Pub Rants

There Will Always Be One

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STATUS: The only problem with doing a lot of deals is doing all the time-consuming contracts. Small price to pay really.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? HAPPY TOGETHER by The Turtles

I know I’ve said this before but it bears repeating. No matter how good a manuscript, no matter how many editors attend the auction, no matter how much the project went for in the end, there will always be at least one editor who passed on the novel.


For fun, I went back into Ally Carter’s submission folder. In case you’ve been living under a rock, one or both of Ally’s Gallagher Girl books have been on the New York Times Bestseller list for many many weeks.

She received no less than 5 rejections. Now the actual content of those letters isn’t mine to share but I can give you a general idea of why those houses passed. Two said that they thought the spy school idea had been done and it wasn’t fresh enough. Two other houses passed because they were afraid it was too similar to other books on their list (certainly a valid concern but when I look at those titles, they have never appeared on the NYT list). Okay, I probably shouldn’t have rubbed it in there.

The last house thought it should be grittier and was disappointed that it wasn’t more so.

In the end, two houses made pre-empts. One of which we accepted.

So I know there is one very sad editor out there who couldn’t convince her publisher to go higher in that pre-emptive offer and then there is Ally’s editor at Hyperion who is very glad she came in strong and now has the sales figures to validate her gamble.

Keep that in mind if you are currently on submission. I imagine that JK Rowling and Stephenie Meyer also have a letter or two that might make them chuckle now.

20 Responses

  1. Lynnsplanet said:

    Rejections you can look back on and chuckle about. I have one of those.

    I had an editor tell me ‘I don’t want to see this story come across my desk again.’ It was the first of four rejections. They only made me more stubborn and persistent.

    A Psychic Hitch is due out in June from Siren Publishing.


  2. Heidi the Hick said:

    You know, it’s funny, but people who aren’t as familiar with the wonderful world of publishing have a rather harsh attitude about rejections. I know they’re just trying to cheer my up, but I can’t help but cringe when I hear things like, “Yeah, well, just wait til you’re published, won’t all those jerks who rejected you be sorry then!”

    And I don’t have that attitude because I know life just isn’t that easy.

    It still is very much a relief to hear stories like this though.

    Sometimes a very well written book gets passed on and it can be for a number of reasons. I’m glad I discovered agent blogs. Very helpful for attitude adjustments and reality checks.

  3. Getting There With A Passion said:

    A thick skin will break you in…

    I needed to read that, especially before I submit.

    Way to go Ally!

    -Rachel Glass

  4. Anonymous said:

    Your blog brings up an important question in my mind. Sometimes the editor that makes the pre-emptive offer and gets the title is also sad because the book doesn’t do as well as expected. Not knowing anything about Ally Carter I’m wondering why you think her book is doing so well? I’ll take it for granted that she’s a great writer and it’s an excellent book but in this industry that doesn’t always equal success. Had she already built an audience from previous books? Did the publisher get behind the book and promote it. . .pay for space in bookstores etc. .

    Just curious what you think this author, you and the publisher did to help make this book the success that it is!


  5. Brenda said:

    Thanks so much for this great piece of professional encouragement, Kristin. We all need somebody to tell us to keep going, no matter where we are on the publication ladder.
    I keep on praying that that elusive element of luck that comes to every author will come to me. I have a super agent, have been a serious writer for over fourteen years now and still am not published. Anywhere. There are times I want to set my hair on fire, snark-style, I get so frustrated with the snail-like pace of publishing.
    But I’m not quitting. Calling stories out of nowhere is what thrills me silly, so I’m going to keep on going at it…no matter what.

  6. Deb said:

    Good for you, Ally! Any success gives the rest of us hope.

    Now let me tell you about the rejection I got when I hadn’t sent anything to that particular house…it was a nicely typed, personal letter, rejecting “your books”. I’d met the editor some months before at a conference, and as we talked he & I agreed that my novels wouldn’t be a great fit for that particular house.

    Imagine my crack-up when I got the letter!

    There was also the unsolicited e-mail rejecting me, from an agent I’d never heard of and hadn’t queried. I sent back an e-mail stating that I could not accept unsolicited rejections at this time, and therefore I expected an agency contract by return mail.

    No, they didn’t answer (G).

  7. Anonymous said:

    I needed this. Today my agent passed along a rejection, and I was feeling pretty low. Thanks for the lift and the encouragement.

  8. Anonymous said:

    I know Kristin doesn’t answer questions in the comment trail, but her post mentioning “Ally’s book received no less than 5 rejections,” made it seem like 5 was some ghastly number of rejects. Is it?

    There’s probaly no correct answer to this, but how many rejections is the usual (acceptabe) amount for a project an agent takes on?

    I’d always assumed 8 or 10?

  9. Lynnsplanet said:

    Yes, I agree agent blogs are very useful. They’re uplifting even if at times they seem to lecture the uninformed author – well, this one anyway.

    I don’t normally leave messages in them, but read and glean. It’s a look into the process from a different perspective. Homework.

    For me, I find it productive to know something from the other side of the fence rather than go in with the *me-me* attitude.

    On the other hand, the kind of rejection letter I receive determines whether or not I’ll submit other work to them. That first rejection on my current upcoming release – no, she won’t hear from me again. I’d rather receive a form letter for a rejection if an agent/editor can’t be tactful. The best rejections I’ve received are from those who are also authros. Those are the ones I will gladly submit other work to.

    I’m sorry this is long, but I’ve been thinking about this all morning.

    Bekki Lynn

  10. Kaytie M. Lee said:

    Anonymous @ 7:10,

    You’re right, there’s likely no real answer to your question. It depends on how many editors the agent chooses to submit to.

    If there were only 6 editors she knew were possible matches for Ally’s book, they are all she might send the novel to in the first round.

    But there can be a second round, and even a third…depends on the book and the agent. An agent doesn’t necessarily submit to all possible editors at once, to allow for the possibility of a revision in between rounds.

    I hope this makes sense. Basically, I’m trying to say that in this case, like so much of this industry, it just depends.

  11. Anonymous said:

    Anon 7:10….

    Even 8 or 10 can be “nothing”. I’m up to aroudn 18 and my agent’s just not giving up. We keep getting SO close only to have it not go through. She believes in the book.

    I think when she said “no less” she meant, “Check this out, the NYT best seller taht sold in pre-empt even got 5 rejections!”. Not like 5 rejectoins is a lot in the grand scheme.

  12. karen wester newton said:

    When Joe Haldeman won the Hugo for THE FOREVER PEACE he thanked his agent for taking his first novel, THE FOREVER WAR, to “that 18th editor,” because the first 17 had rejected it. I don’t think there is any work that every single person likes.

  13. Deb said:

    Kaytie made an important point. I’ve gotten rejections from houses to which I will submit again. Just because they were professionally phrased and didn’t take 2 years to print out.

    On the other hand, there are houses to which I will never again send a proposal because their subsequent contact was nasty, dismissive, unbusinesslike or inappropriate.

    Example: I once sent to a large house requesting guidelines. I was sent back a rejection letter (!) stating that unless they already worked with me, or unless I knew someone who worked with them, they would not read my work. To add insult to injury, they enclosed a number of brochures from vanity presses. If in future I sell a gajillion books, this house will never get one of mine.

    We are part of this business, too.

  14. Anonymous said:

    I’ve enjoyed surfing and reading different agent blogs on the web. I find great insight into how an agent thinks and processes their day-to-day tasks. Inevitably, I pick up tips here and there along the way that will help in my tasks.

    What most agents almost always do is give readers insight into their personalities.

    Many times I find I’m asking myself whether this is an agent I should bookmark. Should I send a future query to him/her?

    The ones I’ve bookmarked have personalities that I can appreciate. And none of them seem condescending (though one could take it that way if a rejection letter was recently received).

    That is, until I was reading your blog.

    It seems you have a low opinion of your readers. In at least two cases, you mention people living under rocks:

    “For fun, I went back into Ally Carter’s submission folder. In case you’ve been living under a rock, one…” [Feb 7 Posting]


    “You probably have to be living under a rock not to have heard all of the hullaballoo happening over at the Smart Bitches Blog and…” [Jan 11 Posting]

    Aside from your insulting tone, aren’t you guilty of not meeting an agent’s standards: Being original?

    Unless you are truly that haughty, you might consider toning down your language. It reflects poorly on you and your agency.

    (For the record, no, you’ve never rejected any of my queries.)

  15. ~Nancy said:

    It seems you have a low opinion of your readers. In at least two cases, you mention people living under rocks:


    Unless you are truly that haughty, you might consider toning down your language. It reflects poorly on you and your agency.

    With all due respect to Anon 6:46…how long have you been reading this blog? This was just Kristin having some fun, no haughtiness or anything underhanded intended.

    Lighten up.