Tuesday, August 18, 2009


Six months ago, at the San Francisco Writers Conference, I pitched my book to an editor from a major publishing house. She liked the idea, and asked me to send the first five chapters. I did, and two months later she asked me to send the whole thing. I was elated... and stressed: I had a ton of polishing to do before I felt comfortable sending the entire manuscript. So I locked myself in my office for three weeks, finished the manuscript, and sent it to her.

Then I waited.
And waited.
And waited some more.

It's not uncommon for an agent or editor to take over six months to respond, but it was still maddening. Should I send a follow up email? What if she didn't even get my email? What if she couldn't open the file? Shouldn't she at least confirm? What if I look like a stalker and she rejects it just to get me off her back? After consulting some other writers for advice, I settled on sending the editor a follow-up email once a month. It's so different than my biotech job, where if I don't get a response in four hours, I assume the person is in the hospital.

Finally, last week, over three months later, I got a response: rejected. But it was what the industry calls an "encouraging rejection." Really, any type of response other than a form rejection letter falls into this category. It varies from a phone call or personal meeting (most encouraging) to a handwritten note scribbled across the bottom of a form letter (least encouraging).

My rejection letter was fairly encouraging because:
1) Based on her comments, the editor seems to have actually read the entire manuscript. Now, she's a professional, so she's not going to read the whole thing just to be nice; she'd stop as soon as she had a reason to.
2) She had some positive feedback
3) Her negative feedback was constructive and probably warranted
4) She didn't say my writing sucked; she just had some (totally fixable) issues with the plot

So, while a part of me was of course disappointed that she didn't call and immediately offer me a million bucks for my manuscript, I came away encouraged. Many a NYT bestseller has received dozens of similar rejections before being picked up.

Now. What's next? I'm sticking with my original plan of seeking an agent. But first, I'm going to hire a freelance editor to help with the manuscript. Which is a whole other blog topic...


  1. You have a great positive attitude and determination to go forward. Many of us can hardly wait to read that book. Keep up the good work.

  2. I already decided I'm ordering at least six.

  3. You should have let your dad proof read it.

  4. Yes. Why don't you let your entire leaf blower audience read the manuscript and WE will give you all the comments you could ever desire!

  5. Every rejection is one step closer to getting published. Your novel is too good, and you have an audience waiting to read more.

  6. have you joined a writer's critique group? That is a great way to get peer feedback on your writing. Rejection is going to come A LOT, so just keep writing. Start the next book if you can and step away from this one so you back to this with fresh eyes in a few months.