This isn’t going to be one of those, “Rejection is hard, but buck up! My book was rejected eighty-seven times and now I have a famous New York agent and a three book deal with a six-figure advance!” type of articles.
See, between my two novels, I’ve received 94 rejections, and I do not currently have a literary agent or a publishing contract.
Ah, I remember those few weeks after I sent out my first round of queries and the emails started coming in. This is going to sound embarrassing, but I got excited by my first automated reply.
Thank you for querying us with your project. We consider all queries carefully, and our usual response time is 2 weeks to 3 months.
Joy! An actual, living, breathing New York agent had a letter about my book in her in-box, just waiting to be read. I could see her clicking it open on her screen, eyes tired from reading hundreds of these so far today. But my clever writing style catches her eye and she nods. Not bad. This kid might have something here.
(Question: Why do I think literary agents sound like baseball scouts from old black and white movies?)
Then, as the weeks went by, the rejections trickled in. Dear Nicole, While I did enjoy reading the first bit of Women Like Us, I don’t believe I’m the right agent to represent you.
Most of them were very nice. I should keep querying, they said. I deserved an agent who could enthusiastically represent my work, they said. All of that’s true, but it doesn’t change the fact that I want someone to appreciate my novel now! For Jehoshaphat’s sake! I spent a year of my life crying and bleeding out this book. And I think the query letter may have sucked ten years of my life away. (Must write to Prince Humperdink and Count Rugen with new torture machine idea.)
One agent apologized for taking several months to respond to my query. She’d held onto it and its accompanying pages for longer than usual because she really did enjoy my writing. But in the end, it just didn’t grab her enough. Well, it’s nice to know that my book is merely “not quite good enough.”
Another agent said I was an excellent writer, but she couldn’t sell my book. “There’s a lot of potentially offensive material. Even right there in the query letter.” Seriously? Who would want to read a book that couldn’t possibly offend anyone? (By the way, my book is not dirty or smutty, I swear.)
It got to the point where whenever I saw, “RE: Query: WOMEN LIKE US” in the subject line I’d think, “Oh, I got another rejection today. There’s one to cross off the list!”
It wasn’t all bad, though. I did get a number of requests for partials and fulls. (I actually have something promising going on now, but I don’t want to jinx it.)
Still, those rejections can sting if you let them. Despite all my ranting, I think I’m through letting them hurt me. Barbara Kingsolver said, “Don’t consider it rejected. Consider that you’ve addressed it ‘to the editor who can appreciate my work’ and it has simply come back stamped ‘Not at this address’. Just keep looking for the right address.”
I’m pretty sure I’m going to find that right address someday.
How do you all deal with rejection in your writing life?