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Well, I knew this was coming. When I was getting close to finishing my novel, and began to investigate the business side of the publishing industry, this was certainly one term that cropped up time and again.

Rejection. “Deal with it,” is the advice repeated as often as suggestions such as “rewrite” or “edit” or “make it sing.”

Such is the nature of publishing. This, I knew.

Still, the first several rejections from literary agents have been painful. Not agonizing, mind you. Nothing like the time my appendix ruptured. Or the first failed loved affair.

But I guess you can’t completely brace yourself against injury; some of the shock is bound to get through.

Here’s the back story: I finished my first novel, historical fiction set in Perugia, around Christmas time. Written, edited, polished. Then, I began the process of looking for a literary agent to sell it (with a little luck) to a publisher.

Helpfully, many agents and ex-agents have blogs where they write a great deal about the process of querying agents, going into useful detail about how to write a one-page query letter; how to attract an agent’s interest; and, of course, how the odds are greatly stacked against a new writer.

The consensus? Don’t take rejection personally!!!

Many writers have also discussed, online, their experiences. Some devise spread sheets to help the writer keep track of the 100s (gulp!!) of query letters to agents, what the responses are (negative, or the spreadsheet wouldn’t be necessary), who to scratch off your list, etc.

But the stories can be awfully discouraging. One local author recently described how she had sent out 150 query letters and was rejected every time. Then, she ran into the mystery writer Ian Rankin at a pub during a writers’ conference. The upshot was, he recommended this author to his publisher and his agent, and now she’s published.

Which illustrates another point everyone makes: the stars have to be perfectly aligned for success. Even if the novel is brilliant, the query letter is perfect, sent to the right agent who specializes in the author’s genre, it can still amount to nothing. Unless the stars are just right.

So, I’ll press on. Twenty query letters sent, seven rejections, a few who should have answered by now and haven’t which must mean “no, thanks.”

This also means that it’s about time for me to compile another list of 20 agents to query and get those letters out.

Also, it’s time to treat my tough hide with an extra coat of insouciance (also known as “whatever!”)

And also time to write about the experience in this blog, which I’m slowly turning into a writing/travel blog.

But most importantly, it’s time to really sink my teeth into work on a new novel, to keep myself happy and busy with my favourite occupation (that would be writing) to keep from obsessing on rejection.

(Oh, and planning a trip to Italy -- another wonderful distraction.)

Comments (16)

Go for it. Keep writing. Keep making yourself cozy in a chair, going into your world and making it come out the end of your fingertips. One more rejection is one closer to acceptance. Corragio!!!

Your blog readers will continuously feed you a dose of motivation. Keep goin', girl! Tan that hide with 'insouciance' - love that term .. here's to the next 20.

Well, if things get bad, we (your fans) will write a petition!

Brad'll Do It:

YES! As the song says, "So nice to have you back where you belong," blogger.

I am VERY impressed. As one who has been told I can write well, I always wondered about a book. Many ideas, mostly action/adventure/spy/serial killer stuff, but never the motivation.

I only have a couple of hundred questions to ask, but I'll parse them out over time.

The first question is: did you already know HOW to write a novel (structure, pace, levels of detail, dialogue, etc.), or did you just jump in with both feet having read hundreds of them?

Second question, did you have your novel professionally edited?

Molta fortuna on your new endeavor.


Hi Diana, that's great imagery -- it really is what I love to do: create a new world and then live in it!

Thanks so much, menehune! I do need a little more insouciance, I tend to take myself a bit too seriously!

Letizia, thanks for the thought! Wouldn't it be fun to give it a try?

Hi Brad, it's nice to hear from you. I know what you mean about having lots of ideas, but then finding the one that really forces you to sit down and start writing!

Although I didn't know how to write a novel, I've always made my living as a writer (mostly as a reporter) so I had a good sense of how to tell a story. How it needs to be structured, logic, what makes for compelling characters -- that sort of thing. And if you read a lot, you absorb ideas of techniques that you like (such as novels that start in the middle of the story and use flashbacks; or characters that slowly unfold so you get to know them the way you would a person you've just met.)

I think I could say my novel was professionally edited, both by myself (all those years in journalism made me a tough editor) AND by a dear friend who is a newspaper editor who gave it a thorough going-over. I think that's really crucial -- getting honest feedback from people you trust, to keep you on the right path!

Good luck, Brad, if you're thinking of starting a novel yourself. I'd say, plunge right and just start to tell your story!

Kathy (Trekcapri):

Hi Sandra, interesting to learn about all the business side of being published. You are such a talented writer and is what you love to do ... definitely press on.

I'm sending good thoughts for all those stars to get going and align themselves for you, because I want to read your published novel soon.


Thanks for your kind words and thoughts, Kathy!

It has been really interesting to learn more about the publishing industry -- a bit discouraging at times, because it's clearly a struggling sector going through hard times.

Sandra, I have faith that the stars will align for you. Hope it's soon! Hang in there and thanks for keeping us posted.

Me again. I left a comment for you on my blog but thought I'd put it here too. About visiting the islands when you are in Venice, one word: TORCELLO!

The others are fun but it's without a doubt the best. A truly magical place and that cathedral will blow you away.

I think it is pretty difficult to not take rejection personally even when warned. Good for you to keep pressing on. I'm also putting out positive thoughts that those stars will all get their act together so that we can read your novel.


Hi Annie, thanks -- I hope it's soon, too. I'd rather spend time writing and researching than hunting for an agent!

And thanks so much for the advice on Torcello -- yay! Judging by your beautiful photos, it will be a fascinating place.

Thanks Girasoli, I appreciate your thoughts. After all my buildup, I hope people won't be disappointed in the novel.


Sandra, I think "don't take it personally" is easier advice to dish out than to take in! But I'm glad to know you are taking the rejection letters in stride. Whatever!! :)

Having read your blog (and a published article or two), I have faith your novel will land in the hands of an agent who will recognize its worth and get it published. You are such a great writer, I honestly cannot wait to read your book. (Send the petition my way, I'll sign it for sure!)


Hey Sandra,

Have you talked up your blog in the letters to agents? If not, I think you should - and add the link too.


Thanks for your support, Anne! Sometimes it's hard to keep the faith.

Hi Nim, that's an excellent suggestion; I hadn't thought of that!


Definitely keep the spreadsheet - then you'll know whom to "crush and destroy" when you are "rich beyond belief". Have you tried promoting your novel as the next "Eat, Pray, Love"? or the next "Under the Tuscan Sun"? Perhaps these agents need a simple cubbyhole in which to place your book (I'm sure your novel is better than those ones).


Thanks, Kathryn -- I like that "crush and destroy" image!

Maybe I just need a catchier title, which I have to say both the books you mention do have.

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