Writing

My first rejection letter

I have received my first rejection letter! Well, it was a rejection email. Luckily I was prepared for it so didn’t become too unhinged. But it was touch and go for a few seconds.

The email plopped into my inbox last weekend. Realising it was a reply from an agent I took a deep breath and opened it, quickly scanning the text to see if there were any words which looked vaguely hopeful (words like “fabulous”, “loved it”, “offer”, “genius” etc).

But it was a standard rejection letter.

Oh.

It was, however, a very gently worded rejection and I appreciated the kindness of such sentences as “Regretfully, I do not feel that this is the right book for the Agency at this time” and “To effectively carry out my role as your literary agent, I have to fall in love with your work instantly. This makes it a very personal decision, and one which might differ from other agents, so please do not be downhearted that we cannot find a home for it on our list.

I tried very hard not to be downhearted but to be honest, I did have a momentary wobble (of the ‘I’m-not-good-enough-and-this-is-never-going-to-happen-so-I-may-as-well-give-up-and-stop-having-stupid-unrealistic-dreams-of-being-a-children’s-writer’ variety).

Thankfully this only lasted a few seconds before I remembered the 10 famous writers who were rejected before making it big post I wrote a few weeks ago and pulled myself together. If Dr Seuss’s first book And to Think I Saw it on Mulberry Street can be rejected for being “too different from other juveniles on the market to warrant selling” (note: Dr Seuss went on to become the 9th bestselling fiction author in the world), then I can bloomin’ well get over my first rejection.

There may well be other rejections imminent. Here’s the story so far:

  1. April 20th:
    I sent my first submission (two picture books) to a publisher and I am still waiting to hear back from them. However, I have since discovered that I committed the immortal sin of stapling my manuscript together. From what I can glean from advice posted on the internet, this can be enough to warrant chucking your manuscript in the bin without a moment’s hesitation. Gulp.
  2. July 14th:
    Luckily my second attempt was staple-free as I emailed one of my books to a literary agent who posted a comment on my blog. There were two problems with my approach as far as I can see: 1) the agent represented children’s authors but there were no picture books on her list, and 2) overexcited at emailing my first agent, I wrote far too much in my covering letter and was probably way too informal (and no, I am not going to post my covering letter on here – I don’t know if it’s possible to actually die from excessive cringing but if I did this I could well be the world’s first case.)
  3. July 16th:
    After receiving a rejection letter from the above agent, I regrouped and emailed both picture book manuscripts to another agency (a big one…in London…with household names on their list). This time I kept my covering letter short and sweet and professional.

So here is my foolproof, patented guide to How to Deal With Your First Rejection Letter:

Step 1: Have a momentary wobble/meltdown/existential crisis
Step 2: Decide to give up on your lifelong dream of being a bestselling author
Step 3: Feel lost and forlorn and wonder what the point is
Step 4: Ponder whether this might be a slight overreaction to one letter
Step 5: Give yourself a stern talking to
Step 6: Reread my post about hugely famous and successful authors who were rejected
Step 7: Read this post from literary agent Carly Watters explaining why agents only take on less than 1% of all queries
Step 8: Adopt stiff upper lip and send your manuscript to another agent
Step 9: Congratulate yourself on diverting a gigantic literary catastrophe (you giving up on your dream)
Step 10: Celebrate the arrival of your first rejection letter – you are now genuinely, authentically and officially, a writer!

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