Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Why I Love Rejection Letters!

Sort of...

The first time that I entered into the process of querying a book I had no idea how difficult it would be. Over the course of a week I honed my life story, as well as that of my characters, into less than 350 words for the perfect query letter asking agents if they would like to read more. I was prepared to research various agents, I was open to the idea of revisions, but I was not prepared for the rejection letters.

It was only twelve hours before the first one filtered in. That I could handle. I was smart enough to know that my book wouldn't be for everyone, but surely it was for someone, right? Amidst the next few letters there were little beams of hope that kept me going.

Over five months of querying I sent out 55 letters. In return there were 31 rejection letters and 17 never responded. I did receive five requests to read additional material, but all of them eventually turned into a dreaded, though polite, rejection letter. The day that I received four of those letters at once, was my darkest day since I had started writing. I felt that no one wanted to read what I had spent months writing. Don't worry, I did get over it and realized that my masterpiece hadn't been as good as I had thought. When you fail, it is time to try again.

So what has changed in the past seven months of no querying? Why, on my second time around, do I now love those little letters that fall into my inbox only to tell me 'no thanks'? Don't get me wrong, I wish that I would get an offer of representation and I still might, the process is far from over for my second book. But I've now come to value the agents who understand how hard it was to write a book and how nerve wracking it is to send out a query and never hear back.

That is the new normal in this business. Agent's are too busy to respond to each query. Some of them get hundreds of these letters every month. Most of the letters, I understand, are unprofessional and even rude at times. It takes real dedication, to a writer that you are rejecting, to then send them a letter to let them know that they should keep trying.

This is why I've now come to love rejection letters, even the standard 'Dear Author' ones. Those agents who make the time to say something as brief as 'Not for me' are at least kind enough to not leave me in the dark.

This blog isn't a negative response to those who never get back to me, I understand how difficult their jobs already are without taking that extra time out of their lives. I've also heard that those who respond get more negative e-mails back than the 'no response means no' agents. No, this blog is about saying thank you to those who do send me a rejection letter so that I don't have to keep guessing or wonder if it never got to them in the first place.

I wish that I could post the very kind rejection letter that I received today that inspired me to write this. But when I teeter on the question of being professional, I prefer to be overly secretive instead of sharing too much.

What I can tell you is that it wasn't a form sent out to hundreds of others and I loved the little typo that stood out on the second line. It reminded me that there was a human on the other end. When he/she opened that letter from me they wanted to fall in love with my book. It isn't their fault that they didn't. Some days it helps when I am reminded that no one wants me to fail and one day I will get The Call. I just have to stay positive and keep trying.


Lindsay-I won
Kris-He won (but didn't make the official mark of 50,000)

Next time-Why the event helped both of us!


  1. In North Dakota, we make fun of people who have the "It could be worse..." stories. But let me share one anyway. In 2001, I unexpectedly found myself without a job. I was a mid-level manager for a large utility company and had become pretty smug about my position and the twice a year raises when suddenly I found myself without a job. I was the sole breadwinner for my family of four. Talk about a punch to the belly. I couldn't mentally or physically stand being without a job. So I immediately began submitting my resumes to energy companies throughout the United States. I was willing to do just about anything. I got very few phone calls wanting me to come for an interview, but most weeks all I got was rejection letters. I was over qualified, under-qualified, didn't have the right background, etc. As you know, everything turned out. I was without a job for a short three months, but it seemed like a long three months at the time. Within a year, I was back in the energy business and currently hold a better position than the one I lost in 2001. Best of all, I didn't have to relocate my family who definitely didn't want to move away from their friends. The lessons I learned are this - what seemed like a long time really wasn't, perseverance is an important attribute, knock on many doors and the right door will open. Take the rejections letters in stride. And keep writing and honing your skills.

  2. Steve-I was so shocked when you lost your job that year. I'd always thought that if a person found a good job, worked hard and was devoted to the people who gave them a paycheck, they'd never have to worry again.

    What happened to you was a very early wake up for me. We have to be actively involved in creating our own futures and willing to accept a few curve balls along the way. I'm so happy that in the end, your hard work paid off! Here's hoping the it works out for us too!

  3. It you sow, so shall you reap. It never fails.