Writer’s Rejection

154721_149070175139235_4584430_nThere are heaps of articles about the pain of literary agent rejection. I identify with many of them: been there, done that.

The first traumatic part of the process is the time-consuming business of identifying appropriate agents and preparing the specific submission they want.

Agent One wants a 567 word synopsis (single spaced, Ariel 10 point), the first 3,425 words of your book (double spaced, Times New Roman 12 point, margins of 2.53cm), a writing cv (WTF?), and a list of authors to whom you could be compared (this one floors me every time. I’ve told them the genre of the book, isn’t that sufficient? It feels presumptuous to compare myself to a famous author).

Agent Two wants a three-page synopsis (is that double or single spaced? 10 or 12 point? You get so used to detailed specifications, it’s confusing when they’re vague) (And – three whole pages for the synopsis? I see my life disappearing in front of my eyes writing endless synopses of differing lengths.)

Then there’s the waiting. Months, sometimes. Mostly you are ignored. If you don’t hear from us, presume we aren’t interested. Don’t phone us under any circumstances (for anyone reading this who has never had the pleasure of browsing the Artists and Writers Yearbook, many agents actually do state this). Apparently terrible things happen to prospective authors who dare to phone literary agents. They have your every contact detail after all…

[I always wondered what happened to my writer pal, Susan, the last words I heard from her before she disappeared was, ‘I’m going to phone those bastards and find out if they’ve even read my covering email, it’s been four months after all.’]

The replies you do get are mostly standard rejection phrases with vague words of encouragement. Don’t give up – just because we think your writing sucks, doesn’t mean others will feel the same. Yeah, whatever.

Now and then you get a rejection that proves they’ve actually read your submission and you know you should feel grateful they’ve taken the time to offer some constructive criticism. Except it’s hard to feel gratitude when you are lying in a dark room sobbing, your laptop lying smashed on the ground somewhere outside your window. The one thing you thought you were good at was writing dialogue. But no, they think your dialogue is stilted. It hurts.

At this point in every other article I’ve read, the author tells the reader not to despair – a publishing deal will be just around the corner for you, as it was for them. And {control your excitement for them} their book is due out in six months. Oh, fuck off.

So I thought I’d do my Horror of Literary Agents post BEFORE I hit the big time. Not every story has a happy ending after all.

#amwriting #nevergiveup

UPDATE – APRIL 2017 (original post written in Feb 2016)

Don’t worry – the publishing deal was not just around the corner for me. But I self-published! I can’t describe the relief to step out of the cycle of submission-waiting-rejection and take control of my own books and become a loud and proud Indie Author.

It’s been hard work and a huge learning curve – but what a journey! It was a dream-come-true to see my books in print and, using facebook targeted adverts, sales have been much better than I ever expected, with my first book DAUGHTER, DISAPPEARED, published in November 2016, now close to the magical 1,000 sales and with 51 Amazon reviews, and my second novel, GLASDRUM, published a couple of weeks ago.

I didn’t do it all myself and the financial outlay to self-publish was considerable, but I’m trying to view it as a business and am getting close to recouping the costs of editing and design for the first book. Of huge help to my self-publishing success was the designer I found via Reedsy, Mark Thomas, who created covers that have been successful for social media, and also relieved me of a lot of the formatting worries I had no clue about. (contact him via https://reedsy.com/mark-thomas)

UPDATE – APRIL 2018 (original post written in Feb 2016)

The good news is that I’ve sold over 3,000 books, they have 82 and 87 reviews on Amazon, are stocked in various branches of Waterstones, and the highlight of 2017 was Glasdrum being the fourth bestselling fiction in the Highland Bookshop in Fort William.

But despite the huge sense of satisfaction from being self-published, the amount of time and expense required to promote the books is frustrating, and as soon as I stop marketing, sales stagnate. For now I plough all book income back into promotion to try to widen readership and increase reviews. Trying to juggle all this while writing Book 3, a sequel to Glasdrum set in January 2018, is tricky, so for the rest of 2018 I’m hoping to leave the first two books to their own devices and concentrate on getting my third book finished. After a false start which led me to scrap (painfully) 50k words, the second re-write is going well and I’m excited about the story – here’s hoping readers will be too!

If you’d like to read either of my books, here are the links:

DAUGHTER, DISAPPEARED: http://amzn.to/2eCnZRf

GLASDRUM: http://amzn.to/2o0dnnI

Click here for more posts about my self-publishing journey.

Thanks for reading.

10 thoughts on “Writer’s Rejection

  1. getting an agent is hard, getting a publisher is even harder. It’s such a rollercoaster ride because when you sign your contract with your agent you have this euphoric feeling that you’ve made it. Two months after my agent sent my manuscript out I’ve had five no’s. Very nice no’s, praising my writing, liking my premise but they are still no’s. It’s a competitive market out there but #nevergiveup is the key. Good luck

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I know exactly that feeling you described when you decided to self-publish. I queried for about nine months (which means I queried for three one-week periods with three months of thumb twiddling and nail-biting between each). When I finally decided to self-publish it was like the longest exhale of my life! I’m mid-process, so hopefully my first book will be out late summer or early fall.

    I’m also really encouraged to read that you’re getting close to that 1000 sales mark! Seems like a lot of traditionally published books never hit that milestone. Good luck going forward. . . this is an inspiration!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lovely to hear from someone following the same route! Very best wishes for the book when it comes out. I found it such a relief to be moving forward with my book, and getting on with it instead of sitting about waiting and feeling down. It’s a lot of hard work – and expense – to publicise the books, but it’s nice being in control. I’m still trying to find the balance between spending on advertising and royalty payments. As soon as I stop advertising, sales dwindle, so I’m trying to make sure I’m not spending more than I earn! Good luck! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you! Good luck finding that promotion/royalties balance. From the other authors I’ve talked to (I just recently started corresponding with an author putting out her ninth self-published novel) it’s all about back catalog when it comes to royalties. A little disheartening for those of us without one, but everyone has to start somewhere! Even if your first two books only break even, you’re doing great work and they’re an investment in your future, right?

        Maybe that’s an oversimplification, but it’s my way of saying I bet you’re going to sell better and better in the long run!

        Thanks for the lovely response, and best of luck going forward!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I think even worse than the constant agent rejections is actually landing one, going through rewrites with her, finally getting a publishing contract, and then a week before your debut novel launches receiving a terse e-mail in which your agent states that she basically doesn’t have time for you anymore. So, good-bye and good luck with your writing career (which has just become the wreck of the Titanic), and have fun finding a new agent (because, hey, it’s so easy to get one).

    If you’ve ever been dumped or fired, then you know what I went through. Try words like devastated, gutted, shattered, crushed, demoralized, suicidal, etc. There’s a thesaurus full of them – though in this case no words are the true measure of the actual feeling.

    In 2009 I signed with an agent, went through a lot of delays that had nothing to do with me, finally signed a contract with a publisher in 2013, and then, in late 2015, a week before my book launched to bookstores and online, received the (aforementioned) fateful e-mail. What should have been the happiest occasion of my (possibly short-lived) writing career was bulldozed in a handful of sentences. (Whoever said, “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” was a lying piece of scatology.) When I read that e-mail, I felt like I’d entered a living nightmare. Imagine a guy standing at the altar, awaiting the appearance of the woman he thought he was going to spend the rest of his life with. He’s ecstatic, bursting with joy. But the love of his life doesn’t appear, and moments later he receives a text from her telling him she’s changed her mind and is off to do other things.

    I’ll be frank: Being ditched by my agent sent me into a spiral of depression with which I continue to struggle. Obviously things wouldn’t be so bad if I’d managed to land new representation soon after – which you might assume would be the case given that I’d already had an agent and had had a book traditionally published. But in today’s ultra-competitive writing market that means squat. In fact, it can work against you – unless your book is a huge bestseller. (Because when it all comes down to it, it’s about the money. Publishing is a business, and agents are the gatekeepers of that business, and they don’t make a cent unless you do.)

    So now I’m back trying to win the lottery. At least, that’s what playing the querying game feels like. There are just far too many writers (hundreds of thousands) seeking the services of far too few agents (only about 1500 or so in the US – and almost none up here in Canada). And even among the agents out there, only a select group is worth bothering with. The rest…well, you’re probably better off submitting directly to the publishers who still accept unsolicited manuscripts (though most of them pay little or no advance and have limited print runs and distribution, so don’t expect to become the next international sensation).

    I’m well aware the publishing industry is going through changes wrought by the technological revolution now transforming our society from top to bottom. But knowing that, and knowing how agents are inundated with submissions, and knowing that others have gone through the rejection process but eventually succeeded doesn’t make it any easier to open my inbox to find yet another rejection awaiting me.

    I now have five manuscripts sitting on my harddrive – a sequel to my debut novel, two YA contemporaries, and a YA scifi thriller (and it’s follow-up) – and I’ve been going the rounds of querying agents (on and off) for over a year now, all to no avail. Like everyone else seeking representation, in the majority of cases I hear nothing at all from the agents. And of those who do bother to respond, it’s usually a generic reply. You know the one: “I’ve reviewed your work and just don’t feel it’s a fit for me. But this is a subjective business, so don’t give up. I’m sure another agent will think differently.” A growing pile of rejections says otherwise.

    Of course, worse than the generic responses are the ones that leave you puzzled and scratching your head, the ones where they say something to the effect that they liked your writing and the idea intrigued them, but they’re going to pass. Or they liked the idea but the writing just didn’t “grab” them. I think I’d rather have the form letter kiss off, because vague replies that offer nothing in the way of explanation tend to suck all the hope out of me. They invariably plunge me into a vortex of self-doubt from which it’s nearly impossible to extricate myself. I keep wondering why they’re taking a pass if they liked the idea and my writing? Or what was if about my writing that didn’t grab them?

    There have been moments when light has flickered at the end of the tunnel, when I’ve had a request for a full manuscript and dared to believe that maybe this time around I’ll land new representation. But to date it has all ended in darkness and sorrow, the light having faded and died. In fact, out of five or six manuscript requests in the past year, only one even bothered to send me a note to inform me the project wasn’t up her alley after all. (I’ve recently had two new requests for one of my YA contemporaries, but in all honesty, I’ve reached the point where I don’t dare get my hopes up again.)

    Despite all this, I haven’t been soured on agents. Having had one, I know the value of them and I have a high regard for what they do. In writing forums I’ve defended them from writers who have variously described them as unintelligent, uneducated, elitist, greedy, blind, and far worse. I realize it can’t be easy for agents to go through countless submissions (sometimes numbering in the thousands) each week, trying to judge a manuscript’s worth on the strength of a query letter and a few sample pages. And I’m sure they don’t take any joy out of sending rejection letters they know are going to hurt the recipient and in some cases may end a nascent writing career (because at some point a writer receives one too many rejection letters and decides to call it quits).

    But there can be no question the query/rejection process is painful, and the frustration and anger some writers have over understandable. Of course, if you decide you’ve had enough of rejections, there’s always the option of self-publishing. But that’s such a difficult route to go if you don’t have all the skills necessary to make it work. And to do it properly, you need the sort of money I know I (and many others) don’t have. (While my traditionally published book netted me an advance in the low five figures, that’s money allocated for the basic necessities of life.)

    So I’m going to give the whole agent thing a while longer, but if I don’t land representation soon I’ll probably have to consider giving up on the writing thing. I don’t want to, because I have a deep and abiding passion for the craft, but maybe my one traditionally published book is the only shot I’m going to get. Maybe that’s as far as my dream goes; for as great a thing as dreams are to have (and I would never counsel anyone not to pursue theirs), at some point you have to be pragmatic. At some point you have to accept that what you aspire to is simply not going to happen. It’s not all of us who get to have what we want. That’s just life, unfortunately.

    (For more on my adventures in traditional publishing, visit my website – http://www.lindsaybrambles.com )

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you so much for taking the time to reply. It’s very interesting to hear and I’m so sorry it’s been such a traumatic journey. It’s a tough business and extra tough because a book is so personal to an author, so the rejection is harder to take. I’m not very patient, which is why I decided to give up with agents and go solo. But you are right about the expense, and it’s time consuming too. I will probably try again for an agent/publisher once I finish my third book, which I’m working on just now, but I’m not going to give it too long or make myself unhappy over it – I would rather continue to self-publish than endure too much rejection or delay. Very best wishes for you to find another agent!


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