Whenever anyone asks me how I got my first book (House Cat) published, and I relay to them the story, they are amazed. The truth of the matter is, it took me years of rejections, sending out, getting the same replies, trying different things, rewriting and more before I was miraculously accepted…
I am not telling you this to try and discourage you, but I have to be honest. If your heart is not in it and you don’t plan to persevere, chances are you won’t get very far. And the market is harder today than it was in 1997 when my first book was accepted.
Let me tell you what happened. I had written a book on the care of cats…indoor cats to be exact, and I was sending it out to agents and editors. I knew nothing about publishing a book and the proposal I was mailing out was lame to say the least; skimpy, with little information except a half a page about the book, some marketing ideas, my bio (which at the time was sparse) and a chapter by chapter outline. Back then there was really no such thing as e-mail queries. It was all done through “snail mail.”
I had a few nibbles, one in the form of an agent who said if I made a few of her suggested changes she would “see” if she could find someone who might be interested. Apparently she mentioned it briefly when she was having lunch with an editor about another project. There was no enthusiasm there, so she sent me a letter saying “thanks but no thanks,” as well as the usual response of “There are already too many cat care books on the market.” (But mine was different, I thought for the umpteenth time, it was about the care of INDOOR cats, which at the time was very rare). She had been one of the last on my list that accepted such a book, so I put the manuscript away… for a time.
Several years later, I was speaking to a friend and asked her if her editor might like my book. She said it would be ok to use her name in sending it to her editor. And so off it went. Months went by and I heard nothing, so I contacted my friend. “She moved to another publishing house,” my friend told me. Nice, I thought, just leave and never bother responding.
I contacted the editor via e-mail at her new house and she told me she had to pass on my book. “There are too many cat care books on the market,” I was told. Ugh! So, I asked her if she thought the editor that had taken her old position might be interested. Her reply was a pretty definite no. Thus, I decided not to query this new editor.
The very next day I received a snail mail letter in the mail. It was in a familiar #10 envelope… a self addressed stamped envelope as is typical to send to an editor for a reply to your query. I opened it up, curious, as I didn’t remember having anything out there at the time. You could have knocked me over with a feather! It was from the new editor that I had decided not to query. She had found my proposal in the previous editor’s rejection pile and thought the market most definitely needed a book on indoor cats (out of 200 rejections, she chose two books to accept, mine and a pen pal of mine at the time, who wrote a book on stray cats).
A year later that book was published in hard cover, was a best seller in Great Britain and led me to many more books and publishing projects. And to top it off, the old editor came back in a different position to the publishing house and I got to meet her when I went down there to have lunch with “my” editor! She admitted she was wrong to reject my book.
So, the moral to the story is, you never know! Don’t take rejection personally. Just because one or even ten editors and agents say no to your project doesn’t mean it’s not good. It means either they don’t see the market potential (which is what happened in my case), they are swamped and your manuscript simply doesn’t spark enough enthusiasm for them to take it on, or they simply have a different taste.
Remember, editors and agents are people too. As you won’t like every novel you read, even if it’s good writing, neither will they.