Friday, April 29, 2011

50 First Dates--My Saga of Rejection

Many of you have encouraged me to write a book so I wrote up a non-fiction book proposal for a collection of essays. It's 36 pages long. If you want to write a book the first thing you do is hope to just get discovered. If you don't, then you have to get a literary agent. So then you write a "query."(I don't know how yet.) You send out queries and if people are interested by your query they ask you for your proposal. I wrote my proposal first so it would be all ready in case someone requested it. (Ever the optimist!) You also have to figure that if you can't write a proposal (it's kind of involved) you probably can't write a book.

So now I have to read up on queries and write one. But I jumped the gun out of excitement after finishing my proposal and sent it out to 4 literary agents who let you submit proposals online even if they don't request them. Of course, that doesn't mean they want them. Intellectually I know that I will get lots--if not only--rejections. I set a goal to get 50 rejections. JK Rowling got 12 before she got published and my book would be AT LEAST 5 times worse and a katrillion times less profitable. So 50 rejections seems reasonable and an accomplishment in itself. When I get 50 rejections I plan to celebrate by buying myself an outfit and giving up on my dream.

But I have to say, as the rejections come pouring in I really don't like it. In fact, I hate it. Each rejection has dampened my enthusiasm for writing. I can see myself stopping after 3. I've already gotten 2. It bites.

The first rejection came almost immediately and it was obviously an auto-response. Frankly I'd rather receive an auto-response then a long, personal, specific response detailing everything they didn't like. I knew the first agency wasn't a good fit for me because they publish mostly academic and how-to non fiction. But they looked classy and didn't specialize in erotica. They seemed cool. And I have to say, rejecting me only makes them seem discerning, successful, and choosy.

My second rejection came in today. I knew this one was a long shot. Let's face it--no one is really clamoring for non-fiction essays about foster dogs by stay-at-home moms. (This isn't the 80s and I'm not Erma Bombeck.) These literary agents often have websites which talk about their interests and the types of books they want. I became very intrigued by Jeff Kleinman. He is really specific about what he likes--upbeat, NOT post-apocalyptic. There's a picture of him on his site and he looks so nice.  As it turns out, he is nice. He rejected me like this,

Dear Kacy:

Thanks so much for sending your query - I appreciate the chance to take a look at your project.  I'm sorry to say, though, that I'm going to step aside instead of asking to read more.

Please bear in mind that everybody has different tastes and interests - my decision is based on my present work-load, and also based on the kind of material that I'm presently representing.  That said, keep in mind that this is a crazily subjective business: I absolutely think you should keep looking for representation because what works for one agent (or publisher) may not work as well for another. I'm afraid, though, that I cannot recommend someone for it.

Very best of luck!

I'm sure it's his standard reply but I felt that he took great pains to let me down easily. I appreciate that in a person. In fact, it might be my all-time favorite quality. I wrote back, "That was nice. When I give up it won't be your fault. Good luck to you too!" just to, you know, acknowledge my appreciation. Nevertheless, I was systematically deleting all copies of my proposal and samples of my writing and all my old e-mails out of mortification (sometimes I overreact) when he wrote back,

Why give up?  You can always publish it yourself, you know!  No need to give up – just choose a different avenue, if it should come to it …

I knew he was a nice guy. I can always spot a nice guy. I'll still probably give up very soon, but Jeff doesn't need to know that.
After I figure out how to write a query the rejections should really start coming in. Stay tuned.

48 to go!


  1. First off, I agree with Jeff -don't give up! I'm some completely random person and I absolutely love reading your blog, which I got introduced to after reading your article in Parenting and LOVING it. My friend loved your blog, I loved your article, we swapped info and it turned out we were in love with the same person. You're funny and quirky and personal and REAL, and we both want you to come be our friend. In lieu of that, the next best option: write a book so I can keep "my friend" on my nightstand. Second, I do the same thing when I'm mortified. Delete everything I've written or receieved, hide my personal crafts, duck my head and clean like crazy while avoiding phone calls, just try to be "normal" and quit sticking my neck out like an idiot! Turns out, though, my husband/family/friends like me because I'm an idiot who sticks my neck out. So keep being awesome, and count all the good comments you get against all the rejections you may receive. Bet you've got more than 50 :)

  2. Kacey, can I just tell you that reading your blog is partly why I stopped blogging myself? You are so darn good it just makes me feel like why write myself if I can't sound like you. It is not your fault. I give up easily; when we moved to CA I stopped cooking fancy dinners because my mom does it so much better than I and we go to her house for dinner every Sunday.
    But my point is I think your book will be wonderful. I can definitely imagine it happening; you should visualize that too. I will buy it.

  3. Stop it! Stop it! Stop it! Be positive. Don't give up! I want to read your book. It will happen and I'm not letting you down easy or trying to give you false hope. You can do it.

  4. If you get 50 rejections I'll eat a beet. THAT is how much I believe that you will NOT reach your "goal".

  5. Tell the universe you want to be published. Because you should be, it is only right and good. You are a rare talent, and I'm not being facetious. Your book would enrich our lives and make us happy.

    In related news, my word verification word is "quity." Don't be quity.

  6. You need to work on your dream board. More pictures and words to cut out and paste.

    You are a good writer and this book will be published!

  7. Erma Bombeck is exactly who I think of when I read your writing (okay, AND Dave Barry). There is a perfect agent out there waiting for you. You just might have to push yourself through 47 more to find him/her.

  8. Good luck! I can't wait to see you a published author.

  9. Anonymous8:27 PM

    Please don't give up! I will be happy to buy your book when it is published, and I will buy copies for all of my friends. As it is, I have already sent a link to your blog to many friends, and we all think you're amazing. And really smart. And a great writer and mother. So please don't give up.

  10. Ah... feeling the effects of putting yourself out there are you? Keep writing regardless... put the whole stinking book together and keep moving forward.
    You DO have something to say, and it DOES need to be heard.
    You're funny and smart, but what I like best about you is that you have a perspective that frees up a whole bunch of us to feel better about ourselves.
    That is a talent I want you to keep developing!
    Think of it as sacrificing yourself for our good.

  11. Anonymous5:24 PM

    I'd like to chime in as another random reader. Your blog is my favorite, and I know for a fact your book will be too.

    p.s. I used to write so I'm well acquainted with rejection letters, and I agree that Jeff's was very nice!

  12. Great goal of 50. That should do it.

  13. It's important to have goals, so for that I applaud you. BUT, don't give up. It's MY goal to be able to put your book on hold at the library and be number 178 or so.
    You have a gift, you will write a book, I just know it.

  14. Having actually READ your proposal, I must say, you shouldn't give up or care or worry about rejections. It's good and great and it will get picked up. Is that a publishing term? "Picked up"?

  15. So I just started reading your blog on the recommendation of Justin Hackworth and I have to say, I am loving it. I am a freelance writer myself, and I already look up to you tons! HELLO? Parenting magazine? Kudos girl. C'mon though, write the book and make millions, because it gives me hope for my little book too. If nothing else, think of how lousy and addicting those freaking vampire books are that Stephanie Meyers wrote- and she ain't got nothin' on you!

  16. Sometimes I think I should write a book too. But then I'm like, "what a joke!" So I don't. Plus it looks really hard.

    But I do think you should write a book. I would love to read it (unless it's about Harry Potter because try as I might I just don't like that magic stuff.)

  17. The popularity of your blog should indicate to you how well a book of yours would do. Yours is the only non-friend blog I read on a regular basis because it is such a great read. I happen to think that you will be published through a regular course. Receiving rejections would be hard, but certainly part of the process. However, I think it worth mentioning this article I recently read about ebooks:
    If it came down to it, an ebook could be a really great option. Just putting it out there. It seems to me that a person who has such a following and has already published (really funny) articles for major magazines is going to end up on a book shelf.

  18. Please don't give up! I agree with Jeff, you just need to find the right fit with a publisher. Don't deny us all the pleasure of reading your essays about stray dogs and moms.


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