Friday, November 26, 2010

Goodbye Cruel World (Oh You’re Still There)

It came yesterday.

I was waiting for it.

The rejection. The thank-you-but-no-thank-you. The you’re-not-good-enough. The remove-your-begging-face-from-our-window-and-never-darken-our doors-again.

The eff-off-inconsequential-worm.

As soon as I saw the envelope, I just knew. Having been in the writing game since I was a nipper (well, on the substitute’s bench at the very least) I’ve developed a sniffer dog’s instinct for the standard rejection slip. I even told my wife to flush it down the toilet without opening it because I just knew Goddamnit.

But she made me open it. Just in case. Because that’s what you do. Just in case. Because what if it was an actual acceptance?

I opened it.

It was a thank-you-but-no-thank-you.

Gaah!

So. The first hurdle has been leapt over. My first novel has received its first rejection slip.

Do I feel gutted? Eviscerated? Suicidal?

Actually, no. I feel pretty even-keeled about it. Having fought tooth and nail to get a total of 30 poems published in my twenties I’m well aware of how many rejections you have to go through before you get the acceptance. I’d say it’s about 40-1.

With novel writing the odds are going to be longer. Well, fine. I’m hardened to it. I can take it. Right on the chin. Doesn’t mean I’m happy about it. But I’m not going to be cowed by it.

And as rejections go this was a pretty good one. The printed slip clearly stated that the agent in question was unable to give personal feedback or a personal reply. And yet at the bottom of the slip was precisely that. Personal feedback. And good feedback at that. “Very well written”, “interesting concept”. They didn’t seem much of a consolation at first but my wife has pointed out that the agent didn’t need to write any of that. They could have fobbed me off with the printed slip.

And there was more. She felt the novel progressed too slowly for her. So there’s an option for me to review it and cut cut cut perhaps? She also felt it was mainstream literary rather than genre which is where I’d placed it. So maybe I just stuck it in the wrong pigeonhole? This changes the range of agents I can now approach. Widens the field.

So. A rejection.

But more a kick up the arse than a kick in the teeth.

As rejections go, that’s not bad.



Share

59 comments:

Sarah said...

I read potential and opportunity there. Good luck!

vegemitevix said...

Maaaate! Big hug! But on the upside, don't underestimate the value of the feedback that's brilliant! All of the agents I've spoken with have said that personal feedback is like filthy lame lucre! It's gold! I'm kind of thrilled you got feedback, the mechanics can all be changed. You don't like-a this word, you can find them a nada word! Onwards and upwards. We are going to have a great big hooli when we both finally get into print. Bring it on!

Steve said...

Sarah: I read "don't give up" so I'm not going to! ;-)

Vegemitevix: I may have to frame the rejection slip then! I think I need to get it shipped out again toot-suite; get it back out of the house and fighting a corner somewhere. Bring on the hooli!

Nana Go-Go said...

My favourite author E.Annie Proulx (she of `Brokeback Mountain` fame but has written loads of better stuff, Accordion Crimes being my all time favourite book) didn`t get published for the first time until she was 54!Don`t give up, plenty of mileage in you yet!Good Luck to you.

Rol said...

Having gone through this many times (and soon to start the miserable process all over again), I can confirm that any rejection letter that goes beyond form and includes actual human feedback is to be cherished like a sweet little duckling in a field full of cowpats.

Good on you.

(I almost posted this comment with a typo - missing the 'd' off the end of 'good' - which might have changed our relationship irrevocably.)

Steve said...

Nana Go-Go: 54? 13 years to go then! Lots of room for improvement!

Steve said...

Rol: as an old hand at this game I will take your advice to heart and frame the rejection slip or at least keep it in a drawer with my other treasures. There is room for a little of your goo if you feel up to sparing any.

Gorilla Bananas said...

Yes, it sounds like an excellent first rejection. The agent actually read it, for one thing. Even the boring bits which you're going to cut out! I think you should send her a Christmas card.

Steve said...

Gorilla Bananas: I'm tempted but it might be seen as an attempt to butter her up ready for my second novel.

Very Bored in Catalunya said...

I think that's incredibly positive feedback. She complements your writing and tells you how to improve and where to place it in the market. You usually have to pay people to do that service.

Go back, re-edit, re-think it's place and package it back out there.

Steve said...

Very Bored in Catalunya: I need you to be my PA. Thank you.

Owen said...

So, just 38 more to go then...

Trish @ Mum's Gone to... said...

I can't seem to write anything longer than a blog post so I take my hat off to you that you have a novel completed. If it's even 20% as good as the writing we see here then it stands a huge chance, surely, of being accepted?

Keep plugging away my friend.

Clippy Mat said...

Steve: We all know the stories about the famed novelists who suffered rejection until....
This is a positive rejection as has been said.
I was going to say don't give up, but I don't think you will. You are a very talented writer in my opinion. And I've read books so I know!
Obviously you live and breathe to write. That will pay off. Good Luck! Onwards and upwards.
:-))

Mark said...

If you are like me, what you write is a part of you - so with rejecting the book, it can feel in away as if they are rejecting you.

But then not everyone likes everyone else - I certainly don't- and that doesn't mean they are bad or boring people; just different people with different tastes

Nota Bene said...

Yep..that's a great rejection. Personally, as HER agent, I think you should send her a cheque for that valuable advice...

Steve said...

Owen: you and I both wish. ;-)

Trish: that's very kind. Getting a novel published these days is a labour of Hercules.

Clippy Mat: with sterling support like that I can never give up!

Mark: I try to see an agent's and publisher's job as to select rather than reject. Makes it a little easier to swallow when they say no.

Nota Bene: I shall be glad to do so just as soon as I earn some money from her advice!

rb said...

Oh no! I had wondered what was happening re your novel but hadn't liked to ask cos I haven't been here as much as I should and thought perhaps I had missed something.

What a bummer. But yes, something to go on. Well, you know what I mean - I didn't mean you should piss on the letter.

I think the problem with these things - and I have had stacks of rejections with suggestions for amendment for work things - is that one person says one thing, so you change it a bit that way and then another person has an entirely different viewpoint, so you change it again and it feels like going round in circles and losing the plot.

But hopefully that won't happen to you. I hope not anyway. It wouldn't do for a novelist to lose his plot.

Steve said...

rb: it would be totally out of character for me to lose the plot I'm glad to say! ;-)

I'm going to get the novel sent back out again next week. I've wondered for a while if it needs "speeding up" - or rather bits snipped out of it - so may consider doing it just to answer my own niggles about it. But then again, a good editor will only ask you to cut, cut and cut again even after it's been accepted for publication!

London City Mum said...

Nothing like rejection to make you more determined.

You WILL be the next Nick Hornby, I have money on it.

Just remember us when you're famous.

LCM x

Expat mum said...

I would say that was a very good rejection letter. If someone is interested enough to write anything on it, then it shows s/he saw room for improvement.
I would definitely let someone else read it and see if the pace is too slow.
Keep going.

the fly in the web said...

So you're already making good use of the turn of events and turning the work round.
Encouraging that you got a human response.
Best of luck and I look forward to reading it.

Heather said...

Steve that's brilliant, I'd bet a hell of a lot of money that very few rejections get any comments on them, you obviously piqued their interest, your manuscript was clearly read - you are on the right track, just keep trying!

misssy m said...

No I think you;re right- good to get feedback like that- shows she did read it and felt good enough about it to show you where you could tighten up.

When you do- send it back to her. Purely out of courtesy of course!

When something happens too easily it's usually bogus.

Wanderlust said...

Steve, first, you've published 20 poems? Beyond impressed! And a rejections with feedback, as has been noted by so many others, is gold. You're a brilliant writer. Keep sending your work out, it will eventually get published.

libby said...

Good on you...keep at it. One day...one day....and will you still talk to us when you're rich and famous?

Steve said...

LCM: remember who? ;-)

Expat mum: thank you - I'm trying to see the positive!

The fly in the web: yes, I ought to be thankful I didn't get an automated response!

Heather: thank you... I don't doubt that along the way I shall pick up a few more rejection slips to compare this one to!

Misssy M: I feel the same. I have to work at something for it to feel real and right.

Wanderlust: thank you. I was joking about framing the rejection slip but I am now seriously considering it!

Libby: I won't but I'll send you a postcard from my Carribean retreat. ;-)

Being Me said...

A rejection with a personalised bit on it!? I'm very happy for you. Honestly, I cannot imagine you NOT being a published novelist. LCM may not be far off the mark there: next Nick Hornsby.... I like it!

And very excited for you that you have a new clue about where to place it in the market. Awesome! Celebrate your rejection! ;)

Steve said...

Being Me: I'm going to wear it with pride! :-)

EmmaK said...

Yeah as rejections go that was a pretty good one. Deep breaths. Valium. Then take the bull by the horns and edit the novel. I suppose the problem is if the story moves too slow to which parts do you use the scalpel?

Steve said...

Emma: I may have to come at it like a hairdresser and thin it out all over, layer it and then think about a couple of bangs...

EmmaK said...

@Steve....like the analogy! Just don't go too gung ho. You don't want to end up with a mullet!

Kelloggsville said...

I was listening to a radio 4 thing about how difficult is for writers like yourself to get published because of the publishers need to hard sell the A-list publishers because of the shareholder pressure etc etc. It isn't a slight on your work, it's another sign that our world is controlled by selfish bankers (that's banker with a capital W). Keep trying, when the Lord closes the door, he always opens a window somewhere (quote from Sound of Music!!)

Vintage Tea Time said...

I'm not sure if this is an apochryphal story or if it's true - but I think I'll go with the latter - I knew someone in Denmark once who got government funding for an exhibition (ah, only in Denmark....)- and his exhibition consisted of framed copies of rejection slips - and he won the Danish equivalent of the Booker /Turner prize. Keep at it! (a recurrent phrase - I'm married to a writer!)

Steve said...

Emma: just had a horrid flashback to Pat Sharp. Need to steer well clear. Might have to play it safe and go for A Flock Of Seagulls.

Kelloggsville: that's made my day. Julie Andrews is the source of all goodness and hope in the world. Proven.

Vintage Tea Time: I hope it's true. What a wonderful way to turn a negative into a positive. I might cut mine in half and display it in formaldehyde...

Fran said...

Now you're a real writer. Congratulations. Send it off again, quick, before the despair sinks in properly.

Livi said...

Good luck for the next agent!

Veronica said...

That is great feedback from the agent, well done for that!

And good luck with the next few submissions.

English Rider said...

The criticism sounds constructive and as though they might recognize your name when you send them a revised version, or something else. Bravo for publishing poems. That must have taken some balls of steel.

The Crow said...

You got personal remarks?! Hell's bells, bud, that's not a rejection as much as it is an encouragement! Good for you.

Steve said...

Fran: I feel like I've finally made it.

Livi & Veronica: thank you!

English Rider: balls of rubber... got to keep bouncing back!

The Crow: that's how I'm choosing to see it. Thank you.

Löst Jimmy said...

Having been fortunate to read your words as draft I know that you have the right potential so never ever give up - you will get there!!!

Steve said...

Löst Jimmy: your vote of confidence is much appreciated, thank you!

Crystal Jigsaw said...

Hey, this is a great post, very inspirational for any new author seeking publication, like me, for example. I know rejection is hard and I haven't been down that road yet, but I also know it will happen, and I have to be prepared for it. Crikey, that was a long sentence!!

But, remember, with every rejection comes encouragement - because it means you work harder to achieve your goal. And that in itself, is a great achievement.

Good luck, love. That letter will come before you know it and it won't be so hard to open the envelope.

CJ xx

Steve said...

CJ: for you and me both! Fingers crossed, eh?

The Sagittarian said...

Cheers, don't forget us little people will you?

Steve said...

Amanda: of course not. I shall always need people to make me cups of tea.

;-)

Suzanne said...

Bummer!Keep that chin up, and keep on sending it out, sounds like a positive rejection to me (if you know what I mean).
Good luck and may the force be with you ;)

Steve said...

Suzanne: like a true Jedi spoken that was. ;-)

lunarossa said...

So sorry for you, Steve, but I'm glad to read that you're not giving up. That's the spirit! Looking forward to have your signed book in my collection...Ciao. A.

Steve said...

Lunarossa: should it ever get published you will certainly get a signed copy!

Modern Military Mother said...

It's just pants!! Sorry mate - we have all been there! Robert the Bruce - it's the only way!! x

Steve said...

MMM: Fre-e-e-e-e-edom!!!

Or was that the other fella?

The Poet Laura-eate said...

My condolences Steve.

Trouble is you need more than a finely-crafted novel these days - you need a gimmick to put you in the spotlight first.

A fling with Anne Widdicombe (famed virgin) should do it. Lembit Opik (who tried to seduce another male friend of mine at a Game Fair)? maybe ; -)

You'll think of something. The other thing to bear in mind is that in this celebrity-obssessed culture the lion's share of any publisher's budget now goes on paying their celebrity 'authors' at the expense of the rest on their list who are getting less and less money, no matter how talented or even more scarily, established. I have a well-known historian friend who has been on TV many times and regularly fills book festival tents who is also victim of this.

Sorry that sounds incredibly depressing and I guess it is. Then again forewarned is forearmed and enables you to hopefully come up with a new strategy.

Steve said...

Laura: if it comes down to having to sleep with Anne Widdecombe, Lembit Opik or even Katie Price then I shall put down the pen and take up painting.

Organic Motherhood with Cool Whip said...

I love a personal rejection!! That sounds like a great one too! Anytime you get that kind of personal feedback, you gotta give yourself a big pat on the back, Stevie! Rock on, bro. Your novel is gonna be published. I know it.

Steve said...

Organic Motherhood with Cool Whip: thank you for the big vote of confidence!

Keith said...

Sorry, missed this one in the mush of everything, so very late in leaving a comment, but just wanted to pass on the best piece of advice I know about this kind of thing.

Rejection letters are like battle medals. Wear them with pride, be proud of them, and look forward to collecting many many more. They are your symbols of perseverance. They will be what you point to with humility when you are being interviewed by the Mann Booker panel.

They say you are still out there, fighting for what you believe in. And as long as you believe that is all that matters.

Steve said...

Keith: sage advice indeed and I shall wear my battle colours with pride as you say. I just hope I don't end up with a VC posthumously.