Today I am pleased to welcome debut YA author, Eve Ainsworth, onto the blog to discuss her rejection journey to publication. Eve’s YA book, Seven Days is published this February by Scholastic. Eve is living proof that you can beat the rejection pile.
This post is about rejections - I know a lot about them…
My first rejection happened at the age of nine. I typed (yes, on a typewriter) my first children’s novel – Muddles the Mouse - and sent it to Penguin. A month or so later, a parcel arrived at the door, addressed to me. The letter they enclosed was lovely – it talked of talent and my book being taken to a meeting. Alas, it said, my book was rejected. Enclosed were several novels for me to read and console myself with.
I didn’t. I sulked. My first rejection hurt badly.
But I continued to write – half-written attempts littered my bedroom. I stop briefly whilst at university, distracted by partying and drink, and only started again when I entered the corporate world. I didn’t really fit into my new business role and found myself daydreaming out of the window at very important meetings.
Early submission letters were ‘lost’. I threw away most rejection letters from 2008 when I started writing in earnest. The first was an adult book. I was convinced it was an amazing thriller – looking back, it was clear it was not. I have kept one email from the time:
Thank you for sending this again. Your writing has much to recommend it – with some vivid moments and well described scenes. However, I’m sorry to say that I won’t ask to see the full typescript. This story does not have quite enough to stand out from the crowd in the market place – and when the story itself is relatively simple I think you need to concentrate more on drawing us into the heroine’s life – making the reader care about her and her plight from the start.
I hope the feedback is useful and I am sorry not to be responding with better news.
Please also remember that this is a very subjective business and another agent may feel differently.
Rather than read the positives of this email, I felt dejected. This was the last of many rejections and I decided that writing obviously wasn’t going to work for me. I stopped writing. I gave up.
For a bit.
I resumed again after the birth of my son. Writing could never really leave me – how could it? It was all I wanted to do. I wrote for pleasure and out of this evolved a comedy novel. I decided to submit again in 2011. Again, the rejections rolled in, including:
Although this is clearly a compelling narrative and you write with a strong, engaging style, I'm afraid XX is not the right agent to represent you at this time, as he didn't completely fall in love with the writing - and an agent must absolutely be 100% committed in order to sell a book in these straitened times for the major trade publishers.
Regretfully, I do not feel that this is the right book for XX at this time. To effectively carry out my role as your literary agent, I have to fall in love with your work instantly. This makes it a very personal decision, and one which might differ from other agents, so please do not be downhearted that we cannot find a home for it on our list. I would, however, be interested to read any other submissions you wish to send us in the future.
Ok. This was hard, but the rejections were a little more positive now. I was finding that my ‘voice’ seemed quite young. I joined a children’s writing group online. I started reading more YA novels. The next novel, later that year was The Art of Kissing Frogs, a comedy YA. I was proud of this one and sent it out, happily confident. It had already been shortlisted for the Greenhouse Funny Prize. Surely this one stood a chance?
No. In flowed the rejections:
I'm sorry to say that I have to pass on this. I didn't connect with the voice, but I can see why it's funny. Agenting is subjective and other agents may well feel differently.
I'm sorry to say, though, that I wasn't quite excited enough by them to feel I'd be the right agent for you. I'm sorry to disappoint, and do wish you every success with your writing.
And this one from Curtis Brown
I had really hoped to fall in love with THE ART OF KISSING FROGS, particularly since I did like the idea but I’m afraid I just didn’t connect with the story as much as I had hoped to. This is just my opinion though and of course another agent may feel differently.
I would, however, be really keen to see anything you write in the future if you don’t end up finding representation this time.
Ok – I felt low now. I was getting pretty used to rejections that were by now filling my inbox. I had started a new job in a local secondary school and this distracted me for a bit. Then I found myself writing something new. Something grittier. Something called 7 Days.
I began to submit again in 2013:
Many thanks for sending me your submission, which I read with interest – you write well and fluently. I’m afraid, however, that I didn’t feel strongly enough about it to offer you representation. Our business is subjective by nature and someone else may well feel differently: I wish you the best of luck with that.
I'm afraid that it's just too bleak for me at the moment. It's always going to be hard to have a POV from a bully and make the reader like that POV. Best of luck with your writing in the future, and do think of me again if you don't find rep this time around.
Whilst we were gripped by the opening and impressed by the flow of your writing, ultimately we weren’t as moved by the novel as we were hoping to be. Real life, ‘issues’ fiction of this kind is in fact a very hard sell and so we’ve decided not to take Seven Days further.
However – all was not lost. Three agents contacted me to ask for full manuscripts. One of them was Stephanie Thwaites at Curtis Brown, who soon wrote back to say:
Both Emma and I have read, in fact devoured, SEVEN DAYS! We both really enjoyed it and are keen to meet up with you and talk about next steps.
Stephanie has since told me that she recognised my name from slush from my previous submissions, so immediately picked it up. I was so glad to meet her and hear her exciting plans and within months, my book – Seven Days was placed with Scholastic.
My experience is the best proof that you should never give up. Rejection does not mean the end. It might just mean that it wasn’t right at that time.
Rejections maketh the author!
Seven Days is published by Scholastic on the 5th February 2015
To find out more about Eve Ainsworth: