By now you know this publishing thing takes time, right? It’s true with the writing and editing process—don’t forget the 10,000-Hour Rule—and it’s certainly true with the process of finding an agent or publisher.
There will be lots of rejection, and that takes time too. But, kids, there are rejection letters … and then there are rejection letters. I once told a client the rejection he’d gotten was a good one; I congratulated him. “Thanks for the enthusiastic reaction to my St. Martin’s Press rejection,” he grumbled. “I’ll have to start looking at these rejections in a different light.” Oh yes. Yes, you should.
There are a lot of ways to get declined, starting with the standard it-does-not-meet-our-needs-at-this-time form letter. This rejection doesn’t even have your name on it. And what it means is exactly what it feels like: the publisher does not want to encourage you in regards to this manuscript. It is a firm no.
Remember, agents and editors track what’s selling (and what’s not selling); their jobs depend on it. If they don’t feel your manuscript will sell, if they just don’t feel any enthusiasm for it, or even if they already have something similar in the works, they don’t have time explain why; they just say no.
You’ll get a lot of these.
You might get rejections with your actual name on it. You might get rejections with some snippet of encouragement (“you’re a good writer,” say) coupled with the but it’s not right for us. Although it may not feel like much, this is a better decline than the plain ol’ form letter. Send a thank-you note back. Later, when you have something different or new, submit again.
As time goes on, you’ll join a critique group, get some feedback, tinker with the manuscript; you’ll read another book on writing, get some new ideas, start self-editing, make some other changes … and your manuscript will evolve and improve.
Now you’ll get … better rejections. :)
When an editor or agent takes time to critique your manuscript, good or bad (“weak ending” or “great writing but needs work on characterization” or “consider using first person”), that’s a good rejection. If he or she adds something like “I’d like to see it with changes” or “do you have anything else I can take a look at?” that’s a fabulous rejection.
By all means, when you get one like this, follow up right away. And then expect to wait some more. Keep working on your ten thousand hours. Start your next project. But take heart—you’re on the right track now.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”