Every aspiring writer is told she is going to have to learn to deal with rejection, that rejection is simply a normal part of the road to publication. I’d read how Stephen King hammered a big ol’ railroad spike into his wall and then hung rejection after rejection on the spike till they pulled it out of the wall. Jo Rowling was told to get a day job because of the unlikelihood she could make money in children’s books. Twenty-six publishers rejected the future Newberry Medal-winning A Wrinkle in Time. Gone with the Wind? Rejected by 38 publishers.
I knew I’d experience rejection as I pursued publication; I braced myself for it.
It still hurt.
I’ll admit that with Truest, what will be my debut YA novel, I made it through the gauntlet rather easily. But please remember that, prior to Truest, I’d poured four years of my life into a novel that never even got an agent. I sent out maybe forty queries, and one agent asked to read the manuscript. Then kindly said no and suggested edits.
Four years is a lot of your life, time, energy, emotions. Your heart.
I actually started writing Truest while waiting to hear back from literary agents regarding Lights All Around. When the onslaught of rejections came, I was protected– cushioned– from the sting by the excitement I had for my new project. That taught me to fill my waiting time with work.
I’ve heard of authors receiving very cruel rejections, but those I received were quite cordial. In fact, a couple of them sounded more like a yes than a no.
From an agent:
Thank you so, so much for your giving me the chance to consider TRUEST, even so late in the game! I appreciate it more than you know. I came away from Big Sur so impressed by you, certain that you have the authorial (and editorial) eye, the professionalism, and the charming/witty personality to be incredibly successful in this industry. And now that I’ve had a chance to read your work, I’m even more impressed and even more certain. You are a truly talented writer, with a masterful command of language and of your characters. You make it look effortless, like the best of the best do. All of your characters are fully round and compelling, and your depiction of small town teen life is vivid and fully engaging. I even spent a good half hour trying to find the August Arms radio program because it sounded so marvelous and right up my alley!However, after much soul-searching and late night agonizing, and with so much regret, I’m afraid I don’t feel I’m the right agent for TRUEST. I get lost in your writing in the best way, and I believe TRUEST is about something (which I mean as high praise). […] I will be first in line to buy my copy of TRUEST.
It’s always such a pleasure reading the submissions you send my way and TRUEST was certainly no exception. This is a powerful contemporary story with a cast of layered yet relatable characters. I’m going to pass because I struggled to connect the complicated chronology of the framework but I recognize that there is definitely something special here. West and Silas (what fantastic names!) form a magnetic relationship and their stark differences play off each other with vigor. The dark tension lurking beneath the surface of the storyline is captivating and makes for a compelling read.
These kind, gentle rejections are interesting to process. They are encouraging, on the one hand, but on the other: they’re still a no.
I feel terrifically blessed in regard to Truest. I queried my first round of YA agents on July 11, 2013, and Steven Chudney offered me representation on August 7, less than one month later. (By the way, as I look at the dates now, I’m shocked that it took less than one month– it felt like about four.) Steven suggested some edits, and I returned the manuscript to him on September 9. Steven sent the manuscript out into the world on September 16. November 12, Steven told me that Jill Davis at HarperCollins loved my story and would be sharing it with her boss. November 20, HarperCollins made me a two-book offer.
Those four months and nine days felt so much longer than that. Remember that while things were cooking with Steven– and later, with Jill– I was still getting rejections.
30 rejections from literary agents
4 rejections from editors
Anyway, I realize that this is a meandering post about rejection. I can be done now. Except that I want to say that rejection is hard. It hurts so bad to have someone turn down your “baby” (novel, short story, memoir, etc.). Those four months and nine days felt like I’d willingly hopped aboard the Rollercoaster of Agony and Anticipation. But they were worth it because now my dreams are coming true!
P.S. Check out literaryrejections.com for some amazing facts about books that endured rejection to eventually become bestsellers.
P.P.S. Click here to learn more about my novel Truest.