Best rejections

TheDustyZebra

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#1
I don’t have many, because I haven’t submitted a lot of things anywhere, but this was my first. Thinking of it always makes me smile. After I got it, I walked around grinning for a week, saying “I have a style. He rather likes it. Stanley Schmidt likes my style.” And then I proceeded to not write anything else for fifteen years, and missed that boat.

I just ran across the letter again.
 

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Foxbat

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#2
And then I proceeded to not write anything else for fifteen years, and missed that boat.
I kind of write in fits and starts too. I got my first story published in 1993, had a couple more after that and then never wrote anything else between 1996 and 2006. My best rejection so far was two or three years ago when I got a letter rejecting my currently submitted story at the time - but the editor also went on to mention that he was still annoyed that he couldn't persuade his team to accept my previous submission. Oh well, them's the breaks:)
 
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Mouse

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#3
Awesome! I do have one letter that I kept but I can't remember what it said or who it was from. I do have this email from Hodderscape though, which is pretty good.

Thank you very much for submitting The Beautiful Man to us – we read it and really enjoyed it, but ultimately decided it wasn’t quite right for us and are going to pass on it. But I wanted to let you know that our readers were all very impressed with the pacey, breathless speed of the prose, how quickly and well you established your characters and the central conflicts, and how easily the story reads. These are not easy skills to master and they suggest that you definitely have what it takes to make it, so please don’t be down-hearted about this email. You are clearly very talented and I would not be at all surprised to see your name on the cover of a book in the future
 

RJM Corbet

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#4
Dear Roger

As promised, I have now read your material – I do apologise for the delay. I can see the imagination at work here, but I can’t honestly say I loved it. After fifteen years in publishing before setting up the agency, I'm all too aware how difficult it is to get a publisher interested in a new writer, so I feel that I do have to love my clients' work - personally and professionally - to do the best possible job. If I don't feel that strongly, I'm the wrong agent. Publishing is a notoriously subjective business, and every new author needs both an agent and an editor who do love their work. It's hellishly difficult getting the bookselling chains to take a new novelist seriously, so that initial enthusiasm is vital. If an author’s prose doesn’t set me on fire, first and foremost, I say no, as do editors in this situation.

Most UK editors see around thirty books every week and only take on one or two debut novels over an entire year.

The entry level for a new novelist now is 'special', not 'good'. This is partially because sales and marketing directors have so much more power than they did a dozen years ago. If they don't believe they will be able to sell a first novel into W H Smiths and the rest of the bookselling trade in numbers, they'll block the editor from acquiring it in many companies. A senior editor told me a few weeks ago that even if he loved an author's writing, he wouldn't make an offer until the book that was submitted to him was 100% right for the market - he has just acquired an author whose previous four novels he (and everyone else in London) had turned down despite liking them a great deal. Thus, I have to believe the writers I take on are truly wonderful, or it's pointless submitting them. I’m afraid your writing and characters just didn’t draw me in, I’m so sorry. Incidentally, 100,000 words is the short end of this market, and most of the debut novels I’ve sold have been over 120,000 words long. Long books sell in SF and Fantasy, short books don’t.

Who would you compare your work to? An editor considering a new writer has to be able to make comparison with two or three recently-successful authors in the same genre (not long-term bestsellers), since he or she will have to make those comparisons should he take the author to a Publishing Meeting, at which the Sales Director’s first question is always: Who will buy this book? Then, when a new novelist is taken on, the Sales Director has to make those same comparisons when pitching the author to the retail book trade (WHS, Waterstone's, etc) at head office level, where 70% of books are now sold. Remember, above all it’s a commercial business. But this does not mean you have to write EXACTLY like a successful author. It’s about the parameters and areas of a genre within which the publisher believes they can sell books to the book trade, not detailed comparisons.

FYI, I've taken on about forty writers as clients and turned down well over 8,000, so far...I know it can be as difficult to get an agent as it is to be taken on by a publisher. You just have to keep plugging away.

All best wishes for the future – and apologies again for not coming back more quickly.

Yours

John Jarrold
Website: John Jarrold - Literary agent and script doctor

Sigh ...
(JJ was much too kind. It was cr*p book, lol)
 
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Jo Zebedee

Aliens vs Belfast. http://jozebedee.com/newsletter
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#8
Dear Roger

As promised, I have now read your material – I do apologise for the delay. I can see the imagination at work here, but I can’t honestly say I loved it. After fifteen years in publishing before setting up the agency, I'm all too aware how difficult it is to get a publisher interested in a new writer, so I feel that I do have to love my clients' work - personally and professionally - to do the best possible job. If I don't feel that strongly, I'm the wrong agent. Publishing is a notoriously subjective business, and every new author needs both an agent and an editor who do love their work. It's hellishly difficult getting the bookselling chains to take a new novelist seriously, so that initial enthusiasm is vital. If an author’s prose doesn’t set me on fire, first and foremost, I say no, as do editors in this situation.

Most UK editors see around thirty books every week and only take on one or two debut novels over an entire year.

The entry level for a new novelist now is 'special', not 'good'. This is partially because sales and marketing directors have so much more power than they did a dozen years ago. If they don't believe they will be able to sell a first novel into W H Smiths and the rest of the bookselling trade in numbers, they'll block the editor from acquiring it in many companies. A senior editor told me a few weeks ago that even if he loved an author's writing, he wouldn't make an offer until the book that was submitted to him was 100% right for the market - he has just acquired an author whose previous four novels he (and everyone else in London) had turned down despite liking them a great deal. Thus, I have to believe the writers I take on are truly wonderful, or it's pointless submitting them. I’m afraid your writing and characters just didn’t draw me in, I’m so sorry. Incidentally, 100,000 words is the short end of this market, and most of the debut novels I’ve sold have been over 120,000 words long. Long books sell in SF and Fantasy, short books don’t.

Who would you compare your work to? An editor considering a new writer has to be able to make comparison with two or three recently-successful authors in the same genre (not long-term bestsellers), since he or she will have to make those comparisons should he take the author to a Publishing Meeting, at which the Sales Director’s first question is always: Who will buy this book? Then, when a new novelist is taken on, the Sales Director has to make those same comparisons when pitching the author to the retail book trade (WHS, Waterstone's, etc) at head office level, where 70% of books are now sold. Remember, above all it’s a commercial business. But this does not mean you have to write EXACTLY like a successful author. It’s about the parameters and areas of a genre within which the publisher believes they can sell books to the book trade, not detailed comparisons.

FYI, I've taken on about forty writers as clients and turned down well over 8,000, so far...I know it can be as difficult to get an agent as it is to be taken on by a publisher. You just have to keep plugging away.

All best wishes for the future – and apologies again for not coming back more quickly.

Yours

John Jarrold
Website: John Jarrold - Literary agent and script doctor

Sigh ...
(JJ was much too kind. It was cr*p book, lol)
I knew that was John’s from the first line :D
 

RJM Corbet

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#9
Thanks Dave ...

From: David H Headley - D H H Literary Agency <david.headley@dhhliteraryagency.com>
To: Roger Corbet <rjm.corbet@yahoo.com>
Sent: Mon, 4 July, 2011 15:49:28
Subject: RE: ERLOS (fiction) NEW SUBMISSION

Dear Roger,
Thank you for the submission of your novel, Erlos, to my agency.
After reading the sample chapters I have decided that your novel is not quite right for my list at this point.

I appreciate you taking the time to submit your novel to me.
I wish you all the best for the future and in your writing career.

Kind regards

David H Headley
Managing Director

D H H Literary Agency Ltd
23 - 25 Cecil Court
London
WC2N 4EZ
Tel: + 44 (0) 2074979230
email: david.headley@dhhliteraryagency.com
Registered Company in England and Wales: No. 0768351

******************

Well, they didn't all concede such a wealth of space and explanation ...
 
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AlexH

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#10
I had an exciting rejection today! I never knew rejections could be exciting.

"Thank you very much for submitting, but I'm sorry to say I can't accept "xxx". This was very close, everybody on our staff was interested, but we also felt like there was something missing, another layer of depth or detail, or an ending twist maybe, to make it feel complete. xxxA couple of specific details here.xxx

If you felt at all inclined to revise we'd be happy to look at this again. Otherwise, I hope you'll consider submitting another piece."

Aargh! It's a pro-level publication and I don't know what to do to fix it. It's only a flash and there's not much depth, but what there is is tightly focussed. I'll sleep on it.
 
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Nirvāṇa
#11
@AlexH ; hope you can figure it out. If you would like a novice to take a look at it (all I could suggest is how it strikes me), feel free to contact me and I'll be glad to read through it and give you my impressions.

K2
 

TheDustyZebra

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#12
I had an exciting rejection today! I never knew rejections could be exciting.

"Thank you very much for submitting, but I'm sorry to say I can't accept "xxx". This was very close, everybody on our staff was interested, but we also felt like there was something missing, another layer of depth or detail, or an ending twist maybe, to make it feel complete. xxxA couple of specific details here.xxx

If you felt at all inclined to revise we'd be happy to look at this again. Otherwise, I hope you'll consider submitting another piece."

Aargh! It's a pro-level publication and I don't know what to do to fix it. It's only a flash and there's not much depth, but what there is is tightly focussed. I'll sleep on it.

Arrrgh indeed!

Perhaps stick it up in Writing Group and let the magic of Chrons wash over it? :) (Writing Group is private, and thus good for things you want to publish.)
 

AlexH

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#14
Arrrgh indeed!

Perhaps stick it up in Writing Group and let the magic of Chrons wash over it? :) (Writing Group is private, and thus good for things you want to publish.)
That's a good idea. I wonder if it's possible for a mod to delete most of the story after a couple of days? It's only 400 words, and it'd give me peace of mind that some technical glitch wouldn't reveal it to the world just after the story's been accepted! Edit: this is the closest I've got to professional publication and it's one of two stories I've felt great about as soon as I've written them. I'm being paranoid, I know! :oops:
 

TheDustyZebra

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#17
I'm not seeing how that increases your security, but whatever works for you! :)

Well, I suppose you can always just delete the link at some point.
 

Steve Harrison

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#19
I wrote a brilliant comedy screenplay some years ago, which was absolutely tailor-made for a famous Hollywood producer. It took almost a year to track down his contact details and several more months to get my script into his hands.

His response: "There are no laughs in this script."
 

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