Historical and Contemporary Romance Author

Musing on Monday: Bronzing My Rejection Letters

Or I would…if they weren’t all email correspondence these days :).

It goes almost without saying that rejection is one of the most difficult things authors have to endure. (The only thing harder is writing the darned book, lol.) Even published, “successful” authors get rejections from publishers. It’s the rarefied author indeed who never has to contemplate the possibility that a manuscript won’t pick up an offer of publication somewhere, sometime.

The last round of rejections I received was pretty crushing, honestly. It’s taken me a long time to get my writerly mojo back. Not because they were awful rejections suggesting I didn’t know how to write my way out of a paper bag (although a couple came remarkably close, lol) or even that they were just form letters saying thanks but no thanks. No, it was hard because, let’s face it, as an author, I have to believe my characters and my story are wonderful and worthy or I wouldn’t bother writing them in the first place. No one likes to be told the characters and story they love aren’t up to snuff.

But you know…I’m starting to change my mind. While I don’t think I’ll ever be happy to get a rejection letter, I’ve decided I’d prefer for them to tell me forthrightly that my book/writing isn’t good enough for them to invest their hard-earned cash in than say that and then suggest I invest my hard-earned cash instead. I’d rather get an honest “You’re not there yet with this book, but keep working,” than “maybe you’ll rise to the top through self-publishing and then we’ll see the error of our ways.”

There’s been a lot of talk the last few days about agents and editors and the gatekeeper function and how that might be keeping readers from getting books they really want. That may be true in a handful of cases. I’m sure there are books out there that get rejected by publishers that would be blockbusters if they’d just gotten a contract and appropriate backing. But those books are few and far between. And more to the point, just because there are books like that our there doesn’t mean MINE is necessarily the diamond that editors just can’t see through the rough. As a reader, there are still plenty of books that are published that aren’t my cup of tea, but without that gatekeeper function to vet books for some level of quality, I think there’d be far more sub-par books published, not thousands of overlooked diamonds.

The publisher is right when it rejects a manuscript that the book isn’t “right” for the publisher. That doesn’t have to mean the writing sucks or that it’s a bad book, just that there are a lot of books being published and this book doesn’t really make the cut in terms of fighting for readers and shelf space. I’m honestly okay with that…as long as you don’t tell me to turn around and claw for the shelf space on my own dime, especially when you know the likelihood of my finding that shelf space is slim to none.

Anyway, I just want to let all the editors at all the publishing houses out there know that I will henceforth treasure every rejection letter. I will hate being rejected just as much as ever, but I appreciate your honesty in evaluating my manuscripts and deciding they’re just not there yet. Because that just means I know next time, I have to try to write a better book.


  • Melissa Blue November 23, 2009 at 6:23 pm

    I think that is a hard rejection to swallow. The writing is good, but the book is meh. At the same time it’s almost a backwards compliment. (Yes, I’m mining here.) You can do better. There’s a misconception that once you’re published or reached a certain level of writing everything you shoot out will be golden.

    Sometimes you have to dig a little deeper for the book with Zing.

    Great post.

  • Evangeline November 24, 2009 at 5:36 am

    A very practical response to rejection. However…

    as long as you don’t tell me to turn around and claw for the shelf space on my own dime, especially when you know the likelihood of my finding that shelf space is slim to none.

    is a zinger in light of the conversations occurring on twitter.

    I think that stance is much too dogmatic regarding non-traditional publishing outlets. Okay, self- and e- aren’t seen as viable models for your career, but it doesn’t invalidate that others feel those routes are right for their careers.

    One thing I got from the discussion (not simply you, but a few others), was a hardline view against anything non-NY, yet there was little knowledge about the independent publishing market in all its facets (from typesetting to hand-selling). I also don’t think that this is an “either/or” topic: I find that all methods of publication can compliment one another.

    It’s merely frustrating for conversation about “going indie” to be shut down because many feel supporting non-traditional avenues is “traitorous” to pursuing traditional publication, and that those on the “indie” side are inherently hostile towards New York publishers. There are no lines being drawn. Sure, there are some hardcore believers in self-publishing, but they are only that way because their path to publication is seen as a cop-out and any discussion raised about it comes with dukes up.

    A discussion and explanation about self-publishing (meaning, you own your rights, you contract the art work, typesetting, and distribute your book through your own imprint/publisher) is not a battle for your career path. Most of the time, self-publishers are frustrated because few truly understands the model, and as a result, makes speculative claims about its chances for success and its business mode–and many of those few refuse to learn because it “isn’t real publishing”.

    Ultimately, whatever a writer chooses is their own decision. To grow defensive and combatant over a different format is counterproductive to the romance genre, and to writers as a whole. This is not an NY versus indie argument.

    • Jackie Barbosa November 24, 2009 at 9:55 am

      /Sigh. I meant don’t refer me to a vanity press (even one you don’t own). I can’t think why ANY publisher would feel the need to tell me that self-publishing, and keeping 100% of the profits, is an option.

      I’ve been rejected by digital pubs a time or two, by the way. I’d be just as offended if they recommended I pay to play as any NY house.

      That is all :).

  • Evangeline November 24, 2009 at 5:39 am

    Gah…typos. Knew I should have proofread before I hit submit:

    understand the model, and as a result, make speculative claims

  • Amie Stuart November 28, 2009 at 2:42 pm

    >>The writing is good, but the book is meh. At the same time it’s almost a backwards compliment.

    Mel agreed…but I think it’s more/truly a matter of “not to my taste” in this case. I’ve gotten these and that’s all I can think. I still find them a bit weird but (I guess) it’s better (less hurtful) than ‘we don’t know how to market this.’


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