Rejected!

I recently received a lovely email from a fan and an aspiring author asking for some advice, and while I have responded, I felt that I should share my experience with rejection with all of you.

The email:

Dear Charlotte,

I am a fan of all of your books and have been following you since you first published Seven Dirty Words. I’m an aspiring author myself and was wondering if you had any tips on how to avoid rejection. I submitted a manuscript to agents and publishers, but every single one of them has sent it back and I’m feeling very down. 

Thank you,

FAN

My response:

Dear FAN,

Firstly, I’d like to say thank you for reaching out to me. I always enjoy receiving emails and messages from readers. The next thing I’d like to say is don’t beat yourself up over a rejection, especially if it’s with your first piece of work. Yes, I’m published now, but I wasn’t always and I still get rejected. In fact, I had a new manuscript rejected by three publishers in the past month – two of them being publishers I already have contracts with! Why? Because the manuscript I sent wasn’t up to scratch. It really is that simple. It wasn’t of a good enough standard to be considered. I’m lucky in that two of the rejections came with feedback and constructive criticism, and I plan on taking those comments and re-writing my novel over the summer. 

As a writer, it’s important that you have a thick skin. You will receive rejections and 1-star reviews and negative comments throughout your career. Even well-known authors have to deal with it. However, while you need to let the negativity slide off you, you need to take the comments that professionals make and learn from them. One of the comments I received with my recent rejection was that there was too much too soon. My characters burst onto the scene with little or no build-up. I could take that comment and get huffy, but instead I’ve looked at the scene and found areas that could be improved on.

If you got a standard rejection letter of “thanks but no thanks” with little or no feedback, the chances are that your manuscript didn’t make it past the slush-pile. This is common when it comes to big publishers & agents – in fact if it came from a big publisher or agent, then count yourself lucky that you got a response at all! The slush-pile is the enemy of all aspiring authors. There is no guaranteed method that gets you past it, all you can do is craft an amazing submission letter and synopsis, and pray. Also, make sure you follow their submission guidelines to the letter!

With regards to the manuscript, I would highly suggest finding someone neutral to read over it. Don’t ask your mum or a friend – they’re going to say that it’s great. Join a local book club, writers group, or art community and find someone who is willing to read through and give you some good, strong feedback. The manuscript I submit is never the first one I write. I take chapters and snippets to my local writers group to read out, and I’ve buddied up with another writer who can be quite brutal when he wants to be! I then go back, completely re-write it from scratch, and then edit it about three or four times before submitting. Even then, I can guarantee there will be silly mistakes (slither vs sliver and jettisoned vs jetted are always mistakes I make), typos and grammar errors that I’ve missed.

My last piece of advice would be to find authors that in the same genre as you, and follow them on social media. They will give you insights into who they use for editing, who their publishers are etc., and you may find that you make some useful contacts along the way. When I started out, it was a chance meeting at a literary festival that led me to discovering small press publishers like Tirgearr Publishing. 

I wish you all the luck with your novel, and hope you’ll stay in touch. I’d love to follow you on your journey.

Charlotte Howard

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