15 March, 2012

Rejections

Yesterday I had one of those cards through the doors, the ones that tell you to go and pick up a letter from the post office because some fool hasn't paid enough postage for it. So off I trotted and found that it was my Children's Novel manuscript being rejected and I was the fool who hadn't put enough postage on the return envelope. Talk about adding insult to injury - paying to pick up a rejection!

Last Friday I blogged about how I hadn't had any feedback on anything for ages, but I had just been shortlisted in a short story competition. Well, since then feedback has been rolling in thick and fast in the form of three rejections of one sort or another in the space of five days. Grand. It got me thinking about rejections. We all know the (often grossly exaggerated) stories of famous writers getting rejected - Iain Banks had written five novels before he got published, JK Rowling was rejected a billion times before somebody saw the potential, William Shakespeare was set upon by wild badgers and kept captive in the forest for three years before putting on a play*... And these stories can be both encouraging and rather disheartening. But however motivating it can be to know that Kathryn Stockett had her novel The Help rejected a ridiculous amount of times before it went on to sell millions and be made into an Oscar-wining film (thanks for the tip Angeline!), there's one thing I'm pretty sure of. I bet none of these famously-rejected authors spent their time reading articles on how to deal with rejection.

There seems to be an incredible number of articles, blog posts and book chapters about getting through the trauma of rejection. Yes, it's natural that a rejection makes you feel momentarily disheartened, and it's great to have the encouragment of friends when it happens, but if days later you're still moping around declaring that you're not cut out to be a writer, then you're probably right. Being rejected just means that you're writing. As an athlete nobody had to cajole me into entering another race when I'd performed badly or got injured. If they had needed to, then I shouldn't have been running.

So let's not give each other tips on what to do when that brown envelope drops through the letterbox (provided you've paid the right postage!). Let's celebrate our best and worst rejections together.

My least favourite was the one that came in the form of an e-mail with no signature line, just three words, 'Please see attached', and a rejection letter you could download. Call me old-fashioned but I think that's rude. I have no problem with standard rejection letters, I can completely see the necessity, but it doesn't take a lot to fill in someone's name and put your own name at the bottom.

My "favourite" rejection on the other hand was from a big agency in London who thought, "there is huge potential here; you write brilliantly and the premise is wonderful". They still rejected it, but at least they thought it was worth giving me a little feedback.

What have been your best and worst rejection experiences? How many times would you continue/ have you continued to send your work out before giving up?

* some examples may not be true in the literal sense

15 comments:

  1. Hi Chloe, commiserations on your recent missives.
    My most overdue rejection took 1 year 3 months and 16 days: http://alongthewritelines.blogspot.com/2011/10/in-praise-of-musa-publishing.html
    My 'best and worst' rejection was probably Andrew Lownie, who corresponded back and forth by email for a few days, only to reject it finally...on the day I took a redundancy package to focus on writing.
    If you're open to ebooks, I'd say try Musa Publishing. Drop me a line if you like.

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  2. Wow - great start to your redundancy then! I've been following your blog posts on Musa with interest. If I feel it's for me then I'll definitely be in touch! Thanks.

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  3. My best rejection came from a magazine for a short story. The editor said that is wasn't suitable for their magazine but the story was good and needed to be read.

    That downloadable rejection letter sucks, although in a few years time you'll be able to laugh about it as you wave your massive advance check in their faces.

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  4. If that enetuality comes about, I might even be happy enough to be gracious about it, Martin. Though I still might choose not to be!

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  5. Timely post, Chloe. I got back from holiday at the start of this week, and received four rejections in three days. Only for short stories, but still it felt like a real kicking. It was more that they were all in very different styles - literary, humorous, flash, slightly experimental - and I ended up thinking, What can I do right if I've failed at all those options?

    I think I'm back on track now. I sent out something different yesterday and am editing one of the rejected pieces to send out at the weekend. It's important to remember rejections don't stick to you - they don't weigh you down unless you dwell on them.

    My worst rejection is probably just an email headed, "Dear Writer", with the message, "Thanks, but we'll pass." The best one? I don't think I've had any really good / helpful rejections. A couple have taken the time to justify their decision, but I'm yet to get any useful feedback. Maybe next time...

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  6. That is such a rude rejection! Just popped over to your blog to leave you a comment there. "Rejection don't stick to you" - I like that!

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  7. I once had an MS sent back to me the day it had been received by the publisher in an unsealed envelope with a scruffy, unsigned, poorly photcopied standard rejection slip which said "After careful consideration...'

    I'll stick up for Andrew Lownie, who I've had dealings with and always found will give far more personal attention than any other agent or publisher I've come across despite the fact that he is incredibly busy.

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  8. Ouch. I dread to think what their careless considerations would be.

    It sounds like Andrew Lownie is the person to go to for a proper conversation!

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    1. Since this is currently in your "most popular" list, I've found myself re-reading the comments. Positive comments about Andrew Lownie 6 months before his agency took on your book :)

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    2. Ha ha - yeah! I'd forgotten this! It was my dear billyblogger who introduced me to the agency so he put his money where his mouth is!

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  9. My 'best rejection' was from an agency in London - it was personal, and offered tips on the strengths and weaknesses of plot. I appreciated the time spent by the agent since there was no need for them to do more than say 'no', but they bothered anyway. My (several) worst are simple the agencies that don't respond, or auto-respond to e-mails saying 'If you haven'r heard in 6 weeks, that's a no, folks!' Seems uncaring for my poor little artistic soul...!

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    1. It's kind of worse when they try and be all jokey-nice about the fact they can't be bothered to even send you a standard e-mail!

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  10. I've just remembered a story - I don't know if it's true - about a writer who decided to make their MS look all professional by adding lots of copyright stuff at the end together with a disclaimer along the lines of: 'The characters in this novel are not based on any actual persons, living or dead' and some editor, maybe not realising the MS was to be returned, had scribbled on 'More's the pity'

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    1. Brilliant. And brutal. And kind of serves them right!

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  11. Brilliant. And brutal. And kind of serves them right.

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