When a writer gets a personal rejection letter from a publisher, it’s a good thing—kind of. Many of us spent years working our way to this point: First to submitting at all; then form rejections; then maybe a rejection with a scrawled note.
A science fiction magazine I once submitted to would reply with a list of common story problems: The slush pile reader would underline the particular problem that got me rejected. Over the years I got a lot of underlines. But now that most submissions go e-mail, that kind of personal contact is less common.
So actual written content from an editor shows how far you came, and also shows you came this close to getting in. It’s like getting a silver medal: Yeah, you were a close second, but you’re not going to be on a Wheaties box.
Because it’s still a rejection, dammit.
I got a letter from a major romance publisher, about my submission of Coming Attractions. They really enjoyed my characters and setting. Unfortunately, that one line was followed by a very long paragraph of what they didn’t like. My characters and setting got me there, and everything else got me back.
And then there was that very short sentence at the end: “Should you choose to revise this project, you are welcome to resubmit it for consideration.”
Now, I spent weeks revising Coming Attractions once before, at the request of an even more major romance publisher … in fact, the major romance publisher. Feeling I hadn’t addressed their main problem enough, they ultimately rejected me. And to show the vagaries of the writing industry, this new rejection didn’t even mention what the first publisher objected to. Publisher 2 had a whole new list of problems, some of which made sense and some of which I didn’t really agree with.
In order to make the new publisher happy, I’d have to completely remove most of the last third of the novel, which means writing new material to fill out the word count. My dilemma: Spend at least several weeks tearing the novel completely apart and stitching it back together again (with no guarantee of an acceptance), or send it on to another publisher, or self-publish.
I wrote the first draft of this novel years ago, and I’ve been trying to sell it since 2010. In other words, there aren’t that many traditional publishers who haven’t already seen it. That leaves small publishers or self-publishing, which leads to the next question:
Was the novel not right just for this publisher? Or is it not good enough at all? I have my opinion … but I’m the writer, and this is my baby, and my opinion is suspect.These are the problems that drive writers to drink, or at least to chocolate. I’m going to go into a little more detail about the book itself, and the latest rejection, in a future post—so you can help me decide.