Author Topic: Do remember your first rejection?  (Read 1073 times)  

Offline carlhackman

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Do remember your first rejection?
« on: March 06, 2018, 05:04:46 AM »
Hi all,

I was considering my journey so far and one thing popped into my head that I hadn't thought about in a long time, and that was my first ever rejection. If had known then what I know now perhaps my writing journey might have been very different.

It was 1996 and I had just been discharged from the Royal Navy with a broken back.  I decided to try and write a novel. I'd spent most of my life reading, especially at sea, and I had always wondered what it would feel like to see my name on the cover of a book. I never thought it would happen, after all I'd been a poor school student, and only clever and talented people could write a book, couldn't they?

I picked a subject that I loved; I'd always had a passion for animals and loved William Horwood's Duncton Wood series. I started to write a novel called Jaguar.

Here is the blurb for it:

"Valaria is young, in prison and pregnant. She is also a Jaguar.

The brutal slaying of her mate prompts her audacious escape from an illegal predator collection on the edge of Exmoor Forest, England. Heavily frequented by humans, the woodland presents an even more dangerous proposition than her natural home in the lush rain forests of South America. But Valaria finds an unexpected, and unlikely, ally in the form of a local shepherd and animal rights defender, Tom Smith.

Her captor and tormentor, Edward Forsyth, is in hot pursuit and must track Valaria down and kill her, or risk spending the rest of his life behind bars if his illegal collection of predators is discovered. For Edward this is not an option and his greatest desire is to hang her head on his trophy room wall.

Putting herself between the barrel of a gun and her offspring to ensure their freedom may be her only option.
"

I did a lot of research about jaguars and visited a local zoo so that I could get close and personal with the cat. The owners of the zoo at Sparkwell, just outside Plymouth were really helpful when they found out I was writing a novel and had the cat's keeper give us a tour and a talk about the jaguar. To me this was amazing, a very authory thing to be doing LOL. Remember, I was very new to this writing game; naive and excited.

I sat at home with all my research and started typing on an old electronic typewriter with a copy of the Writers and Artists Yearbook sat on the table. I also had a couple of magazines which talked about the craft of writing and who to submit your shiny new novel to. I spent several days thinking about what I wanted to write about. I'd always hated the idea of these rich people who hunted animals just to decorate themselves and their homes. I also wasn't a fan of people who thought that they could capture these beautiful creatures and keep them in cages as living trophies. So, the story of Valaria grew in my head.

I sat and wrote the first three chapters and was so excited that I'd managed to achieve that small victory. I knew at that point that I wanted to be a writer for a living; yes there is that naive bit again LOL. So, the stupid part of me, which rears its head fairly often, decided that what I really needed was a literary agent or an editor to help me shape the novel. I sent the first three chapters off to one of the big five (can't remember exactly which one, but it may have been Harper Collins). While it sat in their slush pile--they had slush piles in 1996--I carried on writing.

After a while, when I was half way through the novel, around chapter 16-17, my manuscript came back with a rejection slip. I was pretty gutted, but I didn't realize that what I had in my hand was golden. The rejection slip wasn't a form rejection, it was a very nice personalized one that said she loved my writing, but wanted to see more from jaguar's point of view. If I had known then what I did now I would have dove back into the manuscript and worked it using the advice of this big 5 editor. But, I decided that I need to get a job and earn some money rather than try and scrape by on my military pension. Jaguar was stuffed into a drawer and I taught myself how to be a computer programmer. I got a job and that was that, until in 2003 we decided to move out here.

Fast forward 8 years and while having a shower an idea popped into my head that revolved around an inept young wizard who lives in a realm where a wizard's power is dictated by his height, and promotion is given in inches; they also take inches away when demoting you for mistakes. Gerald being who he is is never going to have a smooth ride trying to become a great wizard. I jumped onto my pc and had written the first draft within 6 months. I then revised it time and again until I started to send it out--I'd finally learned about the correct way to query agents and publishers by then and I still feel embarrassed when I thought back to my initial foray into the publishing world with JAGUAR. GERALD was finally published in May 2017. Since then I've finished JAGUAR, written the sequel to GERALD; written a free prequel short story and am half way through an Anglo Saxon novel.

I still think back to that rejection slip I received in 1996 and wonder what might have happened if I had known what a nugget I had then. A personalized rejection with advice on how to improve the chapters I'd sent. I've had plenty of rejections since then from agents, but I carried on and finally got a yes from a publisher for GERALD.

Can you remember your first rejection, and were you as naive as me when it came to querying agents and publishers?
JAGUAR: 100%

GERALD AND THE THREE PRINCESSES: 100%

WILFRID: 50%
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Offline Mark Gardner

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Re: Do remember your first rejection?
« Reply #1 on: March 06, 2018, 05:20:21 AM »
Heck yeah. I keep all my rejections. When I get to 296 pages of rejections, I plan to publish them as a non-fiction book.

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Re: Do remember your first rejection?
« Reply #2 on: March 06, 2018, 09:04:21 AM »
I've submitted to a grand total of 1 agent and 0 publishers. It was my very first novel, back in about 1991. I dutifully looked in Writer's Market at the library and found the names of agents who represented fantasy, picked one, I don't remember if I queried and they asked for the full manuscript or if I just sent the whole manuscript (this was back when you had to print it all out and put it in a box and mail it) (this was almost three decades of child-rearing ago, so I don't remember much of anything about it :P). I got an encouraging rejection back, don't remember what it said besides the plot was hard to define; I don't know if I still have the letter or not. I kinda wish I could find it, see if there's anything in it I can use.

In the meantime, while I was waiting for a response, I had clued in to the fact (from reading Writer's Digest?) that to get accepted, what I wrote had to not only be good but had to be something an agent or editor thought would sell. So when I got the letter back, I figured maybe there was hope for my second book, so I set about changing it to be more like the fantasy novels in the book stores. And totally ruined it. At that point, I gave up on the idea of publishing. Changing my books in an attempt to please agents and publishing house editors wasn't something I was interested in doing. I kept writing on and off for fun, with a vague idea in mind that I would try again for publishing if I ever wrote something I thought would be "publishable."

Fast forward about 20 years, I found out about Smashwords and KDP. I hauled that mess of an unfinished second novel out of the trunk on my hard drive, cobbled together a complete manuscript, revised the ever-lovin' daylights out of it to make it what *I* wanted it to be, and published it as my first self-published novel. My very first novel and its sequel are printed out in binders, waiting for revision and a third book to make it a trilogy.


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Offline m.a. petterson

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Re: Do remember your first rejection?
« Reply #3 on: March 06, 2018, 01:42:50 PM »
Yes, I remember my first rejection and many more that followed. Helped to build a thick skin and keep me from worrying too much about stinkaroo reviews.


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Offline CelinaSummers

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Re: Do remember your first rejection?
« Reply #4 on: March 06, 2018, 01:58:50 PM »
You never forget a rejection, especially not your first. My first rejection was much kinder than I deserved, more than likely, but then I was 18 at the time and knew no better.

I had no idea there were more painful rejections lurking out there like Russian bots, like the ones that read:

Quote
"Oh I loved this story! I love this character! I love the writing style and voice!

But we don't know where to shelve this book, so we're going to have to pass."

Those types of no-mails make my first rejection look like a major award from Fragile sitting in my front window.

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Offline Marty South

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Re: Do remember your first rejection?
« Reply #5 on: March 06, 2018, 02:24:42 PM »
No. If prompted, I can recall some encouraging words and some phone calls--things that built my confidence and strengthened my resolve. But I generally prefer to look forward.

Offline Mercedes Vox

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Re: Do remember your first rejection?
« Reply #6 on: March 06, 2018, 02:29:02 PM »
The first work I ever submitted for publication was a 9,000-word short story. It was accepted by a now-defunct niche press (Alyson). I received the contract in the mail, but the terms were so unfavorable that I didn't sign and mail it back. My story was published in that anthology anyway. The editor of that anthology is still working for another press, which I choose to avoid for obvious reasons.
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Offline Rosie Scott

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Re: Do remember your first rejection?
« Reply #7 on: March 06, 2018, 04:00:18 PM »
You said that you finished Jaguar, but you didn't mention if you plan to publish it. Do you? It sounds interesting and unique!

I remember my first rejection because it was my only rejection. The novel in question was by far from my only finished manuscript at the time. I think I was fourteen or so when I wrote the book according to the specifications of the publisher's requirements. I was relieved when I received the rejection because I wasn't proud of the book. I'd always been turned off by publishing with traditional publishers because I need total creative control over everything (including covers), and writing according to a set of rules did not sit well with me. That book to this day is my least favorite of anything I've ever written in any genre. It was generic and forgettable. I didn't have creative freedom, and it was terribly obvious.

I will always be a writer because I've always been a writer. But if it weren't for self-publishing, I wouldn't be in the business of selling what I write. I don't view rejections as a terrible thing for authors because it seems to me that they reject the most interesting and unique ideas. There are entire subgenres that were practically created by indie authors because readers will buy what traditional publishers never thought they would. If that woman's advice for you on Jaguar would help improve the novel, by all means, use it. But at the end of the day, it's your story, and her opinion is just that: an opinion. It's possible that by changing the manuscript to fit her standards, you would remove it from the palates of others. I'm happy that you've since found success, but try not to have too many regrets over that first rejection of yours.  :)

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Offline N. Gemini Sasson

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Re: Do remember your first rejection?
« Reply #8 on: March 06, 2018, 07:43:03 PM »
For years, I collected them all (agents and then once I got an agent, publishers) in a manila folder. It got pretty fat. Then one day, after I'd sold tens of thousands of books, I asked myself why I was hanging on to them.

So one night I made a blazing fire in the chimnea and fed it rejection letters one at a time. It was liberating.

But the first one? No, I don't remember that at all. At some point they all blurred together. The message was that the Universe was sending me in a different direction. I'm good with it. Very good.


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Offline jdcore

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Re: Do remember your first rejection?
« Reply #9 on: March 06, 2018, 09:10:38 PM »
My first rejection was when I was about eleven years old. I had drawn up a series of cartoon panels and submitted them to Mad Magazine, convinced that the novelty of publishing a pre-teen genius such as myself would be a coup they couldn't refuse. They did refuse, but I got a personal dedicated letter from the editor in chief at the time. He told me to go to art school after high school and come see him in New York.

A few years later, I submitted a letter to the editor when they published a parody of Rime of the Ancient Mariner the same month my freshman English class was reading it. The letter just said I enjoyed their version better. Encouragement from the editor and seeing my name in print sealed my fate. Thanks Mad Magazine.

Offline Patty Jansen

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Re: Do remember your first rejection?
« Reply #10 on: March 06, 2018, 09:42:22 PM »
Nope.

I got far too many. I'm pretty good at moving on. They were mostly emails and died with my old computer.

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Re: Do remember your first rejection?
« Reply #11 on: March 07, 2018, 01:19:58 AM »
First, last and only submission; first, last and only rejection. It was a nice letter, from an agent I think although it was too long ago to remember, and it said 'nice idea but not for us'. Being as I wanted to keep it all secret until I had been published, and my husband was telling the world and his wife, I gave up then.

When I heard about kdp, I dug out the hard copy, retyped it as it was done before word processors, and published it. A successful indie author on the kdp forum said: 'what wonderful and elegant writing' and I was over the moon. He is responsible for the other twenty some novels and I still get good reviews on that book.



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Offline alawston

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Re: Do remember your first rejection?
« Reply #12 on: March 07, 2018, 03:15:08 AM »
I sent a short story to Doctor Who Magazine for their Brief Encounters series, and got a form rejection back. I was maybe 10 or 11, not sure. I think I was about 13 when I had my first Doctor Who (sensing a pattern?) New Adventures novel rejected by Virgin Publishing in the early 90s. That was another form rejection letter, but it also had a reader's note on it, which from the signature I still believe was by new series regular writer Gareth Roberts. The note was a textbook example of how to give encouragement to a young writer while making it clear that they still have a lot to learn, and I've kept it ever since.

I think my last rejection was for an early version of my Casanova translation, which made it to board level discussions with the publisher in question, but didn't quite fit their schedule. Everything since has been self-published, commissioned, or *blows on fingers* just accepted for publication without any fuss.


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Offline Rick Partlow

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Re: Do remember your first rejection?
« Reply #13 on: March 07, 2018, 03:50:23 AM »
Do I!

Laura DeFazio, 6th grade...   ;D

Actually no, I don't.  I don't remember any of them, honestly.

Offline SueSeabury

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Re: Do remember your first rejection?
« Reply #14 on: March 07, 2018, 04:03:17 AM »
My first rejection was a non-response, so I guess that was a pretty good harbinger of what was to come.
I wrote this children's story about alpacas. It rhymed and had an environmental theme. I thought it had some merit. Anyway, a friend of a friend worked at a big publishing house was planning to raise alpacas in his retirement. I thought my story would be a shoe-in. Couldn't even get a form rejection letter out of him. I still think it's a pretty charming story.
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Offline carlhackman

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Re: Do remember your first rejection?
« Reply #15 on: March 07, 2018, 05:32:17 AM »
Thanks for all the amazing replies, I love hearing how other writers' publishing journeys have unfolded. Everyone has a different story and they are all interesting, which is another thing I love about the life of being a writer.

As of now, I have only self published one item and that is the prequel short story to the Gerald series. It was something I felt I had to write and I wanted it to be solely mine, so I designed the cover and published it wide. It is also available in paperback which I think Amazon did a great job of. It was also designed as a bit of a marketing tool to introduce readers to Gerald and my style of writing for the series. It is humorous fantasy and for a wide audience, specifically kids aged 11-99 years of age and is now free on Amazon after they price matched it. Although it is a short story I'm pretty proud of it.

JAGUAR is on submission with a publisher at the moment and two agents are also looking at it.

GERALD AND THE THREE PRINCESSES, the second in the Gerald series, is also on submission with a publisher and another agent. I received a full request from the agent, so it is finger nail biting time.

WILFRID, my current WIP is just over halfway through and is the story of an Anglo Saxon boy after his rite of manhood. I have put him through a lot so far.

I'm creating a loose plot for the third in the GERALD series and that will be finished this year, along with WILFRID.

I'm having a great time as a writer and my biggest ambition is to put my books into as many readers hands as possible. I'm a voracious reader and love being in a world that someone else has created and I hope that I can do the same for other people :)
JAGUAR: 100%

GERALD AND THE THREE PRINCESSES: 100%

WILFRID: 50%
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Offline Moe D

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Re: Do remember your first rejection?
« Reply #16 on: March 07, 2018, 07:24:38 AM »
Nope. There have been too many to count! But when I got that first contract, well, I remember that one!

Offline LilyBLily

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Re: Do remember your first rejection?
« Reply #17 on: March 07, 2018, 07:50:24 AM »
I was about 16 years old. Embarrassed to discover I wasn't perfect out of the gate. Did that discourage me? Not a whole lot. I tried again, and sold some stories.

I can write much better now, but my last round of agent rejections was not encouraging. No one said, "Show me more of your work." Obviously my take on the world does not produce the standard commercial novel. One agent, a particularly intelligent person, said my subject matter was depressing and people wouldn't buy the book because of that. Could be correct, although looking at that story's competition I see plenty of depressing subjects being tackled. I came away from that recent experience thinking, "They're wrong."

It's a good place to be psychologically. I don't have any plans to submit anything to an agent or publisher again.

Offline My Dog's Servant

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Re: Do remember your first rejection?
« Reply #18 on: March 07, 2018, 07:53:47 AM »
I don't know if it was my very first, but the first I remember came as a rectangle of paper just large enough for the staple that attached it to the top of my story and the words "Not Interested". It was mimeographed and I figure they must have gotten 50 or 60 of those suckers to a sheet. I don't recall any other rejection that was so succinct and unambiguous.    :D

Offline UnicornEmily

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Re: Do remember your first rejection?
« Reply #19 on: March 09, 2018, 01:00:32 AM »
I remember my first.  I was fifteen, and I was so crushed.  I believed that all I had to do was submit, and the quality of my work would speak for itself, and I would get published immediately!

Offline joyceharmon

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Re: Do remember your first rejection?
« Reply #20 on: March 09, 2018, 10:54:10 AM »
I was in college. Fantasy and Science Fiction rejected my story. SOB!

Offline J. Tanner

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Re: Do remember your first rejection?
« Reply #21 on: March 09, 2018, 11:10:40 AM »
I don't remember the first.

I do remember a few of the rejections that had something nice or interesting to say.

And, of course, the acceptances are seared into my memory.
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Offline TiffanyTurner

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Re: Do remember your first rejection?
« Reply #22 on: March 09, 2018, 11:40:27 AM »
I remember my first rejection mostly for who had signed the rejection letter. It was to Marion Zimmer Bradley's Fantasy Magazine for a short story back in the early 1990s. It was a very nice, encouraging rejection letter. It basically said sorry, not this time, but encouraged me to keep writing and keep trying. Then, it was signed by Marion Zimmer Bradley. At least so I thought. I've been told later that she had assistants that did that. But I've misplaced the letter since. I really wish I'd kept better track of it. I'm hoping it will still turn up in my papers in storage sometime.  ;)
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Offline KateDanley

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Re: Do remember your first rejection?
« Reply #23 on: March 09, 2018, 12:10:03 PM »
Gosh... my very first one...  I believe it was to DAW.  I had begun writing my very first manuscript in the 6th grade and dutifully worked on it for probably eighteen years before throwing in the towel.  I remember looking at my bookshelf for the publishers of the books I loved and the logo on Mercedes Lackey's series jumped out at me (the covers were so pretty).  I remember looking up the submission length and they needed 90k words and I only clocked in at 65k, so I proceeded to pad it out with a lot of adverbs.  A few years ago, I went back to see how bad that manuscript actually was.  It was bad.  It was very, very bad... Thank goodness for second books and self-publishing...

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Offline Marty South

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Re: Do remember your first rejection?
« Reply #24 on: March 10, 2018, 06:06:55 AM »

Offline Joseph Malik

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Re: Do remember your first rejection?
« Reply #25 on: March 10, 2018, 08:23:37 AM »
I don't remember the first rejection I got, but I sure as hell remember the last.

The last rejection slip I received for Dragon's Trail was personalized, and said that the writing was excellent, (my command of voice was "exceptional," which I thought was a very nice thing to say) and the story was strong, but there was no market for such a book. The editor encouraged me to write something else, and gave me a direct point of contact, as I'd submitted it during a period of open submissions.

I started my own publishing company a few months later. Dragon's Trail has now broken the Top 100 overall in every major ebook retailer and received mainstream critical acclaim.


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Offline Wisescarab

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Re: Do remember your first rejection?
« Reply #26 on: March 13, 2018, 07:52:45 AM »
I recall mine. It was from Tors, back in the day when you had to mail everything. It was a rejection for a book that was, in hindsight, horrible. I still have it somewhere though.

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Offline Stevej37334

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Re: Do remember your first rejection?
« Reply #27 on: March 13, 2018, 08:03:04 PM »
I ended up with a big stack of form-style rejection letters back in the 1990s. Only one letter out of about 50 referred to my book directly and it wasn't very encouraging. I wrote a few more books anyway just for the heck of it and ended up trying indie publishing a couple of years ago for the first time. I haven't sold a lot of books but at least my books are available for purchase now and I still find that exciting regardless of what happens from here on out.
 

Offline VirginiaMcClain

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Re: Do remember your first rejection?
« Reply #28 on: March 13, 2018, 09:06:04 PM »
My first rejection was for a short story submitted to SF&F magazine. Standard form letter. I cherish it. I cherished all the rejections I received back when I was submitting stories to lit mags because it was the beginning of my career and all of those rejections meant that I was finally getting my stories out there. I did manage to get two short stories published with lit mags back in the day, but by the time I got around to having novels ready for publication, indie publishing was a real thing and I wasn't interested in pursuing trad anymore.
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