Last year, I decided I had re-written one of my novels enough times and it was time to take the big, scary next step. Following many edits, re-writes and renamed files, I began sending out the 34th draft (in reality, probably the 8th or 9th full re-working + 1-2 edit rounds per draft) to some agents.
Around July, I received my first form rejection for the story.
A form rejection is a copy-and-paste note, because they receive so many requests. It allows an agent or publisher to update the writer ASAP and means they can get right back to reading other requests and their paid clients work.
An example may be: “Dear [insert name]. Thank you for sending [insert title] to us. On this occasion, we won’t be taking it. Good luck.”
I was a bit disappointed; of course I was. But I was okay with it. Then a second form rejection came in. A third person didn’t respond; their website stating they will only reply if interested.
Receiving responses was a pretty mixed bag, but an encouraging one because of that: Some people requested the full manuscript, while others rejected my cover letter and beginning alone. Those requests to read more lessened the sting of the straight-out rejections. But at the end of the day, this is the norm; this is what I’m signing up for in pursuing an agent and traditional publishing. I continued to send it the story out, gradually getting a feel for the process.
This year, I received my first personalised rejection.
And despite the initial butterflies and slight tightness around my throat at seeing the agent’s name in my inbox, I read a balanced paragraph of feedback: two strengths and two weaknesses of the story alongside the ‘it’s not for me.’
Interestingly, I didn’t actually reach a point of feeling the sadness. I agreed with the points: they were valid, and after Camp Nano, I’ll give the story a once-over to see how easy tweaks may be. It was bolstering to know that my characterisation is solid, and that the magic system makes sense.
And there’s just something about reaching that next ‘rung’ in the ladder of rejections. From form rejections purely based on two chapters of the novel, through to a full manuscript request and now, some personalised feedback: this is progress. I’m heading in the right direction, and this was just with one novel.
With each rejection, it’s important to remember we’re edging closer to acceptance. If most published authors had a hundred rejections, and I’ve had five, then I’ve only got another 95 to go before I succeed. Obviously the numbers will never match that in reality, but it’s vital to remember that this is all part of the process.
This is a journey, and whether you’re on the wagon, cycling behind, being dragged along the road or crawling through the grass beside, it’s key to keep your eyes ahead, and your body moving forward.