Thursday, June 28, 2012

Reject letters

I suspect there are very few authors who have not felt the pain of a reject letter. And no matter how many books an author has published, it does hurt intensely to have the latest baby rejected.

Crying and eating chocolate is permitted on such an occasion. Bad-mouthing the publishing house/agent/editor who rejected the book is not. Publishing is a small industry and everyone knows everyone else. Scream at home. Throw things if that helps. Be polite in public. And “public” includes online.

Once the first agony is out of your system, read the reject letter carefully. Has advice been given? A reason for the rejection? Did you read the submissions page for that company carefully? Maybe your book is perfectly good, but was too long or too short or not the genre they’re looking for at present.

If the letter mentions something that you agree should be changed, think carefully about changing it before submitting the book elsewhere. If it didn’t fit the submissions guidelines be sure to read them much more attentively before submitting in future. If no reasons are given, just get on with your day and submit the book elsewhere, or self-publish it.
And to cheer you up, here are some famous rejection letters: 

Carrie by Stephen King
If it hadn't been for Stephen King's wife, Tabitha, the iconic image of a young girl in a prom dress covered in pig's blood would not exist. King received 30 rejections for his story of a tormented girl with telekinetic powers, and then he threw it in the trash. Tabitha fished it out. King sent his story around again and, eventually, Carrie was published. The novel became a classic in the horror genre and has enjoyed film and TV adaptations as well. Sometimes all it takes is a little encouragement from someone who believes in you.

Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

The only book that Margaret Mitchell ever published, Gone With the Wind won her a Pulitzer Prize in 1937. The story of Scarlett O'Hara and Rhett Butler, set in the South during the Civil War, was rejected by 38 publishers before it was printed. The 1939 movie made of Mitchell's love story, which starred Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh, is the highest grossing Hollywood film of all time (adjusted for inflation).

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle

The publishing house of Farrar, Straus and Giroux was smart enough to recognize the genius in L'Engle's tale for people of all ages. Published in 1962, the story was awarded the prestigious Newbery Medal the following year. Wrinkle remains one of the best-selling children's books of all time, and the story of precocious children and the magical world they discover was adapted for television in 2001. Still, L'Engle amassed 26 rejections before this success came her way.

Helen Woodall

Helen is available to line edit and/ or content edit fiction and non-fiction. Rates on application.


Amber Skyze said...

Great advice. Rejections hurt, but screaming about it online will only cause you to get more!

Helen Woodall: Freelance Editing said...

Exactly, Amber!

anny cook said...

Excellent advice!

Janis said...

Great post, Helen. Rejections still hurt, but I've learned not to take them personally.

Helen Woodall: Freelance Editing said...

Hi Janis and Anny. Thanks for dropping by.