Wednesday, May 27, 2020
The Tale of the Three Good Rejections
Rejection #1: It’s Not You, It’s Me
I have a Middle Grade mystery adventure with a pretty specific topic and I sent a query to an editor (at one of the Big Five publishers) whom I’d met at a conference. Imagine my shock when I got a response within a couple of days!
And it started out so wonderfully, personally praising me, and then the premise of my novel and the hooks therein! But then she regretfully had to pass because a colleague was working on a MG novel with this very same specific subject. What’re the chances? Still, it was a personal and glowing response and that’s always a good rejection, right?
Hmmm…it’s nice to get validation for hard work and good ideas but ultimately, this was a soft and very polite way of saying “not for me.” So though I felt good for a few minutes, in the end, I’d have to put this good rejection in the “so-so” pile.
Rejection #2: It’s a Southern Thing
So, the same MG mystery, but this time, it’s an agent who requested to see pages based on the pitch I’d made (also at a conference). And this is an agent who uses a form that requests all kinds of information; I think I may have had to send my GPA. From high school.
Anyway, again, within a few days, I received a response. And again, the email started with lovely words about me and the conference and what a joyful experience we all had. But following all these delightfully charming and personal words was the bottom line about my manuscript: the agent didn’t connect with the voice.
Still a good rejection, right?
Not so fast. This is the equivalent—around these parts—of saying, “Bless your heart, this manuscript’s a hard no.” The thing is, there is no way to get around not connecting with voice. And as polite as this rejection was, there was nothing substantively good here. So this rejection went into the “bad” pile.
Rejection #3: The NGB
Back in my dating days, we had an expression for the guy who may have been practically perfect except for maybe one little thing. We called him the NGB, the Nice Guy But…maybe there was no chemistry with him, or maybe he was too short, or maybe too serious. With the NGB, you knew he was a great guy—just not for you.
So I had a request from an editor to send my manuscript for a Young Adult ghost story (as a result of an open submission call). Months went by and then the world closed down and honestly, I forgot all about that manuscript. Until I had a response in my inbox from this publisher. And at first, I thought this was a bad rejection, starting with the stock line, “Thanks for sending your manuscript.”
But she continued with words that will make every writer’s heart sing: I read this one to the very last page! She told me that she connected with the characters and supernatural themes but as much as she loved it, there was one thing in the story that she didn’t connect with so she’d have to pass.
Now, there were no glowing words about me; this was a strictly business response. But this was probably the best rejection I’ve ever had. I knew exactly the one thing that wouldn’t work for her, and her explanation helped me think about how this book might do in the YA mainstream market.
For me, this bad rejection turned good and then golden! So the moral of this tale is clear: not all the good rejections that glitter are the Holy Grail.
Also, just in the general help column here, beware the Bless Your Heart.
~Cathy C. Hall