAY “on it”. And any agent feedback that may have been provided along the way is highly invaluable. These people know the market, folks, and while opinions are subjective, and agents are human and thus not always correct, any advice they give is still something to be carefully considered.
Finally, the most important value of rejection?
Each “No” means you’re one step closer to getting that “Yes”. It’s just a matter of kicking down the right door at the right time.
Remember, a “No” will never kill you, but a single “Yes” could be the one that changes your life.
Never give up in your search for that.
Until next time,