Daily Archives: September 17, 2009

Lucinda Week, Day 5: How Many Rejections DID Lucinda Get?

You can only have one first and Lucinda at the Window was mine. It was the first novel I wrote, and on the 20th of September, it will be the first to reach publication. All this week, I plan to present a process log detailing the writing of Lucinda at the Window, its path to publication, and how my first has influenced me as a writer.

The semi-official 1st chapter is available for download (PDF).
The novel is available at
Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.com

Lucinda Week Index

Every-so-often Eric will ask, "How many rejections DID Lucinda get?"

I always claim to not remember.

The joy of finishing a novel, being in that 10% (an important thing for a former over-achiever), is short-lived for me. The process of deciding where to to send the finished novel, the fretting over a cover/query letter and synopsis, the anxiety over whether everything is to the potential editor/agent’s specs: these things turn me into a neurotic mess. Worse yet, these efforts are most commonly met with a coldly-written half-slip of paper sent back in your own SASE. It’s not pleasant, but it is necessary.

When I started submitting Lucinda at the Window back in 2000, it was a very different world. The internet was not yet the useful tool it is today. I began by purchasing the most recent Writer’s Market, a weighty and pricey tome, and began to educate myself in the differences between submitting a novel-length work versus a short story, which I had published in the past. Looking at the hierarchy of publishing, I decided to start at the top. There was no reason not to. Many of the major publishing houses still accepted unsolicited queries and writing samples. My first submission packages were to them. While I knew it wasn’t likely, part of me expected to sell Lucinda within the first year. Or the second at the latest.

Richard Laymon wrote in A Writer’s Tale that rejection slips are badges of honor that show "you’ve done your duty. You’ve written your stuff and sent it out. You’ve done your part. … They’re not fun to get." The rejections for Lucinda were not the first I had ever received, but these were different from short story rejections. They were form letters, sometimes only a half sheet of paper. They were addressed to "Author". They were also rejecting something I had put two years of work into, instead of a two months. And hadn’t I put enough sweat and blood into the query to deserve more than a Xeroxed shoddily-cut half-sheet? It’s easy to get righteously indignant as an author. It also does little good.

For the first three years or so, I re-queried the big houses on a yearly basis. This is probably not a good thing to do, but I didn’t know better. Eventually, due to 9/11 or corporate consolidation or other factors, most of the big publishing houses stopped accepting unsolicited queries. I started adding agents to my submission list. In the meantime, the internet began to get interesting. Information about houses and agents was plentiful. Editors and agents began to blog about what they did!* More importantly, the internet was opening up new publishing avenues. Smaller publishing houses had new methods of marketing and distributing. POD and ebooks began to be viable options. While the storied, highly regarded publishing industry was becoming less accessible, a new opportunities were opening up.

Lucinda at the Window was rejected by 25 different editors and agents between February of 2000 and September of 2007. In that time, a partial was requested once and I received one hand-written note. Rejections still sting. I’ve learned to take what morbid amusement I can in them, such as a cool stamp on the rejection from a UK publisher, and remember that no one becomes a published author by never submitting their work.

Royal Mail!

[Tomorrow: XXX in the Accept Column]

*And gained an order of magnitude more respect from me. I am continually stunned by the numbers Jennifer Jackson quotes in her Query Wars posts. Editors and agents work hard. Be nice to them.