From the Author:
When I originally blogged about my first rejection in response to a manuscript query, the article drew considerable interest and a few readers asked for details about how I got beyond that point to eventual publication. So, here's the original post, followed by the rest of the story.
Getting Beyond That First "No"
My heart was in my throat as I opened that first email. I'd finally gotten the courage to send query letters to a handful of literary agents, and this was my first response. Were they dying to read my manuscript? Was it an offer of representation? Did they have the perfect publisher in mind who would snatch up my book?
I clicked, and this is what I read (actual email with names omitted):
Thank you for querying me about your manuscript. I've read your sample pages and I'm sorry to say that the project just isn't a perfect fit with my current needs. Although I liked it very much, I just didn't love it. This has less to do with your strengths as a writer and more to do with my goals as an agent and the trends of the current literary marketplace.
I wish you the best of luck in your search for the right agent and publisher. Keep writing!
Name (Assistant to agent)
Wow, what did that mean? Oh, I got it that she wasn't offering to represent me, but what about all the rest? Why didn't she love it? How could a manuscript be against her goals? What were these mysterious market trends?
I read it through again. She said she liked it. Surely agents didn't tell everybody that. And she urged me to keep writing. That was encouragement, if I ever heard it. She must think I have strengths as a writer since she mentioned them. On the other hand—"Dear Author." It was disconcerting that she'd already forgotten my name, and I hadn't failed to notice that my rejection had come at the hands of an assistant.
After all that initial angst, I soon learned that the response I'd gotten was pretty standard for the industry and meant nothing except "no." I licked my wounded ego and on the advice of other writers, I sent out more queries. My skin got tougher, I became more tenacious, and I took the one piece of advice she offered. I kept writing.
Over two years and several re-writes later, I received another first, the first yes from a publisher, followed by a signed contract, a published ebook in September 2012, and a paperback edition in December 2012. I've been fortunate enough to continue writing and publishing with Etopia Press.
Not only did I keep writing after that first rejection, I continued to query. I was persistent, if nothing else. In fact, queries were sent to more than 150 agents. There were a few yes, if's along the way. One agent wanted me to change it to a story about zombies, another to a novel about angels. I wasn't interested. Another agent suggested I make it a straight mystery and make all the characters human. It might have worked, but it wasn't the story I had written. About two dozen agents read the full manuscript and a similar number requested partials. In the end, I received 72 written rejections, but the remaining queries had no response, the new way that agents say no.
In the meantime, I wrote two more fantasies with the same characters and two espionage thrillers. From time to time I worked on strengthening the first fantasy. By now I realized I had started submitting it long before it was ready, but those bridges were burned and I quit sending it out. During the winter of 2011 I did one more complete rewrite, switching all three fantasies into third person rather than first person, changed some of the character names, changed titles, deleted and added scenes. Then I set them aside because frankly I didn't know where to submit them.
Then THE email arrived offering a contract! It was the press that had been so encouraging.
After I quit celebrating, I sent the courtesy emails to the other two presses stating that I'd received an offer, and one of them asked me to give them an extra two weeks to firm up an offer of their own. I didn't wait. I didn't hear from the third press, but I've never regretted the decision I made. Etopia Press has a great staff. I was very happy the Guardian Witch series had found a home.
Of course, that isn't really the end of my story. The three Guardian Witch books expanded into a series of seven, and an elven urban fantasy trilogy is with the same publisher. I'm not through writing yet. Who knows what worlds will call me next . . .