A few thoughts on Rejection
I have been meaning to do this for some time, but finally I sat down this morning and counted up how many times my manuscript of The Poet’s Wife was rejected before being taken on by Bookouture.
Ok, are you ready for this?
83 times. Eighty-three times. Eighty. Three. No matter which way I write it, it’s still 83.
That’s 83 cover letters, 83 times of pouring hope into each letter I sealed and sent out. There is a photo I remember well that my husband Andy took of me about nine years ago. I am on my bicycle, next to a bright-red letterbox in Cambridge, about to post my first tranche of manuscripts out to agents. I have a huge smile on my face and I wonder if I knew then, what I know now, that I was to be rejected 83 times if I would have continued. Possibly not.
Of the eighty-three times, about five literary agents asked for the full manuscript. This, of course, intensified my hopes as I tried not to, yet couldn’t help but play out possible scenarios and what-if’s in my mind, only serving to make their ultimate rejection more crushing.
Here’s where The Poet’s Wife started, ideas and pictures and family trees and notes stuffed into this little book I carried around with me whilst the characters and story began to come alive:
I lived and breathed Spain and as I raked up leaves in the garden of my uncle’s house I was looking after in rural Suffolk, I turned conversations of the characters round and round in my head. One child, a second, a third, my writing was an anchor and a refuge and I kept getting rejected. Yet I kept coming back to it, time and again.
I’ve asked myself this question so many times. I put my manuscript aside so many times, to work on short stories, to start another novel, to develop Magic Pencil (creative writing for kids). But I couldn’t let it go. Here’s the reason why:
Ultimately, no matter what people told me: that there was no market for this, that it wasn’t good enough, that I needed to write something else, I just didn’t believe them. Each time I went back to the manuscript, I knew it still needed work and yet I did believe there was a market for it and I did believe it was good enough. I think this is the crux of this whole thing, that you have to believe in your writing till you are blue in the face. You have to fight your corner. If you don’t believe in your art, whatever it is that you have created, then how can you expect anybody else to?
It’s a cliche, I know it is, but the cream always rises to the top in the end, doesn’t it. Make it as good as it possibly can be, don’t send it out too soon (a mistake I think I made many times) and be brazen. BELIEVE in it.
Next blog, I’ll write about two things I did in the final year before submitting to Bookouture that I am almost certain contributed towards my publishing deal.
My story is similar but different. I never had the persistence you had — I would give up after about ten or so rejections, and write a new book. And I would forget the old one completely. Yet still, with every novel I wrote, I poured myself into the writing, just as you did. I’m just not at all good at the whole agent-and-publisher merry-go-round. But what a relief to end up with Bookouture, right?
Hi Sharon, Somehow I managed to miss this comment of yours till now. Yes, for sure, so good to be with Bookouture and to be taken seriously as a writer! I can’t wait to read your new book – the cover is wonderful.
That is some inspiring post. I’ve been rejected many times, I’ve given up counting, but finally finding the world of Indie publishing have got my women’s fiction and my books for kids out there.For some of us it’s a long and hard journey, but believing in my characters and longing for them to be out in the world was the incentive to keep me going.
Hi Misha, good to hear from you. That’s absolutely brilliant you are now getting your books out there – it is such a convoluted journey, isn’t it? But you’re right, belief in your characters and your story is key and if that belief is there, it will shine through and you will find readers. Just popping over now to check out your blog. Best wishes
Congratulations, Rebecca! I love how you say that you have to be brazen about believing in yourself. Very inspiring post.
Thanks so much Gauri, and for reading it 🙂 Yes, it’s important just to keep going and to have self-belief!