My Favourite Rejection Letter

When I returned to my debut novel so that I could polish it up and prepare it for publication I realised that I hadn’t transferred my character list onto the computer. It was in fact still in a handwritten file. Whilst I was rummaging through the file trying to find the list I stumbled on something that I had almost forgotten about – my favourite rejection letter.Stop Sign

Is there such a thing?

Well for me, yes.

You see, I think it’s generally accepted amongst the Independent author community that for an unknown author the odds on being published through the traditional channels are extremely slim. Nevertheless, that is no reflection on the quality of the work. Just think of all the blockbuster movies that started out as manuscripts that were rejected numerous times by agents and publishers (a topic in itself which I will probably explore in a future blog post).

What a lot of authors find difficult to deal with though is that agents and publishers often don’t even bother to reply. This is usually down to the fact that they receive so many submissions. If they do reply the letter is usually a standard mass-produced one which doesn’t give any indication as to why the author’s work was considered unsuitable.

LettersWhen I went through the submission – rejection routine several years ago, it left me feeling downhearted. Although I fundamentally believe in my work, it helps to get some words of encouragement from someone in the industry who has probably sifted through thousands of manuscripts over the years. I did have a couple of near misses with my submissions but the best letter I received I have kept on file.

Thinking back now, that letter helped me to keep persevering. Although I eventually stopped sending submissions to agents and publishers and decided to concentrate on my writing business instead, I always knew that I would return to my novel one day. Thankfully, it’s now easy to publish as an Independent so my novel will get published this year, and when I do finally publish, I intend to celebrate, big time. I’ve copied a few of the sentences from that letter below:

“I have been right through the material you sent and had one of my trusted readers look at the manuscript extracts as well. We have come to the same conclusion, that you write well and have put a lot of thought, care and effort into your novel …There was a time when a manuscript of this quality would undoubtedly have been in with a very strong chance of getting into print. The market is much tougher now and to stand a chance you have to find an agent who will back you without reservation. Why a book can work for one reader and not for another I don’t know. Wish I did! … I am sorry I unable to help, particularly after you went to the trouble of supplying such an excellent submission (it could be a model for all aspiring authors). I do wish you the best of luck in finding representation.”

I pursued the matter with him to find out exactly why he felt he couldn’t represent me and basically it came down to personal taste. My book is aimed at a predominantly female readership so I think the fact that the agent was male probably put me at a distinct disadvantage in that instance. Nevertheless, it was very good of him to take the trouble to respond to me and give me some words of encouragement. He added that as my chances of getting published were favourable, I should keep on trying. But I’d already had my fill of rejection letters by then. If my novel (and the subsequent ones that I have planned) ever go on to be a great success I shall write to that agent and personally thank him for his kind words.

Thank You

I’d love to hear about other authors’ motivations for self-publishing, and their experiences. Have you ever tried the traditional route and been knocked back? How did it feel? Please feel free to share your story in the comments box below.

7 thoughts on “My Favourite Rejection Letter

  1. Very interesting Diane. Yes, they always seem to say ‘I have to be 100% behind someone’s work before I can take them on’, or the old thing about recession in publishing (I remember they were saying that 20 years ago). The worst for me, I remember was when I phoned about one they’d rejected, and she said she had to go because they were ‘building up’ this exciting young author aged 22, how wonderful he was etc etc, as if I ought to agree. Another agent, who I phoned to ask if I could send, said, “No you can’t. That’s you sorted!” and slammed the phone down. But I’m sure there are some nice agents too. Somewhere.

    • Thanks very much for your feedback Geoff. It sounds like you’ve had some interesting experiences. It was very brave of you to phone and ask why you were rejected. Most of my rejections I just accepted, with the exception of the above. It was over 10 years ago when I was sending submissions. The Internet was in its infancy then but very few agents and publishers would accept email submissions so it was costly as well as time consuming, especially as you had to fund the return p & p as well. Thank goodness for Independent publishing, eh? 🙂

  2. This is a really positive response Diane, you should be encouraged! At least he took the time and effort. I can’t wait to read it! I set aside one month to submit to agents, feeling that it was something I should do before I went ahead and became an indie author. I put effort into my submissions and gave it my best shot but I went in with the expectation that it wasn’t going to be successful really to protect myself from too much disappointment. I received a variety of level of rejection from letters that were quite positive, always with a lot of encouragement for me to carry on trying to find someone to represent me, to no response at all which in these days of email I think is a bit off. I had always intended on self publishing anyway so it made no difference other than putting my publishing date back by a few months. I wish you success whichever route you now choose to take!

    • Thanks Georgia. Yes, he was definitely one of the nice guys. It sounds like you got quite a bit of positive feedback from the agents you approached, and it’s definitely encouraging when they take the trouble to reply, isn’t it? I’ve still got your book in the ‘Kindle queue’ and am looking forward to reading it soon. 🙂

  3. That is a very positive rejection letter, if there is such a thing. It seems incredibly hard to get published now, but at least you can take heart from that letter. Perhaps you will be so successful with your own marketing efforts that you won’t want a publishing deal when one is offered to you. Personally I have never tried to get published. It sounds too time consuming, and as I am still a nobody I wouldn’t imagine any publishing company would be interested, at least not until I had a largish readership. If your book is particularly aimed at women, goodreads might be the place for you Diane, as they are massively over represented on the site.

  4. Thanks Guy. I know I keep saying I will become more active on Goodreads but the last few weeks it has been difficult to even find time to edit my book. However, it’s working its way up my To Do list and I’m sure I’ll get a quieter period soon when I can focus on my novel and methods of promotion.

  5. Pingback: A Message to Aspiring Authors – Don’t Give Up | Heather Burnside Author

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