When I first started out on my one woman journey to get published, I was full of enthusiasm. I tentatively gave some sample pages to a writing group to read, and the entire manuscript to a editor. I was pleasantly surprised to hear that they really liked what I had written, and this of course spurred me on even more. With full gusto and determination in my heart, I sent an edited query letter to over 32 Literary Agents who were accepting in my genre. And that's when my confidence started to wane and self-doubt raised its ugly head.
This story will be familiar to most aspiring writers, and even to some of the more established writers. As I begin to understand this literary beast, I have found that even successful writers, who have published many books before, don't always get a deal with an agent for subsequent books on their first go. I believe that the difference between a writer who tried to get a book published and a published author, has, more often then not, a lot to do with determination. And in that revelation I began to look up some facts to verify my hopeful reason as to why the agents didn't want my book.
I firstly began with the more well-known authors, the ones, let's say, who have had the dreamful success that most of us would want. My first target was the one and only JK Rowling. While there is some debate as to how many rejection letters she got, some say12, I was somewhat disheartened to find out, after checking with camp Rowling, that she had secured an agent on her second attempt. Despite having 8 other rejections from publishers, she managed to secure a publishing deal with Bloomsbury. I have to say, hearing of her success was almost soul crushing.
However, I continued on my search, determined that my book, and by extension I, wasn't a waste of time and space, and here is what I found. John Grisham's first novel was rejected 25 times, Beatrix Potter initially had to self publish, Gertrude Stein spent 22 years submitting before success, Judy Blume received rejection letters for 2 straight years, James Lee Burke's novel The Lost Get-Back Boogie was rejected 111 times before being published and, later, nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.
The internet is awash with stories of famous authors being rejected an unimaginable amount of times. If I were to list them all I would be here for a very, very, long time. But as I scroll through the vast amounts of data, I begin to realize something. Often times a rejection letter acts a safety net for the Literary Agent, rather than an actual comment that your writing is rubbish and you shouldn't give up the day job.
A Literary Agent, when they take on a client, must spend an extraordinary amount of time preparing the book, sales pitch and the author in order to get published. And of course if they don't get published the agent doesn't get paid, which leads their endeavors to fall onto the large rubbish pile that is "wasted time". I suppose they too have to earn a wage. I also suspect that it is easier to say no and wait for a sure thing, then take a chance on something "different" or on a debut author.
It is only then that I also clocked that the chances of me getting accepted on only 32 query letters are slim to none, and it may have very little to do with my writing. Armed with that information, I am now determined to query every single agent in existence until they hold a secret Literary Agent's meeting in which they all discuss this annoying author who is constantly sending them letters, and agree to forever ignore me. At that point I might consider self publishing - but that, is a whole other topic to tackle.
With that at the back of my mind, I can only hope that other authors trying to get published will find solace in my research, my blog, and my determination will infect them until they are, without question, terminal.
Items from this article have been reprinted with the permission of Writer’s Relief, an author’s submission service that has been helping creative writers make submissions since 1994. Their work is highly recommended in the writing community, and there are TONS of freebies, publishing leads, and writers resources on their website. Check it out!