How it feels

I remember the moment I first sent a manuscript to an agent. It was midnight, early October. Coffee was keeping me going. Quite literally years of work had led up to this caffeine-enhanced night; not just my own, but also my editors who had taught me that its’s isn’t a word. I think I already knew that. It must have been a typo…But anyway, I felt like I wasn’t just sending it on my behalf, but on theirs too.

The weeks beforehand had been spent on the stuff most writers seem to hate; cover letters and a synopsis, not to mention researching agencies. Now was the time to finally take the step; to cross the boundary between dreamer to author. Every hundredth time I had reread a particular paragraph, all those hours spent agonising of an insignificant point; thousands of tiny decisions had led to this – a completed manuscript. Finally.

Of course, the first three chapters – which is all most agencies want – were slightly more completed than the remaining twenty two. So there I was, email all written up, files attached. Everything was set up. I hit send.
I don’t think I was electrocuted, but I still ended up on the floor, shaking slightly. It was done. My manuscript was out there, in the big wide world of smiling, trendily dressed agents. Having survived the first attempt, it was easier sending it to other agencies. Waiting was more difficult.

Every writer knows that they’ll be rejected. It’s an almost certainty, and every website and book that deals with publishing will have somewhere in big, flashing letters; YOU WILL BE REJECTED. How many times was that famous, respected author rejected before an agent finally took them on? Plenty. I remember thinking that my preferred agency shouldn’t be the very first one I sent my manuscript to. Logic dictated that it would be rejected. They always are, at least once.

I knew this. I knew I would get a rejection because everybody does, and sure enough, so did I. To be honest, I was just excited to hear back from the agency, and the email they sent was nicely worded and made me feel as if they hadn’t personally spurned me; it wasn’t that my manuscript wasn’t good enough, it was that they were too busy….right?

Or there’s that other line they love to copy and paste; It’s not quite what we’re looking for, but keep looking…

Ok, this sounds like I’m jumping on the agent-slagging bandwagon. I’m not. Really. From what I had read online, I expected each rejection to go something like…

Dear author?

Unfortunately, having used your manuscript as toilet paper, I never got a chance to read it. I can tell you though; it didn’t flush very well…

In fact, I found them to be relatively polite, most of the time. Anyway,
they’re busy people reading all those manuscripts and sipping all that expensive wine. The first rejection was expected then, the second was disappointing. The third was disappointing. The fifth was mildly annoying. The tenth was expected. And that’s probably how it should be, otherwise it would just hurt too much. Prepare for the worst and hope for the best may sound a bit negative, but it’s a form of self-defence and it works for me. That doesn’t mean I don’t still send off manuscripts in hope (though I must admit, I haven’t in a while). Never give up on your stupid, stupid dreams. I like that saying. Never give up. We’ll all get there in the end.

Here’s my first rejection. Quite nice.

Dear Matthew,

Thank you so much for sending me your work. However, having considered it carefully, I’m sorry to say that I don’t feel it’s right for my list.

I’m sure you’ll understand that the extremely high volume of submissions I receive means that unfortunately I’m not able to give more detailed feedback.

I wish you the best of luck with other agents.

With best wishes,


2 thoughts on “How it feels

    1. The worst thing any of us could do is give up. We’ll get there in the end. I’m going to set myself a personal target of fifty rejection letters, and then I might just self publish 🙂

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