Rejection Junction


There’s been a lot of talk lately about rejections, and agents, and queries, and so I got off on a tear on the internet looking up information on writers who have faced down the dragon of multiple rejections. You know how I get.

So I started at Write Attitude, looking for one of their little quotes in the opening slideshow on authors who had been rejected over one hundred times. The one I hit on was J.A. Konrath was rejected 450 times before Whiskey Sour sold for six figures in a bidding war.

Well, then of course I needed to find out if that was urban mythology, or if there was any real truth to it. I found Konrath’s Web site, where he states that before he sold Whiskey Sour he had actually gotten over 500 rejections. The mind reels. Now, bless his heart, he has a free e-book on his site you can download comprising 750 pages of tips, hints, and other info about getting published. Over at Backspace he has an article on how he finally got out of the slush pile:

Getting an agent as an amateur isn’t easy. After receiving enough form-letter rejections to wallpaper my house, I began to wonder if my queries were even getting read. I’d heard rumors about agents and editors hiring college students to do nothing put open submissions and mail back rejections. These rumors, it turned out, were true.
The how-to books all stated that the way to approach agents is with a one page query letter and the first three chapters of the novel. I’d followed that route many times and failed. It was time to try something different.

A bold move ensued, which paid off nicely.

Further searching lead me to an interview on another blog, The Leaf Blower where he actually gives the text of some of his rejection letters, some very funny come-backs to them, and follow-up on what became of some of the rejectors:

“We passed your proposal around the office with great amusement and much laughter. Unfortunately, we don’t believe you intended this to be funny.”

Glad to cheer you up. Even gladder that you’re now out of business.

So here we have another very nice author who not only communicates with people, but is giving back to the writing community. He advises writers not to take rejection personally, it’s business. There are photos at the bottom of that interview of his rejection letter notebook, you have to see it to believe it.

Pity the poor agents who have been complaining about having to slave away, pawing through the slush piles to find the next multi-million-dollar blockbuster that will be translated into fifty-four languages and spawn a hit movie franchise. Sorry kids, looks like you’re stuck with hoping those college students don’t send out a rejection to the next J.K. Rowling.

Anyway, like I said, you know how I get.

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23 thoughts on “Rejection Junction

  1. DD, Great research and thank you so much for pulling this information in one place. I am impressed beyond measure by J. A. Konrath’s dedication. That is inspiring although somewhat daunting to think about. Most days when I write I block out everything else. I figure I would be one of those authors who are famous posthumously because I don’t know if I have the tenacity to pursue agents let alone to that extent. So, I will just go on and write something else, and something after that and keep doing this until I die.

    Hope that’s not pessimistic. For me it’s the opposite because when I think about writing as something I will do whether there is recognition or reward or not I am more inspired to keep going.

    I don’t envy any of you with finished novels out there or getting close. It’s hard work. It seems the work begins after you have written something because to a writer the writing is probably the easier part.

    All the best to you and everybody else going through querying right now and in the future!

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  2. Hi Venus,

    I feel the same way about doing the writing whether or not it gets published. I don’t think it’s pessimistic at all. I just love the creating, seeing the words become a story as it goes along.

    Mr. Konrath is a testament to tenacity! I failed to mention in the post that not all those rejections were for a single work. It was over the course of several years that he amassed them. He’s got some of his work up on his web site for free, the books that he couldn’t get published but still likes enough to put out there for people to read. I thought that was an extraordinary gesture.

    I think we need to be fearless when it comes to getting the work out there and taking a chance sending it out. No harm can come to you by querying an agent, you might as well do it! Have courage, even if we don’t get published it won’t be for lack of trying 😉

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  3. I’ve got another site for you that has multiple articles on rejection and more generally aspects of writing, the process, etc. Its called Procrastinating Writer. Both of these articles are guest authors, but the site is helpful nonetheless:

    http://procrastinatingwritersblog.com/2009/05/04/dont-let-rejection-kill-your-confidence/

    http://procrastinatingwritersblog.com/2009/05/01/how-to-turn-failure-into-amazing-writing-opportunities/

    So many blogs, so little time…

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  4. Awesome post, DD! I’m always inspired by the authors who kept on querying and collecting that many rejections. It give me hope. And yep – I will continue to write whether I get published or not, and it doesn’t hurt (well, not much) to send out the query letters.

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  5. Hi Uppington,

    I am inspired by authors like that, too. I hope I will have that much confidence in myself when I need it! As a friend of mine used to say, “Just do it. You’ve got ‘no’ to start with anyway.” I always took that to mean, “Don’t take ‘No’ for an answer!”

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  6. I like this:

    “I think we need to be fearless when it comes to getting the work out there and taking a chance sending it out. No harm can come to you by querying an agent, you might as well do it! Have courage, even if we don’t get published it won’t be for lack of trying.”

    I still think I am going to be more famous after I am dead 🙂 but I will try to remember these spirited words when I am ready to go out there.

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  7. Hi Venus,

    I’m glad you liked that. I just hope I’ll be able to take my own advice! 😉 Some days I feel braver than others, but the idea of not even trying scares me the most.

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  8. Great post, Digital Dame. It’s a daunting road, the road to publication. Rejections, unfortunately, are the all too frequent bumps along that road.

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  9. It makes me wonder if we should consider them simply “paying our dues” like they say in show business? When actors take the off-off-off-off… Broadway parts, and spend time doing small theater works for awhile before breaking into the “big time.” Think of the rejections as another small part, maybe next time Big Producer will be in the audience (i.e., the next agent you send to) and see something they like 😉

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  10. That’s a good way of looking at it. And, anyway, IMHO, a bumpy road makes you appreciate even more those nice, long, smooth stretches of highway. 🙂

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  11. DD, this is not only great information, but the website and blogs are entertaining reads. I love his responses to some of his rejection letters! His 4-page marketing package shows that you have to think out of the box to sell your work. When three sample paragraphs and a cover letter are being done by everyone else, you have to think of a way to get attention. I’d guess his package showed originality and the agents who called him banked on original thinking being tied to writing talent.

    Excellent post. Thank you!

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  12. Hi jg,

    Those responses of his were SO FUNNY! 🙂 And so deserved. Everyone keeps talking about remembering that agents are human, well, that needs to go two ways. Judging by some of the rejection letters Konrath received, I’d say some of the agents have forgotten they’re dealing with people, too.

    I think I would have been too timid to try what he suggests to get noticed, if he hadn’t detailed how it worked for him. I was a professional resume writer for awhile, and had to constantly tell people not to use cutesy papers or weird colors and fonts to get noticed. HR depts. hate that stuff. I would have been afraid to try anything like he did! In his case, though, he was clearly thinking ahead to marketing, it was all really relevant to getting his book out there, not just a stunt to look different and that’s probably the key.

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  13. Thanks, Astro Sis 🙂 Hope you find useful stuff there. I try not to take things at face value, I’m a huge debunker of all those stupid hoaxes that float around the internet so I thought before I passed on that tidbit about 450 rejections, I should make sure it was for real!

    I liked Konrath’s tips, many of them you’ve heard before but I figure anyone who’s been in the trenches the way he has can pass on anything he likes to me and I will take heed!

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  14. Someone just left a comment on my blog saying I should stop talking about writing and there’s no point in trying to convince my readers that I am a writer when I haven’t convinced publishers yet. Which I found both upsetting and funny. Here’s the main reason J.A. Konrath’s story is inspiring — being a writer is about believing you are one whether the world is with you or not. Querying scares me but I hope I can do that, stay true and strong and continue writing whether I have convinced agents and publishers or not.

    Thanks again for posting this. I had to come here and remind myself that doing anything that requires you to put yourself out there comes with rejection in all shapes and forms. It should never be as important as what is in your heart.

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  15. Hi Venus,

    Wow, sounds like another case of “sour grapes”. Someone feeling a little heat from the competition perhaps? I believe the only reason people make attempts at demoralizing others is because they have met with rejection themselves and can’t stand for anyone else to succeed when they didn’t. That’s why I like to point out successful writers (like Konrath, Janet Evanovich, Sue Grafton, et al) who post helpful information on their own Web sites for aspiring writers. The ones who made it don’t mind giving back.

    As they say, don’t let the turkeys get you down! 🙂

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  16. Venus,

    I just read that comment at your blog. I don’t think it’s what I initially suspected. I think that person was saying something more along the lines of “Don’t use up all your writing energy talking ABOUT writing, channel it into your writing, instead.” They worded it rather poorly, but I don’t think the poster’s intent was to try to discourage you.

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  17. Well, I hope so but maybe if someone left that comment to you you would feel differently. 🙂

    While they may not have meant “don’t try to convince your readers you are a writer” and “struggling like a fish out of water” as mean it is also unnecessary. But thanks for your perspective.

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  18. Yeah, the “fish out of water” was kind of a non sequitur. And I don’t see that you’re trying to convince anyone of anything. Don’t let it get to you, it’s just one person. As your blog attracts more and more readers, you’ll likely have a few naysayers show up now and then, I think that’s inevitable. As they say, you can’t please all of the people all of the time.

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  19. Thanks DD. No, I thought your comment was helpful earlier because it forced me to try to look at it positively. Although, the same commenter left a second unpleasant comment removing all doubt on my latest post so now I am not so sure.

    You are right about not being able to please everyone. Sorry to be going on about this on your blog. Because mine’s anonymous no one in my life knows it so not many people I can talk to.

    Thanks for letting me vent! 🙂

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  20. No problem. Sorry it sounds like you’ve acquired a troll. 😦 Don’t let one nasty person destroy your hopes and dreams, they are no part of your life. If they get really out of hand, ask them to leave or just delete their comments. They can go find someone else to annoy 😉

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