Friday, 23 August 2013

The Amazing Rejectomatic

Are you fed up of spending:
  • 6 months writing a book
  • 3 months revising it
  • 2 weeks writing a synopsis and covering letter
  • 2 hours tailoring your submission according to the agent’s instructions
  • 6 to 10 weeks waiting for a reply
Only to finally receive a form rejection?

Well, help is here at last, with the Amazing Rejectomatic! Simply enter a few details below about yourself and your book (even if it’s only an idea you had on the bus this morning) and within seconds you’ll have your very own personalised rejection letter! Print it, frame it, burn it – whatever you like and in just a fraction of the time!

Your Name:
Your Book Title:
What is the Book About? 
(ten words or less)

Your personalised rejection letter will appear here.

Please note that our agents and editors reserve the right to completely change their minds whenever it suits them. Try the Amazing Rejectomatic again, and you’ll probably get an entirely different response!

Only one thing is for sure, it’ll never be a yes.


P.S. I'm taking another week off, so expect the next post on Friday 6th September.

Friday, 16 August 2013


It's official - I have submissianxiety. The symptoms are there for all to see: inability to settle to a task, compulsive checking of email, nervous fiddling with the synopsis, unrealistic expectation of publishing response times and frenzied sequel planning. I may have missed the condition off my list of common writing disorders, but that doesn't make it any more manageable.

I wanted to write a blog about something else today, anything really - the price of stamps, shark dentistry or even Martian cheese farms. But my submissianxiety wouldn't let me do that. It's all because I got so excited about finishing the manuscript and sending it off to people, and now I have all this extra adrenaline running around my system with nowhere to go. Of course, I tell myself, I'm being ridiculous - good things take time, and I should be patient and wait for everyone to get back to me. But somehow that reassurance isn't doing the trick!

OK, time for some deep breaths. Clearly, my submissianxiety needs some careful management, lest I go raving mad. Here are some things I might be able to do about it:
  • Stop checking my email so often. This is an easy one. I don't need to look at my personal email more than two or three times a day, so I should keep to a schedule - maybe at the start of the day, after lunch and 5 or 6 in the evening.
  • Leave the book alone. The couple of people who've fed back on the novel so far both made the same suggestion of how it might be improved. However, that would be a lot of work, and would also move the book away from my original conception of how I wanted it to be. Anything that would make the book better is worth strong consideration, but I feel I need to stop tinkering and wait for a wider spread of opinion before doing anything rash. It is hard, though, to resist the idea of constantly revising the book until someone likes it. This was the thing I liked best about having an agent, because there was usually only one person telling you what to change.
  • Tell myself that no-one is ever going to want this book, so there's no point getting my hopes up. This is the pessimist's approach to the problem. I've often seen this mentioned by authors, but always in the context of: "I sent the book off not expecting anything to happen and two weeks later I had a squillion dollar deal." I've yet to see the more truthful version: "I sent the book off expecting everyone to hate it and nine months later it was pretty clear they all did."
  • Get immersed in something else. This one's easy to suggest, but harder to achieve. Part of the nature of submissianxiety is that it hovers behind one shoulder, constantly reminding me not to get too involved with a new project, lest someone suddenly require me to completely rewrite the novel I have on submission and churn out a couple of sequels by Wednesday week. It's fair to say that this has never happened to me yet, however! I do like the thinking that I've seen writers use elsewhere, the idea that they will just devote two or three weeks to a speculative project and see what happens. Maybe it's time for me to look at writing a 7-9 book?
So, there are just a few ideas for the suitable treatment of submissianxiety. If you have any tricks of your own, do let me know in the comments. I feel calmer already!


Friday, 9 August 2013

Would Like to Meet...

I received my first rejection on the new book this week, and was surprised by how much it stung and by how much self-doubt was churned up in its wake. It was a prompt and kindly response (full of useful feedback), but a rejection all the same. I felt like an unhappy singleton who had just dipped a toe back into the dating market, and then had a disastrous first date with someone who they desperately wanted to impress. In my mind, I’d love to be the person who flounces away, saying “well, they’re clearly not worthy of me,” but I’m actually the type who’d be sitting at home with a tub of ice cream howling “what’s wrong with me?”

The more I looked for parallels between dating and looking for an agent/editor, the more appeared. We go out tentatively, with our hearts on our sleeves, looking for a connection with someone we barely know. It’s gruelling, off-putting process and rejection goes with the territory. I imagine someone sat in front of an internet dating site, discounting possible dates on appearance alone – “too old”, “too fat”, “too funny looking” – and then see that same person looking through a slushpile, making similar assessments: “too slow”, “too fast”, “too much like all those other books”.

But then I found differences too, because finding someone who loves what you do isn’t the same as finding someone who loves who you are. It’s possible to have a very satisfactory business relationship with someone in publishing who has little in common with you personally, but who adores your work. Equally, I’ve been happily married for seventeen years, but I know my wife would much prefer it if I stopped writing these new-fangled children’s novels and came up with something a bit more like the books she read as a child. As a writer though, I think it’s easy to conflate the two states and see a rejection of something you’ve made as a rejection of your whole self.

I certainly found the aftermath of my departure from my agent was a lot like a really bad break-up. I seemed to spend months in a directionless haze, starting books and then giving up on them almost immediately. I’d also lost confidence in the book I’d completed, and I stopped submitting it to insulate myself from further rejection. I’m sure what I should have done was get immediately back in the game and send out a submission to every children’s agent in the country, but it seemed safer to retreat into my shell.

But here I am a year later, new on the scene and apparently still a little “emotionally vulnerable.” However, failure is not an option this time – I’m going to keep sending this book out until everyone in the literary world is heartily sick of it. People will run away from me at parties, mouthing “Oh God – don’t let him see me.” Either I’ll grow a thicker skin or get arrested. Maybe both!