Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Begin the Begin, or— In the Beginning…

Before I had any books published, before I was agented, before I ever considered I would ever write anything longer than a long picture book text, and before I knew anything about publishing…

Let me begin in the beginning. I wrote, revised and submitted my first manuscript way back in ancient times. I mistakenly labeled my chapter book story in my query. I called it a picture book because, as I said^, I didn’t know better. This 7,000-word episodic story that was inspired by The Little Prince (16,000 plus words, which some still consider a picture book) had too many things wrong with it, and my query had many more faux-pas. But it must have had something right, because only ten days later I got a very nice and encouraging personal rejection from one of the six small publishers I had subjected my offering to.

After that all the rejections were forms. So were the rejections to stories that followed, for the next eighteen months. I learned that truly personal feedback was rare, and I also learned many more things about writing and submitting.

One publisher never responded, but this, too, was common. Even back then.

Years passed. Winters turned to springs and summers turned to autumns. I was forever grateful for that first personal rejection because it kept me going onto better writing and not giving up.

Until today. It’s been a long time since my stamped self-addressed envelopes showed up with regularity in my mailbox. Everyone had moved to E-subbing, and my agent takes care of this aspect now. But today, there it was. My final rejection to that very first submission for a story I sent, ahmm, nine years ago.

Lest you imagine it was a form, as in “clearing the slush” by a summer intern at this publishing house, I will tell you otherwise. It’s a nice personal rejection. It also states that the story is really a chapter book, not a picture book, and that it is filled with “child-like imagination.” But, alas, the house has never tackled this length of story. The response is dated from six days ago, signed by the senior editor.

I am flummoxed, flabbergasted, and flat-out speechless. I don’t know what it means, if anything. I almost let magical thinking take over: the first and the last… Oh, no! Then I got a grip and decided this is a blog post about how slow publishing can be, and how you can never give up. Much more positive.
Back to work.


  1. Mirka, that's really amazing that the SASE made it ... did they have Forever stamps 9 yrs ago?

    I agree, never give up!

    I have a very similar story as yours. Six personal rejections on a PB, submitted as a dummy with photos. I even had the audacity to say they didn't have to use my pictures but they could base the art on them. LOL.

    But yesterday, I was going through my files and I have 3 pieces purchased by Highlights over 10 yrs ago and they have not been published. I'm considering sending them a copy of the manuscripts in case these 3 bits got stuck behind a file cabinet or something. I've been paid but that's not the point. I want to see the work in print with beautiful artwork.

  2. The publisher added a stamp to my SASE. Let me see... Yes, it's a "Forever." Maybe these were invented for the publishing business. ;) You think?
    Your paid-for acceptances from days of yore have my heartiest wishes to be dusted off and brought into the light.

  3. This reminded me of my very first manuscript. It was an adult mystery that I wrote with barely any revising and submitted it to the St. Martin's Press mystery contest. I saved that manuscript in a cyber drawer and once in a while I open it and wince. Oh, how I've grown as a writer! I began writing stories, novels, and saved all my rejection letters in one file. What kept me going with those piles of rejections was when the rejections began to change with personal notes being added by first readers and one by an editor. Still rejections but the personal touch made me feel good and spurred me on.
    I have to repeat what you said. Never Give Up!

  4. How bizarre! What a great post! Thanks.

  5. Wow! I knew this industry was slow but nine years? Incredible! Personalized rejections are good though.

  6. Wow, Mirka! I thought my experience was a record, but your story beats mine, by a wee bit more than 3 years. It was almost 6 years from the time I'd queried the publisher before I heard from an editor. Fortunately, she asked if I were still interested in the project I'd queried about. (But you know all this.)

  7. Thank goodness for Forever stamps! And, as always, I love your humor. That's a key ingredient for surviving the slowness of it all and the reality that in order to even hope for an acceptance at some point, you need to survive the rejections. =)

  8. Now that is a story worth reading!

  9. Wow! That's incredible. A nice impetus for looking back on how far you've come. (And, yes, a testament to how very slow the publishing business can be.)

  10. Unbelievable! I remember well those days of running to the mailbox wondering if I'd finally hear about submissions. Now I don't always remember to even collect my mail. And Vijaya's comment reminded me that I too have at least one long ago Highlight's sale that was never printed. It's a funny business.