Thursday, August 19, 2010

Submissions :: Wisdom Where You Can Find It

Yesterday I received a personalized rejection letter from a major agent who took the time to explain why he was rejecting my novel.  It was short and brutally honest and it hurt like hell to read it... brutal honesty is funny that way.

Once I got past the brief and surreal moment of nostalgia for the days when I just got impersonal form letters, I went through the six stages of rejection.  Yes six stages. (In the extremely unlikely chance that the agent in question ever reads this... well, I'm human and it is what it is.)
  1. Denial: This never lasts long when you have documentation. "Dear Mr Perkins..." is pretty darned hard to deny.
  2. Anger: What does he know? He's only got umpteen years of publishing experience with a major agency and various publishing houses...
  3. Bargaining: If I send him affidavits signed by my mom and friends (all of whom loved the manuscript just the way it is) surely he'd have to reconsider...
  4. Depression: I suck.
  5. Acceptance: He took the time out of a very busy day to write me a personalized rejection outlining what he didn't like about it. This is expertise at a level that isn't generally dispensed if you are beyond hope.  So either I accept the expert advice or I ignore it, but all this wallowing is making me hungry.
  6. Chinese Food: Sometimes it's good old fashioned chocolate cake, but by stage six it was dinner time and so this time it was Chinese Food.  Nothing polishes off a good wallow like Chinese food.  I don't know why that is.
I've had a strange relationship through the years with fortune cookies. (Yes, I know, strangest segue in the history of this blog, just go with me on this one...)  I don't want to come off as superstitious, I've twice I've received the fortune "ALL OF YOUR CURRENT PLANS WILL SUCCEED" the evening before I met a girl that I would fall for.  The second time I was smart enough to marry her. 

Once, the president of a major bookstore chain handed a roomful of employees fortune cookies and insisted that we read our fortunes aloud and append "In Bed" to the end of them.  I don't remember the fortune from that cookie, but I remember the uncomfortable silences that followed each recitation...

There's something magical about those darned things and even though I know it's all in my head and my human propensity for finding patterns where they don't exist, I still get that frisson of anticipation and dread every time I pick one up.

Last night, my wallowing ended with the following fortune:


I may have to frame that one.  If ever there was a snippet of advice I needed to remember on a daily basis, it's that one.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go see if I can re-read that letter yet without wanting to whimper and eat fried rice.


  1. Great post! Rejection always sucks and yes, I'd agree that a personalized rejection although possibly helpful, hurts more than a just "thanks not for us." The one agent I recieved a personal rejection from (the other 1 million were all form) I took his advice and the next agent loved my book and I got a contract. Use it for the good it will do for you! Good luck!! :D

  2. I would recommend a week or so and then re-read. It will give you some perspective so you can see if the advice is applicable or not.


Pages to Type is a blog about books, writing and literary culture (with the occasional digression into coffee and the care and feeding of giant robots).