Letters of Rejection

by limebirdster

A couple of months ago, I received my first ever rejection letter. It was short, printed on very good quality paper, and addressed to a Mr, despite the fact that directly above my name they’d managed to put Ms in the address line. I’d always thought that Esther was fairly obviously a gender specific name, but apparently not.

I don’t actually have all that much to say about this letter, it’s exactly what I expected, I purposefully only sent my book to one agent so that I’d have this letter under my belt before I sent a whole volley of submissions all over London. I don’t know why I thought that was important, but for some reason I did.

Weirdly though, I was far happier to receive this letter than I thought I’d be. I felt like I’d taken the next step. I wasn’t hunched over my computer doing re-writes anymore, I was now on the Submitting To Agents part of the journey. Pre-published as my editor friend calls it.

The fact that they’d mentioned that my return envelope wasn’t big enough to fit my manuscript into probably made me a little too excited. To me, that meant that they’d not just received my submission and only opened it to find out what address to send the rejection letter too. To me, it meant that they knew which novel was mine and they’d definitely read it.

Now for all know I’m wrong about that, the letter came in the envelope that the manuscript couldn’t fit into so of course they knew which one it was. But it still made me feel better. I also quite like the idea that they still have it somewhere, because they’ve told me I can send them a bigger envelope if I actually do want it back, which means that can’t have thrown it away immediately. I like the idea of my book sitting at the back of some big filing cabinet in an agency somewhere. Even if it is just sitting there not being read by anyone.

I’m sure my love for the rejection letter will have dimmed a bit by the twentieth and thirtieth, but for now I like my letter. So do ten of my friends on Facebook. It feels like completing some kind of right of passage. After all, what’s success if you can’t hold up a fistful of failed attempts when you get there to make victory that much sweeter?

Anyone else got a stack of rejection letters in a cupboard somewhere? Anyone not too sure if they’re ready to take that step yet? If you’re unsure I really do encourage you to go for it, you have to start somewhere! And if you have, did you like your first reply as much as I did?

38 Comments to “Letters of Rejection”

  1. I stick mine in my writing notebook.

    My first was actually nice, and encouraging.

    I’d rather have a rejection letter than no response at all. At least I know my work is not languishing, unread.

    • Hi Tilly, I still haven’t decided what to do with mine, it’s just sitting on a shelf above my desk right now!

      I’m glad that your first one was encouraging, I’d hate to have received a horrible one on my first go!

  2. My very first came by e-mail. I printed it out and have it in a box. It was nice, congenial, no big deal. Nice story but not for us. they also mentioned one part of what I’d submitted and suggested a way to make it better, which led me to believe they had actually read the first 50 pages. now the story doesn’t read anything like it did back then, which is a good thing. If it wasn’t for that first rejection, I might still be writing garbage. 🙂

    • It’s nice to think that someone actually read it! And they must have liked it to give you some actual feedback and not just a form rejection letter!

  3. Congratulations – I agree! You’ve taken an important “next step.” I’m not quite there yet, but I recently submitted a flash fiction story to a contest – my first experience with putting my work out there. Hoping for the best, but expecting rejection as part of the process.

  4. I wish I had something more interesting to say here, but I haven’t finished writing the book yet, so no rejection letters for me for now. Nice post though!

  5. I keep rejection emails more than rejection letters (real letters take up too much space). But I think rejection letters mean that you’re living boldly–your work is out there and you are being an active writer. And from my experience with literary journals, getting a rejection doesn’t necessarily mean your work is bad. Sometimes it just means that they already had a story about a dog/WWII/volcano. But you don’t get to hear that part of it because most of the time, editors only have the resources to send a form rejection.

  6. Reading this has reminded me that I need to print off my manuscript and start working on it… Really well done on getting your stuff out there and read!

  7. Great attitude…it will stand you well as the process moves forward and sustain you until the Acceptance Letter comes!!

  8. For a really long time, I was taping my rejection letters up on my bedroom walls, with a tally sheet on the door to keep track of how many I’d gotten. Unfortunately, I began running out of space around 60. There’s still something wonderful about getting a personalized rejection, though; every one makes me feel like I’m one step closer to finding the agent who’ll say yes. Congrats on your first!

    • Wow, 60 is quite an achievement, that must’ve cost you a fortune in postage! I’m thinking that it doesn’t really matter how many rejections we collect though, as you say you just need to find the one agent that says yes!

  9. I’ve kept all of my rejection letters, too. We’re in good company … Stephen King kept his. You’re now part of a very important sorority, congratulations!

    • Thanks Nancy! I’ve just been reading On Writing by Stephen King and keep looking around for a rusty nail to hang my letter on but I don’t think I have one!

  10. I love the positive spin you’ve put on the letter. And definitely well done for starting to get it out there!

  11. My most memorable rejection states that if my story had been as entertaining as my cover letter, they would have published it. I think your rejection is much more encouraging. :o)

  12. Way to go in being positive and upbeat 🙂 rejections part of the game. I once got a quasi-rejection letter from a poetry publisher saying that they the only way they’d publish my poem, was if they were allowed to edit it and they sent me the edit. That is MUCH worse than a rejection letter in my book. How rude. I told them where to go and accused them of completely missing the point about expression and poetry altogether *facepalm*.

  13. Oh, I have quite the rejection collection. I recently posted about it. Feel free to take a peek if you wish:


  14. You have the right attitude. It’s not a rejection letter so much as it is an affirmation that your book is ready for the public. Just keep at it!

    I decided to go the self-publishing route to avoid the publishing world. When I found out publishers in America want you to promote your book yourself and still take most of the royalties, I decided to go it on my own.

  15. Ster, what an incredibly EFFECTIVE attitude! I don’t know how else to describe it. It’s not only a great way to handle the rejections, it gives you a plan and propels you down the road. You are in the next phase, and I would love love to see the letter posted when that agent sends an acceptance letter instead of a rejection ~ because it’s coming!

  16. Ster, I was the same way! I submitted a 30-min TV episode script to Nickelodeon for a fellowship there, I knew it was a shot in the dark but when I got the rejection letter I was really proud of it! It’s funny, it’s like I felt better about myself for being rejected….I tried, and that was something that I couldn’t say about myself before that moment, and because I tried I felt awesome. I need to get rejected by Nickelodeon more often…..though NOT being rejected by them would be amazing…

  17. I started keeping a computer file of all my rejections. Most of them are form rejections, which they go out of their way to apologize for. Others simply state my book is not the right fit for them. I have only a couple where the rejections are personalized and go to helpful lengths to point out specifically why my book isn’t for them. I don’t know why I’m keeping all the rejections, I don’t really have a plan for them like wallpapering my study or anything. I guess I just want to have them all in one place when I finally get the “Yes! We want to publish you!”

    I think you’re right, Ster. A rejection does have that message stating you finished a project. You wrote a book! How many people can say that???

  18. I still have all of my rejection letters, although mine are for shorter pieces. The first one I received had a hand written encouragement on the side of the form letter. For a rejection letter, I thought it was very nice. Congrats on finishing your book and getting to the next step.

  19. Nice post. I have a rejection email. Nothing in writing through the post, but the sentiments were the same. Nice to get it out of the way and don’t let it put you off sending more things off.

    Happy holidays 🙂

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