could do better

For a writer, rejection can be a good thing. There’s nothing shameful about it – most writers go through it if they try to get themselves published. The number of rejections roughly equalling the number of attempts you’ve made to get a book, a short story or a poem published.

Very few rejections are that bad. On the whole editors and agents won’t swear at you, they won’t tell you you’re useless, they’ll do their best to be nice to you, either because turning writers down is not exactly the best part of their job, or because they don’t want risk a torrent of abuse from a disgruntled writer.

Though to be fair, I did have a story returned with ‘could do better’ in the margin. I decided that I’d do a lot better in future by submitting to an editor who wasn’t so rude.


But some rejections are gems. Good rejections give you a pointer to what you are doing right, and how you can improve things. Looking back through my file I found that a fair few agents told me that I write well. I’m still quite touched that they took the time to do that.

Other comments may not be so glowing but are maybe more useful. “your style may be a bit too self-consciously “literary” to do your story justice”. Ouch. That one hurt. But I could see what he meant and I fixed it. Plus, there was a compliment in there at the end. If busy agent takes time to write anything other than a standard letter it’s a good sign.

It’s always hard to take a rejection, but over time it gets easier. They’re not rejecting you, not even rejecting your novel (or short story or poem), not in really. Just saying that they don’t think they could sell it.

In my hand I have one of the rejections from the latest round of queries. The rest are in a pile at my side.

It’s a tiny pile. Not really a pile at all, and definitely not a stack. But it’s a start.
I’m not doing all that well – I’ve only had 5 rejections. One envelope was returned marked Addressee has gone away – I hope that wasn’t on my account.

The pile isn’t higher because I haven’t submitted any queries since Christmas. And if I’m not submitting, nothing’s going to happen. How is the right agent going to say yes if I haven’t asked them?

I need to get on with it otherwise I’ll end up with another letter that says agent Blah can’t consider your novel as she has just agreed to represent an author with a similar book.

You can imagine how that made me feel.



  1. […] 5/52 To take full advantage of Flickr, you should use a JavaScript-enabled browser and install the latest version of the Macromedia Flash Player. F.decorate(_ge(‘button_bar’), F._photo_button_bar).bar_go_go_go(2234381439, 0);F.decorate(_ge(‘photo_notes’), F._photo_notes).notes_go_go_go(2234381439, ‘’, ‘3.1444’); View ronet’s map Taken in (See more photos here) Thanks to the advice of the camera shop guys I can now use flash with Vlad. I got another rejection from an Agent this week. But I don’t really mind. Read why.  […]

  2. At least you’re suffering in Amsterdam and not Detroit. A small thing but there it is. I see you list Never Let Me Go as a favorite book. I loved that book. One of the few lately that made me weep.

  3. At least if they agreed to represent a similar book, it means books like yours are sellable. Can’t be bad right?

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