My life is divided into several sections - drawers, if you will, that I pull open and push shut as I go through my day. Much like your life, I’m sure. Here’s a peek into one of my drawers. Tell me about yours.
As far as rejection letters go, it was mild, even pale, intended to let the prospective client down easy. It was so gentle, in fact, that as I read it along with all the other email that had piled up over the Labor Day weekend, I almost didn’t realize I’d been rejected.
“Thank you for your query. I didn’t make the connection with your material that I would need to request more, but please keep in mind that another agent may feel differently. I wish you the best of luck in placing your work.”
I was disappointed. Oh, not by the rejection. The query letter had only been my second attempt at getting an agent for my novel; the response, only my second rejection letter. I expect to get a lot more of them in my life.
My disappointment came in the blandness of it all. My friend Smoky had to lick severe wounds after one rejection letter. It wasn’t a form letter. It was a nasty letter. Vile, really. It mentioned lack of originality and told her to go back to fifth grade and learn basic grammar. He chastised her for wasting his precious time with her “boring drivel.” Keep in mind he was the one who requested in an earlier correspondence to see more of the manuscript.
But as difficult as the response to Smoky's query letter was to digest, it also spelled out ways (cruelly, yes, but it was there) for her to improve her work and ready it for publication. It fueled her with energy to refocus on her goal to get her manuscript published.
“Getting pissed off is much more productive than feeling hurt,” she wrote me. “The next day I sent off five more queries. His comments made me do some serious re-evaluation of my writing. In truth, it's just okay. It's safe. I didn't push the envelope. I didn't take any chances with it. S____ is a nice, simple, safe story. And that's fine. It is what it is. And maybe it is boring.
I think we talked once about Steven King. In an interview he was asked how many rejections letters had he gotten. He said, "three or four." The interviewer was impressed that he had so few rejections. King replied, "No, three or four POUNDS." Last week I read King's On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. It gives a nice perspective on the journey of getting published. Writing is certainly the easy part.
Anyway, I framed the agent's letter and put it front and center on my desk. I figure when I get S____ published, I'll make a copy of the letter, put it in the book, and send it to him. Success is the sweetest revenge.”
I wish I had wounds to lick.