Jenna Black's Blog Experiment

Wherein romance author Jenna Black plunges into the terrifying new territory of blogging . . .


Friday, April 28, 2006

The Long Haul

Back in the days when I got nothing but rejections for all the blood, sweat, and tears I put into my writing, I kept all my rejection letters like a good little business-person, but I refused to count them. I could tell they were mounting up by the thickness of the stack, but I knew the last thing I needed was more discouragement. I made an agreement with myself--when I sold my first novel to a commercial press, I would go back and count up those rejections.

Well, I made my first sale about a year ago, and I'd kind of forgotten about that promise to myself. Also, we moved about a year ago, so I had no idea where that stack of rejections was. Today, I found them. And I counted.
  • Rejections from publishers for novels: 59
  • Rejections from agents for novels: 41
  • Rejections for short fiction: 180.
Actually, considering how long I wrote before I sold, these numbers are lower than they should have been. I let myself get discouraged too easily and didn't submit as often as I should have. Still, part of the problem was many of those rejections on my novels took over a year to arrive at my doorstep, and I was being a law-abiding writer, not submitting the same book to more than one publisher at a time.

I'm sure these numbers aren't 100% accurate. I know there are some rejections missing from the pile, just due to disorganization on my part. Still, that's 280 rejections before I sold my first novel. Is it any wonder I had to fight so hard against discouragement along the way? And I was so close for so long! The first of these rejections, for my very first novel, came in March of 1991, and it started with "Sorry for holding on to your manuscript so long; it was hard to reach a decision." Even my very first novel came close, but I had to write 17 more before I'd actually make that sale. Here are some other snippets of these rejections that both gave me hope and drove me insane over the years:
  • I wish I could make an offer on The Coming of Shadow, but unfortunately the recession in the market has forced me to cut back on first novels. (This one was from March 1992, on my second novel.)
  • I really felt your manuscript was strong and the writing was very commercial.
  • A strong narrative style and a lively story to tell.
  • Charming . . . compelling . . . red hot. I'm heartbroken to let it go. (This is for Embraced in Darkness, the free read on my website.)
  • There was much I liked about your manuscript--your royal intrigue was gripping, your characters were convincing, and the magic worked.
  • You are obviously a writer of talent.
  • The voice is highly readable, the characters are three dimensional with a delightful dose of quirkiness, and I appreciated the subtle wit. It breaks my heart to see this go!
  • The idea was fun and fresh, and you can certainly pen a steamy love scene!
  • The voice is charming and the characters just leap off the page.
  • The humorous and fast-paced story immediately pulled me in.
  • The setup really grabbed me.

I'm really glad I soldiered on. Now, I can look at those rejection letters and smile.


At 3:16 PM, Blogger Sonja said...

I am just SO GLAD you posted that, and I can't wait for your online class. I need all the help I can get to keep from getting discouraged, and I haven't been at it NEARLY as long as you have.

Your sale is so well-deserved, and I am so happy for you!

At 3:27 PM, Blogger Jenna Black said...

Thanks! And I must admit, cliche though it may sound, that the fact that I've had to work so long and hard for it make all that much sweeter.

At 8:04 PM, Anonymous Carolyn Proctor said...

Thanks for sharing your "count." So many non-writers think this is easy.
Congratulations on staying focussed and making it happen for yourself!

Carolyn Proctor
author of "Elisabeth Samson, Forbidden Bride" 2004 Joshua Tree Publishing.


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