I wrote it soon after I finished the first draft of my YA novel, Fur-Face. I was keen to share my genius with the literary world and, since I’d already run it through the spell checker, I knew my book was ready.
I’ll spare you the gory details of what was a truly dreadful pitch. Suffice to say it would look quite at home in any agent/publisher’s collection of ‘How to guarantee no one will want to read your book, or ever hear from you again’ letters.
I did at least know enough to enclose an S.A.E. The response came back within a few days. I remember thinking this was a good thing, since it showed someone had read the three chapters I’d enclosed and was keen to take a look at the full ms before I offered my book to some other lucky agent.
The rejection letter – I know, I was surprised too – was also a classic.
An obvious bad photocopy of a bad photocopy of a bad photocopy, the paragraphs ran at a sloping angle from left to right, with the letters somehow smudging into each other at the end of every line, as if someone had moved the original document in mid-copy. The name, JOHN GUBB, was scrawled across the top in big red capital letters.
The wording, though a little hard to make out, was quite polite. It contained (what I later learned was) the usual, ‘Thanks for thinking of us’, ‘Not exactly what we’re looking for right now’ kind of stuff. Nevertheless, even with my limited experience of the publishing world, I couldn’t help wondering if there wasn’t a smidge of sarcasm about the whole thing.
As you can imagine, I felt pretty sorry for this poor John Gubb bloke.
He must have done something awfully dumb to warrant such treatment. I rang the agency to let them know there’d been a mix-up. It was only when the nice lady who answered the phone explained that the rejection was, in fact, for me, that the truth sank in.
I remember feeling a complete fool. Later, my embarrassment turned to disbelief. I wasn’t hurt or offended, I was shocked. How could they not want my novel?
Looking back, that first rejection was probably the best thing that could have happened to me. It made me realize that I had no idea what I was doing, and that if I ever wanted to be a writer, I’d better jolly well find out how it was done.
I’d forgotten all about that letter (and the ensuing rejection) until I saw Justin’s post yesterday. It made me smile.
After all, it’s like my dear old gran used to say. “You might as well laugh at your stupidity, boy. Lord knows, the rest of us do.”
How about you?
Do you remember your first ever rejection letter?
What was it for? How did you feel? Did you change your ways as a result?