I’ve been writing long enough to know not to get offended by rejection. In fact, I’ve blogged in the past about some of my favourite rejections. But I have reached a point with my current book where I’m wondering whether I need to put it in a hat box for five years a la L.M.Montgomery and Anne of Green Gables. So far the book has had the following rejections, and been revised between each one before sending out again.
- The Womentoring project in 2014
- The Kelpies Prize 2015
- The Times/Chickenhouse Children’s Fiction Competition 2015
- The Greenhouse Funny Prize 2016
- The Mslexia Children’s Novel Competition 2016
- A Scottish Book Trust New Writer’s Awards 2016
- One literary agent in 2017
When I got that last one, the agent’s assistant told me:
Malorie Blackman wrote 9 books and was submitting for 2.5 years (and got 82 rejections) before her first book deal, and then she became Children’s Laureate – so do persevere!
It’s nice to get some encouragement, and although my guts initially leapt to feeling a bit patronised (I’ve written 15 books and been submitting for 3 years, yo), after taking a bit of a step back it did help. I’m glad they’re citing someone with that level of perseverance – 82 rejections puts my 7 firmly in perspective.
A Matter of Perspective
The internet is full of such stats, too. These include:
- 12 rejections for J.K. Rowling
- 13 for Watership Down by Richard Adams
- 15 for Anne Frank’s actual diary
- 20 rejections for Lord of the Flies by William Golding
- 28 rejections for A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L’Engle, which later won the Newbery Prize and is being made into a film due out this year starring Oprah
- US Postal bag full of rejections for Meg Cabot (she says this is too heavy to lift)
Based on those, I need to up my submission game before giving up on this MS entirely. At the very least I need to send it to five more agents so it has been rejected the same number of times as Harry Potter. The age range I’m writing for, 8-12, is the fastest growing area of children’s fiction at the moment so possibly I should double that.
Isn’t there another way?
The other option is to go down the route of self-publishing, which is what Beatrix Potter did after years of rejection. But the trouble with that is, whilst some genres for adults have an enormous and dedicated audience mainlining self published books like there’s no tomorrow, I’ve never heard the same said of children’s books.
An appointment with Dr Googlé says Romance is far and away the most popular genre for self-published book sales on Amazon, followed by Thrillers, then Fantasy and SF. Meanwhile last year the Bookseller reported that whilst children are reading more, they want to read print.
Further to this, famously the key to self-publishing success is marketing – and whilst there is a clear path for marketing books to grown ups on the internet, if you want to get stuff in front of children you have to get to the gatekeepers first. I don’t think a lot of mums and dads are looking at the self-published section of Smashwords or Amazon for stuff to get their kids reading – they’re more likely to speak to teachers or librarians.
N.B. I do understand you can self publish and get physical copies of a book. But I don’t have the time or the contacts to then get such things in front of kids on my own. And that is why it’s not the route for me.
I often don’t know what I think about something before I write about it. Before I started this post, I thought maybe I’d give up on the MS and try submitting something else for a bit. But now, I think I’ll give it a few more goes.
If you’ve been struggling with a similar problem, I hope this helps.