Monday, 26 July 2010

When you get a rejection ...

... make sure you have a good friend and chocolate cake nearby!

Today I had something exciting in the post, or so I thought. There was a slip from the post on the door mat, telling me I had to pick up a letter and pay for it as the sender had not put on enough postage. Immediately I thought of my friend Sara in Sweden, who sometimes sends me books or just ultra thick letters. I was quite looking forward to picking it up, was even happy to pay the £1.70.

But when I got to the post place and was handed the letter I recognised my own handwriting. A self-addressed envelope I had included with a submission. First I thought it had to do with a poetry submission I'd just done for fun and didn't care that much about, then it dawned on me the letter was from a publisher I had contacted directly and really wanted to get published by.

This is is:

"Many thanks for submitting REPLACING ANGEL for our consideration. I’m sorry to report we will be passing on this title. I noted with interest your previous publishing experience in Sweden – I think your English prose is not quite strong enough yet, however I think that will come with time. My advice would be to keep on practicing writing in English and try to really make the prose come alive on the page. Do keep us in mind for your next novel in English."

I thought about going straight to the nearest pub that happened to be the Station by Hove Station and sit there all day and drink and tell commuters and other random people about my tragedy. Luckily I'd already arranged to have lunch at my friend Saskia's place. (Thank you for saving me!!!) She said all the right things and treated me to a slice of chocolate cake and I felt a little bit better.

The afternoon was spent in some kind of daze. And now it's evening and I've coloured my hair, as I usually do when I want to feel better. I also looked at another rejection letter from an agent:

"I thought that there was much to admire here, in particular your prose style, but I’m afraid that I did not quite feel that all-important connection with your work that I know is vital in this industry, but please do not give up. There are as many opinions out there as there are agents, and a full list of them can be found at
With best wishes and good luck in your future endeavours"

So once again it goes to show that decisions in the publishing business are quite subjective ... I had my manuscript proof-read by a professional editor, so if someone thinks that my prose is not strong enough it has nothing to do with being Swedish I don't think ... Especially as the agent above said that he admired my prose style.

Yet the letter I received today really, really hurt. It was a massive decision to write in English when I already had success in Sweden, and now I can't help thinking "what if". I followed my heart instead of my head ...

But no, I won't despair. Somewhere out there I know there's an agent who'll like both my story and my style of prose. Maybe I'll have an acception letter tomorrow. Who knows?


  1. Rejection is a shit feeling, and anyone who wishes to publish has to face a lot of it, unfortunately. So I feel for you!! But you only have to get one favourable response from a publisher or agent and all the hurt will melt away ... and that moment will come. Keep working hard (as hard as I know you do) at your writing and the promotion of it and eventually you'll reap the rewards! B/x

  2. I think your English prose is strong enough. And what disgustingly anonymous rejection comments.

    Dear Author,

    Thankyou for sending as a book!
    Unfortunately, we didn't quite like it.
    My advice in future is to try and write a slightly better book.
    When you write another book, we may well be interested in it. But also, maybe not.

    Until then - good luck with your writing!


    A. Dick

  3. Check out Gilbert Sorrentino's novel 'Mulligan Stew', the lengthy first section of which is comprised of rejection letters, some authentic, some invented, all ridiculous. Check it out for more than that - it's a truly great book.

  4. ""I thought that there was much to admire here, in particular your prose style, but I’m afraid that I did not quite feel that all-important connection with your work that I know is vital ..." etc.
    I got exactly the same formula of words in an email from that same literary agent... so I know
    how it feels - and I feel for you... What hurt in my case was knowing that he had not actually read the three chapters of the novel I had posted to him - I know he had not! - and had his editorial assistant post his formula of rejection to me... Young Lady, do not let it get to you, keep writing, no matter what. And if you ever come to Dublin I'll buy you a chocolate cake - not just a slice!!!
    Sean Walsh.

  5. Sean ... you're not the first one to contact me about this agent ... would be less hurtful to actually get a "no thanks we are no interested" - no bullshit. And now a few months later I have another agent interested, so yes the trick is to keep writing, keep trying.