Tag Archives: rejection letters

On rejection and acceptance

I was interviewed recently on the subject of rejection letters. The article, possibly with a photo of me, will be printed in the next week or so. I have mixed feelings about the prospect.

So why did I do it? Part of me is aware of the “any publicity is good publicity” school of thought. It’s tough selling books when you’re not a ‘name’. Media coverage is one way to build a profile and, hopefully, boost sales. Indeed, part of me was grateful that I should be considered credible enough to discuss the topic.

As I have blogged previously, I believe rejection letters are a fact of life. There’s certainly no shame in getting one. JK Rowling reportedly got 12 for Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone before she got an acceptance.

No, my main reservation was that I wasn’t sure I had any wisdom to offer on the topic. I told the journalist this and then proceeded to babble away anyway… I’m not sure how useful or newsworthy my thoughts were. As a journalist myself, I don’t think I was all that quotable – but it’s not my article so I guess that’s not my worry.

With the benefit of hindsight, there are two main things I’d say about rejection letters:

1. You’re more likely to get constructive feedback, as opposed to a form letter, if you have an agent. You can use this information to improve your work.
2. It really doesn’t matter how many rejection letters you accumulate. You only need one acceptance letter to get your story published.

Get one letter that says ‘yes’ and the disappointment of one ‘no’ (or several) fades very quickly.

If you’re yet to get that letter, keep the faith. And don’t be afraid of criticism or hard work redrafting. Attend a writing group or take a class. Workshop your manuscript. Put it in a drawer for a while and then read it with a fresh perspective. Ask yourself, honestly, how could it be improved?

Very few of us can claim to be God’s gift to literature. Chances are, there will more blood, sweat and tears required. You need to earn that one letter you’re seeking. When you do, be sure to celebrate.

Rejection letters and friendly fire

If you’re going to be a writer, you can take it as read that you will receive rejection letters. Not everything you do will be deemed worthy of publication. Sometimes the worthiness of your work will not be determined by the quality of your writing or ideas. Commercial considerations will generally carry the day. In the current economic climate, this is even more likely.

Truth is, you’re going to need to develop thick skin. Negative feedback is inevitable. (Hopefully it will be buried beneath a mountain of plaudits though.)

When I sought publishers for Game as Ned, I found myself with a couple of offers to print it. This enabled me to obtain representation from a literary agent. My agent then passed the manuscript on to other publishers to gauge the level of interest.

The final scorecard was two interested publishers, one direct rejection letter and four “no thank yous” sent to my agent.

One of the advantages to having an agent is that the rejection letters often contain useful appraisals of your work – things that you can address in a rewrite. If you submit a manuscript direct to a publisher, the “thanks but no thanks” is likely to be an impersonal form letter.

Feedback from family, friends and readers is an entirely different kettle of fish. It can make you smile or sting like hell. You need to accept that all readers have different tastes. I’ll wager you don’t enjoy everything you read, either.

So while you’re still developing that armadillo-esque hide, you might want to choose carefully who you show your labour of love to. Constructive, considered criticism is worth copping. Thoughtless feedback is potentially damaging and best binned as soon as possible. Think on it only as long as the unhelpful people who vomited it out did.