Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Best of Seekerville From The Archives and First Five Pages Critique

The Rules of Rejection by Tina Radcliffe

Today I bring you some seriously tongue- in-cheek and provocative new ways to consider rejection as you pull out the chocolate for your next pity party. I've also thrown in a dose of reality for those of you who are ready for it.

1. To Disclose or Not To Disclose: Certainly the complaint of every writer is the ambiguous or non existent comments that accompany a rejection. Should the FULL DISCLOSURE apply to editors and agents, and can writers handle the truth?

Ace Literary Agency Submission Guidelines:

We do accept unsolicited manuscripts and seriously consider all submissions, including first time writers. Your submission should include a synopsis, the first 50 pages of your manuscript and a self-addressed, stamped envelope.

If you are requesting full-disclosure, we suggest you return a cashier's check in the amount $25.00 to cover processing, as our agency receives more than 2,000 unsolicited queries a month. Please sign the six page liability waiver to allow us to provide you with the requested full-disclosure and information on the status and quality of your submission. Expect a response within eight to ten weeks of our receipt of the requested items.

Do not send a complete manuscript.

2. Sol Stein. If you haven't read Stein on Writing you are missing something. I also read an article by Mr. Stein, where he shared that he saved his rejection letters and finally sold after collecting 99. He inspired me to document mine, which I found personally satisfying. After all, I now have something in common with Sol Stein. I have submitted 390 times since 1995, which isn't particularly impressive, and only amounts to about 30 submissions a year. I stopped counting the rejections long ago. It no longer matters. I am a writer.

3. Several years ago on an group there was an enlightening discussion on the words rejection and pass.Link

Think about it.

Editor ABC dislikes peas. You can prepare the peas in a variety of ways but they are still peas. She is going to pass on your peas.

Agent Z has a stellar author who writes anchovies. You submit your novel of anchovies. Frankly, one anchovy is really all she can handle right now. She is going to pass.

Editor Q just bought a series on sweet potatoes. Your sweet potatoes are actually just as good, (possibly better), but there isn't room for another sweet potato in this year's line-up. Yes, dear,he's going to pass.

So don't think of it as rejection..

Peas anyone?

4. A Word on Contests. We could talk for hours about contests, and in fact we usually do. May I suggest the following Seekerville articles?

Exploring Contest Mood-Disorder

Contests: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

The Savy Diva's Guide to Contests

Obsessive Contest Disorder: OCD

Contests are the single most subjective mode of exposure and potential for rejection available for a writer with reviews coming in second. Despite the contest coordinator's assurances, there really is no guarantee that the judge is qualified, knows the location of their reading glasses, or has taken their medication. Enough said.

5. If you'd like an outlet for your rejection consider this great rejection blog:Literary Rejections on Display: A vast public collection of real-life rejections.

6. Here's a secret: I'm actually a pretty upbeat person with a slightly inappropriate sense of humor. I have a 24 hour rule about rejection and whining in general. During that 24 hours it's extremely satisfying to visit the following websites: (Hey, it works for me. )

And finally, before you toss those manuscript pages into the circular file:

Last Words on Rejection...

"Jack Kerouac, George Orwell and Sylvia Plath are just a few of the authors whose books were turned down by the Alfred A. Knopf publishing house. Researchers going through the Knopf archives have come across their rejection letters, as well as a few others." Check out this NPR audio program.

Rotten Rejections: The Letters That Publishers Wish They'd Never Sent written by Andre Bernard

Carrie by Stephen King
'We are not interested in science fiction which deals with negative utopias. They do not sell.'
Catch – 22 by Joseph Heller
‘I haven’t really the foggiest idea about what the man is trying to say… Apparently the author intends it to be funny – possibly even satire – but it is really not funny on any intellectual level … From your long publishing experience you will know that it is less disastrous to turn down a work of genius than to turn down talented mediocrities.’
The Diary of Anne Frank
‘The girl doesn’t, it seems to me, have a special perception or feeling which would lift that book above the “curiosity” level.’
From Ursula K Le Guin's web site: A rejection letter

Dear Miss Kidd,
Ursula K. Le Guin writes extremely well, but I'm sorry to have to say that on the basis of that one highly distinguishing quality alone I cannot make you an offer for the novel. The book is so endlessly complicated by details of reference and information, the interim legends become so much of a nuisance despite their relevance, that the very action of the story seems to be to become hopelessly bogged down and the book, eventually, unreadable. The whole is so dry and airless, so lacking in pace, that whatever drama and excitement the novel might have had is entirely dissipated by what does seem, a great deal of the time, to be extraneous material. My thanks nonetheless for having thought of us. The manuscript of The Left Hand of Darkness is returned herewith. Yours sincerely,
The Editor
21 June, 1968

This post first appeared in Seekerville February 11, 2009.

Tina Radcliffe and her talking cat Charlie live in Colorado and anticipate the October release of her second Love Inspired romance,
Oklahoma Reunion.

By the way, Charlie is way smarter than Ruthy's puppies.

Don't forget...
Today is the last day to be considered for our weekly critique.
More info here.

Only 2 more critiques left!


  1. As a new "trying to get published" writer (is there even such a thing as a new writer? Since most of us start writing - at least in our heads - without even knowing we're doing it somewhere around preschool age or sooner) I luv all the info I find here in Seekerville. I'm supplying the 86% dark chocolate (Ghirardelli) for the pity parties. You're all invited to join in. I highly recommend it. This stuff can keep you energized and writing til dawn.

  2. Okay, here's the caffeine laden coffee to go with the caffeine laden chocolate. Get high!!!

    Enjoyed this as much second time around. Thanks, Tina.

    Okay, put me in for the critique.


  3. Stephanie, please pass the chocolate.
    Tina, thanks for sharing. I got up early to write before going to work
    and I appreciate the reality check.
    Have a great day!

  4. Oh my stars, EVERYTHING is smarter than puppies.

    But they're WAY CUTE, Teenster.

    Oh, I love this post even more now than I did two years ago. Yes, partially because I can do the "Neener, Neener" dance to every contest judge who DISSED Carol Finalist "WINTER'S END" and wrote me scathing notes saying "no one will buy or read a romance about DEATH!!!!"

    Oh, really?????


    The right desk, the right manuscript, the right time, the Good Lord willing!

    And Stephanie, I'm so in on the dark Ghirardelli... but I have yet to find a Ghirardelli I don't love, so the addiction holds true. Thank you!

    Helen, I'm stocking up an a selection of Keurig teas just for you and our other tea-lubbers.

    What's your fave? I'll get an extra box at Bed Bath and Beyond today!

    JACKIE!!!! Are you getting up early to WRITE?????

    I will be so stinkin' proud of you, girl!

  5. Loved the Despair website. Made me laugh aloud--before 6 a.m.

    Please enter me in the critique drawing.



  6. Oh Tinaaaa...

    May the K9 Spy is BOL and I'm LOL, both of us are ROF...

    You are such a FUN wake up call! thank you...

    "Peas anyone?" HAHAHAHHAHAAAAA...

    At this point, my rejections are in the form of "No thank you. Not right now" or "No thank you. We don't have any children in our lives in that age group."

    But that's ok - there are plenty who are. We'll see how the sales are doing in 6 months.

    ONE thing for SURE, May is having to figure out how to go to work for the first time in her life and she's loving it!

  7. JACKIE!! Now many, many of us Seekers are write before work gals. We salute you.

  8. KC I was just thinking the other day how I kinda miss the good old days when writers didn't have to be salesmen, and promoters as well.

  9. YAY, Tina!! is one of my FAVORITE sites!
    Love it.
    So...maybe my sense of humor is somewhat 'inappropriate' too :-)
    or just weird.
    It's probably just weird ;-)

    Thanks for the post-repeat. I needed it.

  10. Great post, Tina! I think one of the most important things after a bummer contest ranking or a book submission rejection is to allow yourself to 'mourn' it (24-hour Seeker Rule limit!), then not to further indulge in the negative self-talk that will come at you. Instead, take a deep breath and say, "okay, WHAT'S NEXT?" And get moving on it.

  11. LOL! When you start putting rejection into perspective along with peas, anchovies and sweet potatoes--what's there to argue about?

  12. Welcome to the inappropriate humor club, Pep.

  13. Good Morning, Seekerville!

    Loved the post as much the second time as the first time.

    Getting anxious for the conference. I hope to have the last synopsis/first chapter polished up and printed out by the end of the weekend. Then all I'll have left to do is pack!

  14. Rejection wouldn't be so bad if proud hubby hadn't told every single person in town that I submitted. Next time he's under a gag order.

    We're making waffles here, there's plenty to go around.

  15. I'm so excited for all of you who are getting to go to ACFW---especially for the first time!

    The conference is small enough that you'll see Seekers and Friends of Seekerville in the lobby, elevators, workshops, hallways and at meals. So you'll FEEL like you know people even if you may never have met them in person. If you think someone looks famliar, don't be shy--go up to and introduce yourselves to them and tell them you're a Friend of Seekerville! We don't bite!

    I've gone to the conference twice -- Denver in 2009 and Indianapolis in 2010 -- but won't make it to this one. Maybe next year! So I'm jealous of all the fun you'll be having! Expect to go home physically tired, but deep inside energized and ready to get back to your writing!

  16. Jamie, waffles, I'm in. With Stephanie's Ghirardelli shaved into the batter, please. And real maple syrup.

    Oh, so yum.

    Rose, you go, girl. Tina was reminding me just yesterday... and the day before... that I need to get ready.

    Pshaw. There's ten days. ;)

  17. Thanks for this, Tina! What an entertaining way to put the writing journey in perspective. The synopsis of the Rotten Rejections book is especially encouraging :)

  18. Thanks for a fun repeat of a great article, Tina!

    Stephanie, I'm glad you found us! Thanks for the chocolate!

  19. Tina, I meant to say I love that distinction between Pass and rejection. :)

  20. Great WE. Thanks Tina!

    Tina may have a talking cat, but I have a laughing dog. Our dog Dakota should have been named Hyena.


    One of these days, I'm going to record her. We'll be famous on You Tube.

  21. YAY Tina!! What an amazing post (I missed it the first time, so it's going into my Keeper File now!). ~ Am getting ready to go visit my son at college today*smile* but wanted to stop by here first and drop off some just-baked cinnamon streusel muffins---ENJOY!! ~ Thanks again for this great post. I'm grabbing some of Stephanie's chocolate and Helen's coffee before I dash out! Hugs, Patti Jo :)

  22. Thanks for the great post, Tina!

    And I love the new perspective on rejection/pass (at least, it's new for me!). I'll never look at rejections the same way again.

    Was up early this morning, writing. My cat kept me company, but she doesn't talk. She types. (I've learned to save often). The dogs just sleep.

    Pass the chocolate - love anything Ghiradelli.

    But Ruthy, seriously, would you mix the chocolate with waffle batter? Remember the first rule of cooking with chocolate: never dilute.

    Thanks for the tea! I like almost any flavor...

  23. I think my favorite rejection letter started out like this;

    Dear Betty Smith--Thank you for your submission but your manuscript is not a good fit for our publishing house at this time.


    Always wondered if Betty got a multi-book contract.

  24. Tina, this post lifted my spirits. I loved it! What you said is spot on. Thanks for posting it again. I'll go to the other sites. Please enter me in this week's critique opportunity for 5 pages. Hope all here have a great weekend.

  25. Sooooo true. Needed this one today, dear Teenster. Go ahead and enter me for the five-page critique.

  26. Pass the peas, please. I like 'em. They're much better than being rejected! ;-)

    Thanks for the perspective. Always needed. =]

  27. I love peas, too.

    But Jan, good point about the chocolate, which means we MUST BUY MORE so as to embellish as many recipes as possible.

    Chocolate chip waffles... pancakes... muffins...

    Oh my stars, love 'em all. It's ridiculous.

    My take on passes/rejections is simple: They're bound to happen. Keep writing. And then write more. And more.

    Build that file.

  28. I take way to many passes, from construction workers, to free pass for toll roads, to football passes (I'm a wide receiver didn't you know?) And I have gotten the pass from editors and agents too. Their loss of course, cause I make a mean pea salad.

    I have never been rejected. HAHAHA

  29. LOL at Patty Smith Hall's rejection letter addressed to Betty Smith.

    The only Betty Smith I knew was the author of A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN.

    Maybe she did get a contract after all! :)

  30. Thanks, but I'll pass on the rejection. :)

  31. Thanks, but I'll pass on the rejection. :)

  32. Thanks, but I'll pass on the rejection. :)

  33. Thanks, but I'll pass on the rejection. :)

  34. Pass or rejection?

    I'll pass on rejection!

    But then, I could also reject the pass.

  35. So that Betty Chick DID get a contract, Debby! And I take it you'll pass on rejection!


    Can't wait to see you guys at the conference!

  36. I have visions of Jack Nicholson going "You can't handle the truth!"
    My middle school and high school years gave me a pretty thick rhino hide that transferred nicely to my writing. Seriously, my short term goal is my first rejection. And then seeing how many I can accumulate so one day, I can say on my blog to someone, "It's okay. My first novel got rejected X number of times before [blank] picked it up and away we went."

    I'm taking Mary's advice. Now that I've subbed, that one is 'gone' and I'm cranking away on the next one. Which I would LOVE a 5 page crit of. =)

  37. I'm not getting to go to ACFW this year--BUT I just had the most WONDERFUL thing happen this afternoon... a surprise visit from Seeker Sandra Leesmith!!

  38. Love the "tongue in cheek" approach!

  39. This is so great. I have been on the rejection rollercoaster, and I'm sad to say I let it get to me!! Thankfully I have wonderful writer friends who are encouraging and have helped me through it.
    Would love to be considered for the 5 page critique!

  40. What a way to lighten up such a hard subject!

  41. Our 24 hour whining rule (instituted by Tina in our early days)(which means we're getting old) has been a HUGE help.

    It's okay to whine.

    It's not okay to wallow.

    And I recall a famous editor talking about how she passed on a project and that obviously God wanted it with another house, because they contracted it and made millions....

    Um... Hello?

    God did that? What was God going to do if you'd said YES in the first place?

    But I do trust God's timing, and I work REAL HARD to make his job easier.


  42. Angie, I love that pic. And don't let it get to you. It stings, but so does a shot of novocaine, but it toughens you up for what comes next...


    Wait. That wasn't quite as comforting as I thought it would be.

    I'll work on it.

  43. Angie, hang in there. It's not fun. I know. Have had it happen lots of times.

  44. At the risk of making you all insatiably jealous, I am going to tell you that I spent the day with two editors from Romantic Times magazine, who gave me and the rest of my local RWA chapter members deliciously wonderful and practical tips on how to get interviews and other coverage from the media. Very thorough and informative, and these editors are now my new best friends and love me to death and can't wait to read my next book and feature me in RT.

    Okay, I'm sort of exaggerating in that last sentence, but the rest of it is all true.

  45. Oh, and I think we should do a post about negative reviews, but we should all post our favorite mean reviews anonymously. That could be fun.

    Or not.

  46. Hi Tina:

    About Rejection:

    Think of this: when you go into a book store and you look at many books but you don’t buy them: “are you rejecting those books?”

    Does that mean the books are bad? Does it mean you would not enjoy reading those books?

    When you send a book to an editor, you are asking the publisher to buy your book. It’s like saying, “Will you give me thousands of dollars for this manuscript?”

    Is it really that surprising that a book did not sell?

    There are many things we like that we don’t buy.

    I like to look at rejection as a real estate broker. I showed the book and it didn’t sell.


  47. Great post! I love the 'Best of Seekerville Archive' posts, because I wasn't around for the originals. I've learned so much here.

    LOL! Tina, love your humor. Especially the bit on contests, since I'm praying about entering my first one come October.

    Put me in the drawing for the critique, pretty please. :) I've reworked my first chapter, and If all goes as planned, I'll be sending in 10 pages to the Phoenix Rattler, but would love to get a Seeker's opinion on the first five pages.

    Oh! Question: If an entry form asks the completed manuscript word count, do you enter an educated guess, or does this mean the contest is only open to completed manuscripts? Just curious.

  48. Hi Natalie,

    To answer your word count question, the contest probably wants some idea about the length of your manuscript. The contest instructions should say how many pages they're requesting you to submit for the contest.

  49. Vince, you have a refreshing way of looking at the world.

    I'll take one Mary Connealy and two Tina Radcliffes! :)

    Love your new cover, Mel!!!

  50. Vince, you're right, of course. In sales you learn two things:

    1. "NO" just means you haven't asked enough people.

    2. Love means never having to say you're sorry.

    Wait. I might be wrong on the second!


    I think the difference is that when it's writing, or art, or not getting that call back for a part in "The Help", it feels more personal.

    But then I just dig my heels in a little more and keep on, keepin' on.

    Are all Irish this stubborn?

  51. Love that descriptor - "a slightly inappropriate sense of humor." Right there with you.

    And thanks for the additional food for thought, Vince. Sounds like something my hubby would say - wise and to the point with a pinch of a mischievous grin.

    Coffee? Chocolate? Almost makes me want to open that rejection letter and dive into the vat of caffeine-laden pity.

  52. Thank you, Tina, for your encouraging words on rejection. You made it sound - well - less rejecting.

    May I be considered as a candidate for the next 5 page critique? (Is "chocolate?" the secret to winning this? )