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  • Writer's pictureClaire Allan

Seven things about rejection

Bit of a bummer, isn't it? Rejection. It's definitely up near the top of the list of things that are sucky about writing for a living.

And yet, it's something that every single writer has had to deal with. EVEN the successful ones. In fact, most probably the successful ones.

We've all heard the story of how JK Rowling was rejected twelve times before a publisher took on Harry Potter. Well, twelve is a relatively low number in my experience...

I've lost count of the number of rejections I've had. I've even had rejections in the last year. And I'm a published author with a proven track record...

So here's what I want you to know about rejection (from a writer's POV)

  • Rejection isn't really the right word.

Well, it is, I suppose. In that it's a 'no', but what I've found is that rejection is such a harsh word for something that isn't always only about what you've written. Essentially the stars have to align for you to get that big shiny yes.

Your MS has to land on the right desk, at the right time, when the market is ripe for a new book in your genre. And the publisher has not not already have a similar author/book in the pipeline. And they have to have the budget/ publication slot available for your book. Or they might need a really quick turn-a-round and brilliant as your book is, it is will require more time to edit, which they just don't have,

You get a no, which feels personal and only about your writing, but it's just as likely to be a misalignment of the stars. Hang on to that and to any nuggets of advice you are given.

  • Tough as it sounds, sometimes your book just isn't good enough for the current market.

This business is competitive to an extreme level. There is so much incredible talent out there and brilliant books are being published every week. You may well have the makings of a great writer but you may not be just there yet, with this book at this moment.

As much as you want a book deal, you don't want anything less than the best version of your book to be published.

You may need to rewrite. You may need to edit it as tightly as possible for the fifteenth time. You may need to change the POV or the tense. Do the work. Then submit again, knowing you've learned something and improved along the way - which is never a bad thing, no matter the outcome.

  • The 'book in the drawer' is a right of passage

For a lot of writers this may be the first book they write. They may, in fact, have multiple books in multiple drawers. These are books you have to let go, and put down as a learning experience. These are the rejections that sting the most - but everyone has them.

My 'book in the drawer' was not my first but my ninth novel, as it happens. Called 'A Single Red Thread' I absolutely fell in love with writing all over again as I wrote it. I thought it was the best thing I had ever written and my agent was confident it would be snapped up.

It was not snapped up. I got a lot of 'almosts' and some outright 'no thank you very much, go aways' And that dented my confidence in a huge way. I mean, it was my NINTH novel for the love of God.

I can't bring myself to read it now - not because it feels like a marker to my failure but because I know I have learned SO MUCH as a writer since then. I'm glad that it was 'Her Name Was Rose' that got me my UK breakthrough. It is a very different, but infinitely better book.

  • I have a book deal! What do you mean I'm still being rejected?

People don't talk about this enough - but sometimes, even when you're under contract, you can submit a book to your editor and they can say 'erm, no thanks' - and you're left obliged to supply another book and wondering what on earth went wrong.

I'm not saying it sucks more than a common or garden rejection (or misalignment of the stars) but it totally sucks more than a common or garden rejection.

It happened to me once - with the book that became If Only You Knew. I was left with six weeks to write what was essentially a whole new novel, but worse still was that I felt like I'd failed a test and disappointed my editor.

I hate disappointing people. I cried and then realised that my ego had to be put to one side and a better book had to emerge. Which it did.

  • Trust your journey

Okay, this is a bit hippy/dippy - but trust your journey. After the book in the drawer debacle, I started writing the book that would become Her Nam

e Was Rose. I sent an early version of it (in fact just 30,000 words) to an editor I'd been speaking with. She loved it. I loved her. We thought the stars were aligning. It even went so far as to get to acquisitions - where it didn't get picked up. I was actually DEVASTATED. I cried not just for one day, but for TWO FULL DAYS. Then I rewrote those 30,000 words. And added another 60,000 words. And THEN it went out on a targeted submission and Phoebe Morgan at Avon got in touch and again I thought the stars were aligning BUT she asked me to do a little work on it - adding in Rose's POV. I did as requested, submitted it again and BAM. I got my book deal. It became a lead title for Avon in summer 2018 and it absolutely changed my life. (It didn't make me rich, but it made feel like a proper writer).

  • If your editor doesn't love it, you don't want it published

I've spoken before about the very important relationship between author and editor. It, along with your relationship with your agent, are perhaps THE most important working relationships any author will have.

So, your editor will be the person who champions your book. In department meetings, in acquisitions meetings, in marketing meetings and in meetings with the sales team. You want an editor who is absolutely IN LOVE with the book they are pushing, because they may have to push hard.

Yes, I know that a rejection from your dream editor may sting like an angry wasp on an August day BUT you really are better off with an honest 'not for us at this time' than to be damned with faint praise in publishing circles.

  • Don't keep a track of numbers

I know people like to regale their stories of tens of rejections, or show off their pile of rejection letters but unless those letters offer some words of wisdom just wish them well and chuck them in the bin. You don't need to remind yourself of what has gone before. Every book is different. Every submission is different. Focus on the future and not the past. Glean whatever positives you can from them and hit delete. As Ariana Grande would say - thank you, next.


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