The story of my first rejection

I almost didn’t write this post. Can you blame me? Who wants to share their failure with the Internet?

But as a writer who’s querying agents and trying to learn everything she can about the publishing world, I wish there were more posts about authors’ journeys to publication and what to expect when it comes to rejection. Even if it’s just to remind me that I’m not the only one getting rejected. So here’s my story.

Although I mostly write YA, a fellow writer friend and I decided to embark on a silly MG project that would secure our places in history as total nerdgirls. We pitched our book to an agent at a writer’s conference … and she loved the idea. She requested the full manuscript, she started talking to us about marketing and promotion, and she even said she thought it would be an easy sell.

We were insanely happy. Ridiculously happy. Once we were out of her eyesight, there was jumping and squealing. Very professional writing and squealing, of course — this was a writing conference after all.

So my co-author and I spent the next week revising and editing our little MG book and then sent it off to the agent. Exactly nine minutes later — yes, we timed it — she replied, saying it was “wonderful,” but it needed more.

More? We could do more! We do so much more!!

We brainstormed, researched the market, consulted a lawyer on copyright issues, wrote lists, brought in illustrator and designer friends, and we wrote, wrote, wrote. Three weeks later, we had a crazy little masterpiece. So we shipped our baby book off to the agent and a couple weeks later we heard back. She “loved” it. She said we were “very, very close” and that we’d get her final answer within a week.

There was more squealing. Virtual champagne was bought. The promise of dreams fulfilled followed us everywhere. It was all we could talk about. This was it. It was finally happening!

Fast forward a week and the email arrived. THE EMAIL ARRIVED!

And she said she had to pass.

Pass? But…but…but…we were “very, very close.” Weren’t we?

Just not close enough, I guess.

The market wasn’t right for it, she said. If we’d written the book a year ago, it would be an easy sell. Now? Not so much. She encouraged us to self-publish though, and she was confident that we could sell a few thousand copies. Still, it wasn’t what we wanted to hear.

So my co-author and I drowned our sorrows in food-court macaroni and cheese. (It was the middle of the workday and the champagne was virtual — it was the best we could do.)

So close… But so far.

Want to know what stings the most about getting a rejection from that agent? The fact that she’s so awesome. We would’ve loved to work with her! She was passionate about our book, she’s knowledgeable about the industry, she’s skilled at her job, and we just genuinely like her. I honestly think she tried her best to make this project work for her, but the timing was off. As much as it sucks, it just didn’t work out for us. This time.

So while we ate carbs around a small, sticky table at the Peachtree Center food court, we hatched a plan: We’d query some more agents. We’d submit directly to a small publisher that had worked with similar projects. And if it still failed, we would self-publish our book. It’s a good book. People should have the opportunity to read it.

So today we skipped the food court and sent out a few queries instead. Hitting “send” on those emails and opening myself up to further rejection was a terrifying thing, but it’s the next step on my path to publication. It had to be done.

While I wait to hear back from those agents, I’ll be revising my YA book and preparing to send it to the two agents who requested my partial manuscript at that same conference — including the agent who turned down the MG book. Honestly, it’s going to be even scarier to send this book that’s 100 percent my own creation out into the world. It’s strange how I simultaneously can’t wait for agents to read it while also hoping they never ever read it — all because I fear the sting of rejection.

Yes, rejection is scary, but it’s part of the process.

Somehow getting a rejection has made me feel like I’m that much closer to publication, so while it stings, it’s really not that bad.

Photo: Steve Snodgrass/flickr

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7 thoughts on “The story of my first rejection

  1. Thank you for the experience! Mine wasn’t nearly as story-worthy. I sent, I received. BUT I’m still proud of myself for sending! To day I’ve received about 40 rejections across two projects and I accept that this is a low number. I’ve gone back to the drafting board with my urban fantasy to work on some pacing issues, and I will continue to keep going back to it until I get that one good email ;)

    Keep going! And yes, sometimes food-court macaroni and virtual champagne (and real champagne, let’s face it) are all that get us through ;)

  2. Hey, I say sending ONE query is something to be proud of. First of all, writing a query letter was an experience I never wanted to do again. Second of all, hitting “send”? SO. HARD. Rock on, Krista! If I had some champagne right now, I’d toast you.

  3. Laura, you absolutely rock! The end.

    (Except that I want to say how much I love your story (both the rejection shared above and the secret project share in… well… secret), your attitude, your passion and ideas. It’s only a matter of time, my friend. You’re the kind of gal that I’d want to work with for the long haul. *hugs & loves*)

    The real end.

  4. It sounds like you came quite close and that’s brilliant. Someone will pick it up if you keep at it which it sounds like you are. Can’t wait to read it one day!

  5. Awwww! Deb! You make my heart melt. I can’t wait till we go on book tours together. ;) Accio wifey!

    Thanks so much, Eva! You’ll definitely get to read it one day — even if we do self-pub.

  6. Thanks, Cally! We actually sent out a few queries this week and already heard back from a couple agents who made partial manuscript requests. Cross your fingers!

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