You write, you edit, you submit, you file the rejection

It was pretty much what I thought would happen: my first full novel submission was rejected.

In one way it was worse than I had expected. Temporarily convinced of my own genius (if I wasn’t, just for a moment, I wouldn’t send anything, ever) I hoped, crossing fingers and toes, that they’d want to read the whole thing. They didn’t.

The upside was that I got a printed card explaining why they weren’t taking the book*. Someone had carefully written the name of my submission on a dotted line. (The same poor someone had to write my full name on the envelope.) I can stop stalking the publisher’s blog to find out if they’re still reading submissions. It might not sound like a lot but I honestly hadn’t expected them to spend the postage.

This is not one of those tortured “the bastards don’t see my genius” posts. Or it’s not supposed to be. There are 101 reasons to reject a book, starting at bad writing and ending somewhere around ‘damn, it’s good, but we’ve got something far too much like it’. Speculating about the exact reason is pointless. I’ll take the printed reason: it didn’t excite enough people. It takes time and effort to get a book to print. Someone, other than the writer, has to believe that it absolutely must get out there. I didn’t build that excitement. ‘Nuff said.

Now I sit with my half-formed list of agents and publishers and wonder where to send the novel next, and whether I should do some more work on it. Because, one the one hand, the fact that one place has rejected it doesn’t mean it’s unpublishable. We know how this works: try, try, and try again. It takes resilience. On the other hand, there’s probably something I can to do improve its chances for next time.

Re-reading the novel, at a distance of time and projects, or having someone else read it and listening to what they say, can help me figure it out what to do next. Whether you like a book or not is personal, of course. At the same time, our tastes are not entirely unique (or marketing would be impossible). If more than one person says the same thing, or picks up the same issue, chances are those are things that will irritate other people. Fixing problems doesn’t dilute the ‘vision’: it strengthens the tale, keeps people locked in, removes the barriers to engagement. So to management speak.

I have a novel. I want to send it out. Before I do, I’m spending some time deciding if I’m being honest with myself when I say that what I’ve done is the best I can do.

Writers group, an offer of reading is coming your way soon.


* If you’ve ever submitted a story for publication, long or short, you’ll recognise this as a form rejection. The publishers take the time to send something to let you know you haven’t made it, usually something quite cheering and encouraging, but they haven’t liked the piece to the point of writing a personal note. I’ve heard of agents whose form rejection is to send back your cover letter with a ‘no’ scrawled across it. That’d feel bad. My form rejection was properly nice.

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