I know that this is a subjective business. Not everyone will like this book. Readers would probably be split pretty well down the middle, so I would assume the same for people in the industry. Not every book is for every person. I totally understand that. So instead of being discouraged, I took the feedback from one agent to my readers' circle. We had a nice discussion, and did come up with a couple of edits/additions that would help from the onset of the story. (The other agent just said that the book wasn't for her.)
I know I have a long way to go before it's on the shelf, but of course part of you hopes that the first letter you get back is a glowing acceptance and offer of representation. But I've gotten lots of rejections before, because I submit short stories throughout the year.
And I've gotten lots of acceptance letters too, which is nice. When a rejection comes on a short story, it actually feels sort of good, because it means that I'm DOING it. I'm creating and submitting and taking it all seriously. So I'm treating these rejections like that. I'm doing it!
And then I just remind myself of all the successful writers who have received rejections. On really successful books even, or books that launched careers. Like Stephen King. He received dozens of rejections for Carrie. One publisher wrote, "We are not interested in science fiction which deals with negative utopias. They do not sell." William Golding's Lord of the Flies was rejected twenty times. One publisher wrote, " . . . an absurd and uninteresting fantasy which was rubbish and dull." J.K. Rowling had the first Harry Potter book rejected dozens of times. In the end, it was only picked up because the CEO's eight-year-old daughter begged him to print it. George Orwell's Animal Farm was rejected with these words: "It is impossible to sell animal stories in the USA." Frank Herbert's Dune was rejected twenty times. And one editor told Rudyard Kipling, "I'm sorry Mr. Kipling, but you just don't know how to use the English language." Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time was rejected by twenty six publishers. Kenneth Grahame's Wind in the Willows was called an "irresponsible holiday story." Judy Blume said she received nothing but rejections for over two years, Meg Cabot's The Princess Diaries was rejected seventeen times, and Lady Chatterly's Lover author D.H. Lawrence was advised, ". . . for your own sake do not publish this book."
Here are three rejection letters sent to famous authors:
Ursula K. LeGuin
Text of this letter:
The Atlantic Monthly
August 29, 1949
Dear Mr. Vonnegut:
We have been carrying out our usual summer house-cleaning of the manuscripts on our anxious bench and in the file, and among them I find the three papers which you have shown me as samples of your work. I am sincerely sorry that no one of them seems to us well adapted to for our purpose. Both the account of the bombing of Dresden and your article, “What’s a Fair Price for Golden Eggs?” have drawn commendation although neither one is quite compelling enough for final acceptance.
Our staff continues fully manned so I cannot hold out the hope of an editorial assignment, but I shall be glad to know that you have found a promising opening elsewhere.
(Signed, ‘Edward Weeks’)
So I sent out queries to eight more agents yesterday.
I'm DOING it!