Friday, 21 May 2010

Rejection blues

Recently I came across this helpful hint on a parking ticket dispenser in Islington:

If inoperative you may use another machine, if one is available

Something about this reminded me of literary agents, and the things they say when they are trying to be encouraging while rejecting your novel. On this blog I generally avoid the subject of agents, especially anything critical - after all, I'd like one of my very own, so it makes no sense to snipe at them. But today I am sharing with you a few quotes from various rejections for Heart of Rock, and you'll see why I'm a little discouraged as I get on with my third wave of submissions.

I have to admit to liking your writing, however... : oh, all right, then.

I think you write brilliantly. Unfortunately I'm not convinced a publisher will buy it: this might make a lesser woman want to give up.

Books about rock stars are notoriously difficult to sell: I bet you didn't know that either.

We both found it well-written and compelling, but regret to say it is simply not the sort of thing we are looking for at the moment: *sniff*

I think you are a terrific writer and if you decide to write anything else, I would love to see it: a crumb of hope, I guess. Press on with book number 4.

You might like to try other agencies for a different response from ours: Now there's an idea. I'll just go and do that, then.


  1. Oh Lexi

    I am so sorry but, but, but!! It's a favourable and rave rejection! It is!! At least they confirm that you are a terrific writer. And you are.

    I didn't know that books about rock stars don't sell. Blimey.

    Nevermind - book four - press onwards and upwards and take heart - there is a crumb there thrown to you - more so than most others - keep it safe!!!

    GOOD LUCK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Take care

  2. Keep going! Maybe avoid rock stars, at least for a while.

  3. Kitty, I can't take the rock star thing too seriously - after all, every book is different. It's like saying, I've known a couple of novels with dogs in them that sold disappointingly, so I won't take on any more books involving dogs.

    Hi Robert, welcome to my blog! At last it's nice weather for bees and peas.

  4. Well, hey, at least it's better than a form rejection, right?

    I find it hard to believe that no one wants to read about rock stars. Are you querying in the US or just the UK? A friend of mine just got a novel published here about a rock band. It has a vampire in it, however.

    Perhaps you could make your hero(ine) a vampire rock star?

  5. (Just kidding, of course.) I think I heard somewhere that John Grisham submitted his first book something like 300 times before it was published, because no one wanted to publish a novel about lawyers.

  6. Christine, I really like the idea of making Ric a vampire; though the poor chap has troubles enough already to contend with...

    Towards the end of the book, when Ric's been beaten up, and faces meeting hordes of journalists, he asks Caz how he looks. She says, 'You look like the hero of a vampire romance, handsome, dangerous and a bit ill.'

    If I didn't have a day job, I'd be tempted to write an alternative vampire version and see how that went.

  7. Very encouraging rejections.

    NY Times bestselling author James Rollins was rejected about 500 times (relying on memory here) and he would be grateful for any handwritten note. On one he saw a bit of handwriting; it said, "unpublishable." The was for his first story in the W'itch Fire series (published as James Clemens).

    Keep at it. Someone will say yes.

  8. Goodness me - I'm not sure there are 500 agents in England.

    I too am pleased by a personal rejection, but my feeling is they are getting rarer as agents are more pressured.

  9. At least you know your writing is good but it must be so disheartening to keep getting rejections.

    I didn't see this in my google reader, so I left and rejoined your followers. I think I confused the widget.

  10. Fairy, there are now two of you following my blog, which I think is rather spooky, like that Hans Christian Anderson story about the shadow that took over...

  11. Which one is me and which one is the shadow? Ooooo! *spooky noises*

  12. OooOOoooOOOOooooOOOOoooooOOOOOoooooo!!!

    Gah! What was that?

    Not...scary fairyhedgehog 2?


  13. Hey Lexi - thanks for sharing this - I found it really interesting to read your rejections, and some of these actually sound quite encouraging - although I suppose close but no cigar probably hurts more than no chance in hell but I wouldn't really know as it's been a few years since I subbed - all my rejections back then were form ones. I'm about to go in again once I've got my synopsis sorted. Anyway, chin up - if nothing else you got a good blog post out of it!

  14. Hi Lexi, at least you seem to be getting some kind of personalised comments back. That is a step up from the mire of form rejections.

    Most of mine seem to be along the lines of "not right for us at this time". A few preface that with "although your project is interesting", but I'm not sure if that is personalisation or just something they always say.

    Chin up! It seems the industry demands huge persistence, and a generous dose of luck to connect with the right agent at the right time.

  15. James, a miss is as good as a mile, but I've read that agents don't write nice things in personal rejections unless they mean them, which is something. But I've certainly had my share of form rejections too. Good luck with your submissions.

    Botanist, I've come to the same conclusion as you; one needs to write a good book, then get lucky. And keep pegging away...

  16. Hi Lexi.

    Except for the last, which is a form reject, IMHO these are "good" rejects, which is to say they only 99% suck.

    I like Christine's suggestion that you should consider US agents too. I can't work out why so many writers in the English language restrict themselves to their own country.

  17. I suppose because I feel Americans on the whole prefer books with American characters; and a USA agent might wonder why one wasn't approaching UK agents; and the submission process is quite different, and I'd have to master that.

    But it's a thought.

  18. Hi Lexi
    Comfort yourself with the knowledge that your writing skills are not only good enough to get you such positive rejections, but you're also outperforming everyone in the Islington Council Highways Department!
    For me, it isn't the rock star who makes me want to read Heart of Rock; it's Caz. Books with strong, female main characters are notoriously easy to sell!
    I know you'd send it me electronically if I asked, but I want to read the book while sitting in the sun, or lying on the sofa, or tucked up in bed. Not on my laptop's screen. So come on agents and publishers: I want to buy this book!


  19. As an American reader, I can say that I definatly do not prefer my characters to be American. I like books about experiences I DON'T have, not ones about me. Do I prefer books by authors from other countries? I think so. My favorites are all English.

  20. Interesting, Jane. I was brought up on Little Women and What Katie Did, and still enjoy American novels about Americans.

    In the bath this morning, I wondered if I should re-write my rock star as an American, to increase its international appeal. I concluded this would put too much of a burden on my two American writer friends...

  21. Yeah, I kind of forgot that as a UK author, it'd be a bit difficult to do a book tour in the US. Silly me.

    However, the dream of my life is to be famous enough to own a castle in the UK and do my writing there. I hear Nicholas Cage has a few to spare.

  22. Yes, a small castle would be nice. A turret room, with views of rolling green countryside...

    Here only the most famous authors do book tours, I think. And as for signings, check out:

  23. Christine, except for the minor issue of flying in, there's no extra effort required for an overseas author to tour the US. Where there might be a slight difference is, a local might do a few small tours throughout the year whereas if you fly in you'll do One Big Tour.

    But really, it's not that big a difference, and I can tell you it's a pleasure to meet in the flesh people you've only known over the internet.

    I'm an Australian author. I was there for Bouchercon last year, and I'll be doing a book tour of the US in October/November this year.

  24. Gary, how exciting!

    Will you be touring England, London in particular? I'd like to come to a book signing.

  25. Lexi, I would kill for a chance to do a British tour.

    Actually, come to think of it, that's almost by definition since I write murder mysteries, but...

    For it to make sense to do a UK tour I first need some nice publisher in the UK to buy the British rights. In Britain the book's for sale on, and on, but won't appear as a British edition on physical store shelves without a local publisher.

    St Martin's Press has the US rights, Penguin has the Australian rights, but no one's bought the British (not yet anyway...hurry now while stocks last!).

    If it does sell I can totally promise I'll be there. My family will insist. We visited London last year and had a wonderful time.

  26. American rock star? Lexi, you just say the word and I will pass on everything I know about being an American rock star. Shouldn't take long.

  27. Gary, it can surely be only a matter of time?

    Alan, what a kind offer. You know about guitars and...all sorts of other stuff, no doubt. Americanizing a main character's dialogue would be quite an undertaking (I believe one has to drag asses into everything) but should it have to be done, I shall be calling on your expertise.

  28. Excuse me, but all Americans do not season their conversations with "asses". A goodly number of Americans certainly are asses, but one can sound like a Yank without resorting to gratuitous profanity.

    I must now get my ass back in gear and see if I can crank out another 500 goddamn words on this f_ _ king book.

  29. You see? I knew you could do it!

    There is no English equivalent to getting one's ass in gear. What a strange expression....

  30. Come to think of it, when you look at the expression with the revealing eye of dispassionate analysis, "Get my ass in gear" sounds potentially painful. Or at least greasy.

  31. To me it sounds as if altogether too much is being expected of a humble pack animal...

  32. Then there's the difficulty of writing about the ass of an ass.

  33. Surely "pull yer finger out" is pretty close to "get your ass in gear", and I'm fairly sure that is an English expression.

  34. In English children's stories of fifty years ago one comes across expressions like, 'Don't be a silly ass'.

    Not any more, now we all watch American films and TV shows.