Pub Rants


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Status: Tired but elated. In the last two months, I’ve sold 8 books. Today I started negotiations on book 9. As a new agency, it was typical for me to sell 10-15 books in a year (as my client list slowly grew) so this pace in two months means I’ve hit the turning point. Dang. It probably means I can no longer consider myself “new.” I think this means I’m “established.”

But the flip side to sales is, of course, rejection.

I hate publishing house rejections. Probably I don’t feel it as keenly as my authors do (because it’s really their blood, sweat, and tears) but I feel it.

Today I felt like banging my head on my desk several times.

I have an up-market commercial women’s fiction currently out on submission. The editor letter I received today raved about the work. She loved it. It was beautifully written. She recited her favorite scenes from the work.

She passed with enormous regret (her words—not mine).

Do you know how difficult it sometimes is to find the exact right editor who gets it? It feels like a million to one shot on some days. Here’s an editor who got it. Totally loved what I loved about the novel.

So why the pass? The work wasn’t commercial enough for her house.

Kristin bangs head on desk.

But that wasn’t the only rejection letter today. My other also raved about another work I have out on submission. Both reading editors loved it. However, their line recently had a shift in focus and is now only concentrating on works written by celebrities.

Kristin bangs head on desk.

The author wrote me after I forwarded her the note. She said it would be a hell of a lot easier if they just told her she sucked as a writer. All this love, and no offer, was terrible.

I don’t agree with her there. They are at least recognizing her talent but I certainly understand the frustration.

I take it personally. I want to sell everything I take on (because to be honest, I don’t really take on that much in a year—3 or 4 new clients on average—so it needs to sell and for good money).

100% sell-through is not humanely possible but darn if I don’t try and get close; each rejection feels like a little poke at my goal—not to mention my reputation. That’s how I feel it.

25 Responses

  1. MTV said:

    I guess you never get used to it, do you? Especially, as a professional, you have your hand on the “pulse” of this industry, and yet “the market” can dictate away from true art and quality.

    That’s what makes this business so tough.

    Thanks for sharing your frustration!

  2. the green ray said:

    Kristin, you are so terrific, I wish you handled my genre. I’d query you in a minute! But I’m really enjoying your heartfelt blog. Thanks!

  3. Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said:

    I needed to read this. Thanks for the comments. Rejection is rejection.

    Oh, and I got one of those today. I didn’t even want to open it. I’m glad I did. It was three paragraphs of helpful comments and commendation.

    It was still a rejection, but being told that my writing was nicely nuanced and appealing made me smile. The editor kindly encouraged my writing. This was great, and I needed it desperately.

    This was a rejection of an earlier permutation of my book. The faults listed were spot on. I’ve worked for five months on those very problems, and I’m about ready to send it off into the wild world of publishing again. Poor baby.

    I’ve drifted off topic. It’s nice to know that agents “feel” rejections too. Thanks.

  4. Deidre Knight said:

    Ah, how true, friend. The sad truth is that agents receive mountains of rejections, often dashing our own hopes and dreams (albeit temporarily). That’s the irony to me that agents are often remembered only as being the ones who dish out the rejection. I think a column like this one is so smart because it reminds authors that we receive just as much in that area as we give. Well…not as much, but it can sure feel that way!

    Nine books! YOU ROCKING WOMAN!
    Hugs, D

  5. Simon Haynes said:

    “However, their line recently had a shift in focus and is now only concentrating on works written by celebrities.”

    Cold shivers just ran up my spine. Is this the future of publishing?

  6. Anonymous said:

    As one of those clients that got a rejection today, I can attest to this statement: “but darn if I don’t try and get close.” Kristin does work mighty hard for her clients, and it’s appreciated.

    Now I’ll go and play Gloria Gaynor, get over it, and try to put some of what attracted all that editor love into the WIP.

  7. Kelly Parra said:


    I’m one of Kristin’s clients too, and I went through those tough rejections, but believe me you’re in good hands. Like she says, she’s a Taurus and she doesn’t give up easily.

    I hope you find the right editor at the right house soon. =)

  8. Anonymous said:

    Thanks Kelly. Your story is what keeps me going some days.:)

    Also I’m glad I edit my manuscripts better than I do my blogger posts!

  9. Shannon McKelden said:

    After several years of this, I have determined that the most feared/hated/annoying word to a writer is “However.” Takes all the lovely praise of the first paragraph of a rejection letter and negates it all. 🙂


  10. Faith said:

    I never ceases to amaze me how agents go through the same thing with editors that writers go through to get that agent.

    LOL, I actually have a sig that goes: Writer’s Therapy: Bang. Head. On. Desk.

  11. Lady M said:

    I have no words of solace – only some advice that a pretty darn good rootin’ tootin’ agent gave me (and a whole bunch of others) once not too long ago.

    Please allow me to quote:

    And it’s easy to forget. But remember, if an agent or an editor rejects your work. It’s not personal. Don’t assign a meaning to it (like “I’m a failure” or “I have no talent” or “this is how my life always is” or “I’m unworthy”).

    A NO is simply a NO—nothing more.

    Get ye to the next Publisher and banish those idiots from your mind. You WILL sell!

    I have faith! 😛

    Lady M

  12. joanr16 said:

    I believe I’m the author of the “upmarket commercial women’s fiction” Kristin mentioned in this post. I’m learning that when the rejections arrive, you shake them off, and keep going– even the ones that by all logic should have been a sale.

    It helps that Kristin so well understands her authors’ investment in our work. It also helps to have friends who’ll cheer you up by cutting and splicing your various rejections into one perfect response that proves, beyond any doubt, that you’ve written the greatest novel of the age. It helps to keep extra bags of Valentines chocolates in the fridge for those days that bring two or more rejections.

    I’ve dreamed of being a published novelist for a long, long time. In the last few months, as Kristin’s client, I’ve come to want this sale as much for her sake as for mine. When that acceptance finally does arrive, it’ll be wonderful to justify her faith in our shared vision.

  13. kathie said:

    I’m waiting as my agent submits my book and I feel as though my skin is crawling off my body. Being imaginative, every possible scenario creeps through my brain as I wait and I can’t take it any more! I’ve busied myself writing so I’m not totally useless or in a funk. It’s great to hear an agent’s side of the rejection. I just hope my agent doesn’t have to breathe those words to me…

  14. The Beautiful Schoolmarm said:

    I can’t find it, but someone wrote a blog about the time investment an agent makes in a book (and how this would translate to money if agents made an hourly wage). Her low estimate was about 200 hours. That’s a heck of a lot of time to invest in a book (and that’s minimally). No wonder rejections sting.

    -Becca (who is wishing that she had an agent, much less editors)

  15. Stephanie said:


    I sincerely hope you receive your acceptance “hooray” from Kristin soon. Not simply because I am sure that you deserve it, but because it continues to give hope to the rest of us out here still seeking representation. I am at the query letter/sample chapter stage for my first novel. Kristin is one of two agencies considering my sample chapters, and though the second is a larger agency in New York, I would much prefer someone on my side as sincere and tenacious as Kristin. Of course, I sent two new queries out today, keeping in line with some advice I read once in a book on writing by Stephen King, that new writers should always keep queries in circulation.

    These blogs have served as hearty entertainment and necessary education for me, but this is the first time I’ve wanted to respond. There was something in your comment that struck me. I think it was the statement, “I’ve dreamed of being a published novelist for a long, long time.” It is the same for me, and I’m sure for many others. After many years of working on my creative writing (BA, workshops, conferences, etc.), and completing a first novel that I am proud of, it is daunting to even begin this whole process. I just wanted to thank you for your optimism and hopeful words of encouragement. It will only happen when we believe that it will. It seems that it certainly will for you. Be thankful that you’re in good hands.

  16. joanr16 said:

    Stephanie, I appreciate your kind wishes. Best of luck to you, as well. It sounds like you’ve made a great foundation for your writing career.

    I can’t stress enough that “you’ve got to have friends,” as Bette Midler says. After a decade of false starts, I wrote my current novel supported by the feedback, love and encouragement of a (mostly) weekly writing group. It can be SO hard to find folks willing to read your work in progress and respond with more than “It was good… I liked it.” (One suggestion. If you know any teachers, ask around and see if any have heard of the National Writing Project, have attended any NWP Institutes, and belong to or want to start a post-Institute writing group. You don’t have to be a teacher to benefit from NWP’s methods for encouraging writers. I was recruited for our group by my coworker’s wife, while working in the IT department of a bank.)

    Oh gosh, I hope that didn’t sound cultish. My point is, nobody writes in a vacuum. The cyber community is marvelous, but nothing beats gathering over coffee (or margaritas) with smart, literate people to try out those first sketchy scenes that one day will become your novel.

  17. Stephanie said:


    Terrific advice! I’m actually a member of the National Writing Project. I went through our region’s Institute (AWP–Acadiana Writing Project) in 1999. And, funny that you mention it, we started a writing group for a year or two following, then fell away. (Life just keeps on moving.) Although my current work is not one that I had even dreamed up at the time, I am fortunate that my dearest friend is an English teacher who is my own personal editor and cheerleader. I have had two others in my field (I’m also an English teacher) edit as well. However, perhaps it’s time to call up some old friends.

    I dearly appreciate your response. When you mentioned NWP, I felt like I’d found a kindred spirit. So uplifting, thank you.

  18. Cindy Procter-King said:

    I like that you feel the rejections. It tells me how strongly you believe in your clients. They’re lucky to have you.

    Congratulations on your successes of late!


  19. Cindy Procter-King said:

    Oooh, she’s a Taurus. Now I know why I like her (not just from this blog, but from hearing her speak and sharing a table with her at a conference). My son and my mother and one of my best friends are all Tauruses.

    Anonymous, Kelly, and Joanr16, here’s crossing fingers your sales will come soon. Kelly, I think I know one of your cps–a YA writer with Hollywood connections, LOL. Are you the person I sat beside at Kristin’s workshop in Reno?


  20. Kelly Parra said:

    Cindy, hi! Yep, I met you in Reno through Tina. I hope you’re doing well!

    Joanr16, good luck with your submissions. Believe me, I know the Rs are tough, the close calls even tougher. Hang in there, you’ll make your sale!

  21. Heidi said:

    mtv said:
    I guess you never get used to it, do you?

    Yes, you do. Over time the impact fades and you’ll find that rejection doesn’t hurt as much any more. Some days you might get a little alasogram in your email, and you simply shrug, update the entry in Sonar and send the piece out again without a single twinge.

    One thing that helps lessen the sting of rejection is to have a minor acceptance somewhere. You look at that one sale, no matter how minor, and you know that somewhere someone thought you publishable.

    Now, to get a “I love it, but it’s not suitable for our market at this time” is a pretty good rejection to get.

    It means that you are a crack writer and not a writer on crack. So this ONE THING didn’t click with this publisher. It’s not your fault they’re not buying Mormon Vampire fiction at the moment.

    If you are a good writer, that will show through no matter what you write. If your next project is Steampunk Romance and that just happens to be the hot market at the moment, then you may not be looking at a “we love it, however” reject but an acceptance.

    In your rejectomancy, never mistake a “we love it, however” rejection to mean that you suck as a writer, because you don’t. If anything, it confirms you are a good writer. So go write something that they can sell.

    verification: skogit.

  22. Anonymous said:

    I can handle one “I love it, however,” along with skill-affirming explanations of why they loved it. Those explanations can ease the sting. I can even handle five or six.

    But when the “I fell in love, took it to the ed board kind of love, however” rejections reach double digits, it can drive you to drink, or wonder if it might not be easier to take a “we didn’t like it so much” rejection than a “you came this close” rejection for the Nth time.

    But then you realize that even though they’re tough to take, they’re still better than “you suck.”

  23. rusty said:

    Just out of curiosity, have you ever gotten an “I’m presonally not that crazed about the book, but I’m pretty sure we can sell nine thousand copies” [i]acceptance[/i]?


    Very nice hear an agent going through some of the same rollercoaster ride we writers go through–it’s almost comforting.

  24. Gosserville News said:

    Wow, you just described excatly what I go through as an author. There is so much second guessing it can truly make your head bleed! You sound like a great, caring agent. Keep your head up. No need to bang it on the desk.