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An Update From the Land of Rejection

The stamp of rejection or acceptance?

A brief recap. I finished my third novel about three months ago. Instead of self-publishing: arranging marketing, blog tours and posting my book using the many channels available to us indie-writers, as I have learnt to do from previous iterations, I decided to take the plunge and try the traditional publishing route. So what has happened in the past three months? Not much in terms of what I would call a successful outcome, but a lot of progress in terms of my personal learning experience. As promised, I am providing an update from the land of rejection.

Previously I had three requests whose emails were returned as a result of system errors, or faulty addresses. These numbers have not changed.

Previously, I had three out-and-out rejections. This number has grown by nine additional rejections. This means that I have in total twelve literary agents have been kind enough to read my query and get back to me with a negative response. By the way, in case you are wondering, most of the responses have been polite and encouraging. Even if these are 'template responses,' they still leave me with a cheery optimistic feeling. A note to literary agents out there: there is a right way to deal out rejection.

In the past three months I have had seven 'no responses' which fall into the 'rejection' category because these agents/agencies provide a period in which they may or may not get back to you, and that interval has passed. This means that whether my query was read or not, de facto, it was rejected. So – drum roll –I have formally reached twenty rejections.

Finally, I have ten literary agents for whom responses are pending. They may still respond, or maybe they won't. Either way, I am headed to the thirties, or maybe I will get lucky!

A few observations or reflections:

I feel like I almost have no expectation of success. I am not sure whether this is a healthy thing or not. Maybe it is a defence mechanism, but I am definitely on auto pilot. I open the letter, (always an email!) , and I very matter-of-factly accept the rejection. Maybe because I know I can always go back to Indie publishing. I do have other options.

My knee-jerk reaction to a letter of rejection is to find two literary agents to replace the rejected query. A defiant redoubling of efforts. This does mean that I am intensifying my search for relevant agents all the time. It is a time-consuming process, but I am getting better at at the search process – more creative – scaling not only the lists on the Internet, but also trying to find similar writers/works and sleuthing who was the literary agent for said work.

Another observation: I have made some significant changes to my query letter and I continue to tweak every time I resend to a new agent. Maybe it is a sign of maturation, or evolution, but I tend to re-read my query letter and think to myself, maybe if I had written it a bit differently the query would have been accepted. In terms of the tweaking, it feels a bit like sending in a CV for a job application – you calibrate the content depending on the recruiter and the company.

I have since completed my fourth novel. It is in theory ready to go, and here I find myself stuck at a cross-roads. What do I do now? Is my experiment only relevant for my third novel, or am I going all in? My fourth novel is completely different in terms of genre. It is more in the realm of fantasy – a complete 180 degree from novel number three. So this would mean completely different literary agents, a completely different query, even my own personal branding as an author would need to be somewhat adjusted. I am tempted to try traditional publishing if only to have some ways or means to compare the first process to the second. But, if the cycle of rejection is inevitable, than maybe – if only from a financial perspective – I should consider the indie route. I am undecided, and in a state of limbo, which isn't efficient at all. Time for some reflection, methinks.

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