Golden lessons from rejections

I count myself very lucky to have an occupation where learning and change are crucial parts. I’m referring to writing (of course!). Not only do you have the hard sweat and joy of bashing out your story, but the endless hours of lovingly trimming and tightening to get it into some kind of presentable shape.

When you are completely sure you cannot make it better ( or when you’re sick to death of it), you gear yourself up to send your precious baby out to an agent. You make a cunning plan – not for me the endless waiting for replies one at a time, you cackle to yourself. I’ll send twenty out at a time.

Big mistake.

I understand agents are realists these days and expect writers to submit their manuscript to a few agents at a time. Three to four, perhaps a maximum of six, seems to be the norm. Twenty, no.

Think about it. When you get the first two or three rejections back, you have the opportunity to reword your letter, to re-jig the synopsis, to read through those vital first chapters and tighten them up again. Perhaps you’ve been on a course or to the RNA Conference since you sent the first one out and have learnt a little more about the first paragraph hook. Whatever, as my heroine often says, it’s sure to have helped.

You have a golden chance to re-work it. Your submissions package evolves as you work down your  list of selected agents. You’ve gleaned a little feedback, sometimes contradictory, sometimes helpful , sometimes trite, but you can work these lessons in for the next two or three.

5 comments to Golden lessons from rejections

  • Great advice, Alison. It’s so tempting to go crazy and send out loads in one go!

  • alison

    Sure, it’s frustrating waiting, but the best thing is to get back to writing. One thing I’ve learnt is that writers have to be both dogged and resilient.

    Hopefully, agents are mentally clearing their desks because of holidays and the Frankfurt Book Fair in October. So maybe we’ll hear good news soon…

  • Liz Harris

    A very positive way of looking at a soul-destroying experience, Alison. You’re right – we can learn from any criticism given to us, and thus give ourselves a better chance with the next round of submissions.

    What is infuriating, though, is when there’s nothing beyond the standard rejection – it’s demoralising, and offers no guidance as to what to do to make the work more likely to sell.

    Liz x

  • alison

    Yes, sometimes you get encouraging little remarks like
    ‘impressed by the ambition and imagination on display’ and ‘you are clearly serious about your writing’.

    It could be a genuine piece of praise or balm for the wound, but the cynic in me wonders if they are just being polite.

    But heigh ho, nobody said it was easy. One encouraging thing to keep in your mind: publishers and agents need authors, so back to the writing…

  • You’re right. This time round I’m grateful that at least small batches are acceptable. Managing 6 queries a year in the ‘olden days’ was soul destroying.