Before I took my first books online and became an Indie Publisher, I went down the route of sending my manuscript to agents and book publishers, unsolicited. As I sealed the envelope on each submission, I mused as to whether I should just address it to their slush pile, but a part of me hoped that I would have that lucky break and somehow stand out and be noticed. Mine might be that manuscript a bored publisher retrieves from the bin – as happened with William Golding . . .
Every publisher he sent his manuscript to for ‘Lord of the Flies’ rejected it, as did the one who would eventually accept it. The story goes that the publisher had binned it, but while waiting for someone who was late for a meeting, he tired of staring out the window and retrieved a sheaf of A4 pages from the bin. And by this stroke of luck, a classic came into being.
I assured myself that the exercise would not be utterly futile and that literary agents and publishers would actually look at my manuscript, but as they have different tastes and interests, and different priorities at different times, my carefully considered manuscript might miss the target, or the timing of my submission might be a little off, hence I anticipated the possibility of rejection letters.
And as those manuscripts came home to roost as a flock of ‘Dear [INSERT NAME], Thank you for your submission of [INSERT NAME]. Unfortunately . . .’ letters, I sought assurance on the internet and practically memorised such passages as –
All it takes is one rejection letter to make you an instant life member of a club whose luminaries include Walt Whitman, J.K. Rowling and Dr. Seuss.
What published writer has never received a rejection letter? These are our badges of determination. Of striving. And on bad days, of lunacy. Take heart. No one’s, and I mean no one’s, first query snags an agent and a book contract. Unless of course you are Madonna, Jamie Lee Curtis or Fergie.
The number of rejection letters you receive is proportional to the euphoria that will envelop you when you do get The Call.
Think about it. If an agent signs you up three queries into your search, you’ll be ecstatic. And perhaps kind of blase. But get that call after slugging it out for a year or so and man will success be sweet. So sweet you can taste it even now, can’t you?
I reminded myself of J.K Rowling’s initial efforts – a young reader in an agency pushed against the better judgement of her seniors, and convinced them to represent Rowling. The agency then sent Rowling’s 200-page script for her first Harry Potter book to 12 publishers, all of whom, in their infinite wisdom and esteemed judgement, turned it down. This billion dollar author was eventually picked up by Bloomsbury for an advance of just fifteen hundred pounds.
Add to JK Rowling: Agatha Christie, Hunter S. Thompson, James Joyce and George Orwell, and many many more who have struggled for approval and suffered brutal rejection in their early days, and you realise that you are in great company –
Stephen King got so many rejection letters that he used to nail them on a large spike in his bedroom.
Margaret Mitchell got rejection letters from 38 different publishers before finally finding one to publish her novel, Gone With The Wind.
William Saroyan may now be rated a literary great, but he amassed a stack of rejection slips 30 inches high — some seven thousand — before he sold his first story.
So if you are going down the Agency / Publisher route and suffering a blizzard of rejection letters, take heart : )
Otherwise, go Indie, but then you have the occasional rotten review to deal with; or often enough, no sales; but more about that in other posts : )