I had some short stories, poems and photographs to share ... and so here I am

A Decent Rejection ?


Today I feel like this turtle, whose photo I took during a visit to the Auckland Zoo in New Zealand. I feel that I am going along at a painfully slow pace when it comes to the process of trying to sell my manuscript. Months and months are going by with nothing happening. When things do happen, it's inevitably a "no".

Today another "no" came along. It is a rejection. There is no getting away from it! But apart from the feeling of slowness, I was wondering if there is such a thing as a decent rejection? Should we feel miserable after each one that comes along?

Random House in New Zealand sent me a rejection via email, four months after I first sent them my novel. Here's the actual text of the letter:


Thank you for sending us your manuscript of The Olive Tree Manifesto. Unfortunately, we have decided it isn’t for us. I’m afraid that because of the huge quantity of manuscripts we receive, we cannot give you detailed comments as to why it is unsuitable. However, please be assured that we do take every submission seriously and everything goes to at least one reader (often more).

As we publish a limited number of titles each year, we are able to be particularly selective, so although we have decided against taking on your work, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try elsewhere. Another publisher may well think differently, and I recommend you try such places as Penguin, HarperCollins, Reed Publishing or University of Otago Press. There are also some good manuscript assessors available who (for a fee) can give you detailed suggestions for improving your manuscript should you want further advice. See www.elseware.co.nz/NZAMA for more details.

Thank you for considering us.

Yours sincerely


PS – Your novel was certainly better than many we receive but unfortunately we felt the market for this genre would be too small.

Now, I don't know about you but the only line that I really took in was the PS at the bottom. This seems to be an extra line added to a standard letter and it did cheer me up to think that this woman made a special effort to soften the blow. It helps enormously to know that they didn't think the novel was out and out crap!

I must say that I was very impressed with Random House in NZ. First of all they accept the sending of an ENTIRE manuscript from the get go and they promise that everything goes to at least one reader. As I said in an earlier post, I don't think there are many major publishers still working like this. They were also very prompt and efficient with their emails to let me know where things were at.

It's not a great day, to get an email of rejection, but at least it wasn't just the standard one line that usually leaves us thinking that we should throw the whole thing in the bin. So, it's onwards and upwards! The turtle is getting excited! The turtle is hungry! The turtle is done with waiting!

I'm printing out some chapters to send off as we speak!


Anonymous said...

My congratulations on getting this far. Many of us would welcome a rejection letter so you are further along than most. Congratulations.

Perhaps, like love, it is something that cannot be forced or longed for, it can only be received.

I love the title of the novel, love your painting. And I enjoyed your short story over at the Moon Topples Shor Fiction Contest.

S. Kearney said...


Welcome, and thank you for your kind words. :) You're blog looks great, with lots of different stuff. I'd like to link to you if that's OK, to have on boad someone else who has work in progress. :)

You're right about the love thing. But we are such impatient creatures aren't we, rushing around pushing squares into triangles.

I look forward to visiting your site when I have a good few hours!

cate sweeney said...

HI Shamus
Hey sorry about the rejection. It's a real bummer, especially as they did seem to like it a lot (they wouldn't bother commenting otherwise, but sometimes that feels worse, and you think well couldn't you just have liked it a little bit more, or taken on my raw talent?
You'll get there!
Site is looking very flashy now.

S. Kearney said...

Cate, thanks! Yes, you do wonder what flow charts and calculators they pull out from their desks to weigh up what's in and what's out.

I don't think we will ever understand any of that. I suppose it's all about feeling. But hey, if this missile is meant to hit its target, it'll get there I suppose.

unarex said...

This is pretty standard, generic rejection. The way I look at it, rejection is rejection, and unless you get a yes, compliments are meaningless.

Sorry, not to sound like a crab, but I tire of getting these sorts of slips, and until I get a yes, not a word of it matters.

(Sorry if I seem like I'm in a bad mood, but that's 'cause I am. I too got a rejection so that can be part of it).

But there is a good chance that your book is better than what they publish, so that can be added frustration as well.

The Moon Topples said...

Shameless: I applaud you. I doubt many others would take a rejection slip as a motivation to print and send anew. I worry that when I start the submission process, I will crumple like a decaying flower every time I open the mailbox.

It does seem that they enjoyed the book, and that's truly important as well.

Keep at it. I look forward to my E-vite to your book launching party.

unarex said...


It reminds me of a rejection from a guy I once liked who said, 'I think you're really great, but...'


Saaleha said...

actually Shameless that's a tortoise :) and turtles are pretty swift in the water. Maybe you should be a turtle instead.Then you would need to find the right medium for you to come into your own. the same sort of bouyancy that water gives to turtles. And the right publisher will give to you. Take it from me, to have a manuscript ready is a huge achievement in itself

Saaleha said...

oh, and i forgot to mention, have you ever tried keeping a tortoise in an enclosure? All it needs is to find a small opening, and it starts walking...and walking. You'd need a huge search party to find it again. Slow and steady and all that.

S. Kearney said...

You're right, of course. It's the YES that counts! But it is frustrating when they don't give reasons, and at least here there's a hint of one. Sorry about your rejection news! :)

I've had quite a few now so I don't really react like I used to.:) I almost expect it now. I'll have a heart attack if there's ever a Yes. And you certainly get an invite to my PARTY!

Is that really a tortoise and not a turtle? Gosh. Just shows that I am an IGNORAMUS of the highest order. How do we tell them apart. The size? I feel ashamed now that I didn't get closer to this creature's tag in the zoo, just lumping him/her into my own little categories! It sounds like you've owned these Saaleah! :)

Unknown said...

Most of the few rejections that came back to me, echoed almost word for word what yours did. The one that stood out was a handwritten note that went something like this....

Dreee nclxh
sathma jhsb jhnzjd zsjhk zskjhzk ssns sn zdk,mdz szmbnsm smns zsnms zesa esk,dnzdz lS dlsnd, anln,d seeess not able to help.
kjhknb zxkjbnkljnz

I presume this was a rejection, although often harboured thoughts that this gobbledegook might have been my one big break.
Anyway, keep going,read your signposts as you never know.....

S. Kearney said...

I'm glad you were able to shed some light on things! :)

Marie said...

Keep trying!

unarex said...

There are also some good manuscript assessors available who (for a fee) can give you detailed suggestions for improving your manuscript should you want further advice. See www.elseware.co.nz/NZAMA for more details.

I don't like this part- this is sort of insulting. Once I had an a-hole agent/publisher (I don't recall) recommend vanity publishing. I was like, kiss it cupcake!'

Anyhow, the rejection I got was a dumb online journal, where the editor wanted to fiddle with things, but then when I saw some of the pieces he published, I knew it was a lost cause because the writing he accepted was filled with naked cliches. So needless to say, I declined.

Also, why does she say the 'market would be too small' for your book? Is that because it is a NZ character? See, that kind of stuff I take as BS because they can literally market anything they want to, as long as they are willing to advertize.

You are better off in the long run not going with a publisher who doesn't believe in the work, 'cause then if they don't push it, it just sits there, and what good is it being published if it's not getting out and no one is reading it?

You could always contact that agent again with another work, mention some of the things she said in that last line. Hell, it's worth a shot.

unarex said...

Sorry, I typed 'agent' when I meant publisher.

S. Kearney said...

It seems there's no other choice but to keep trying (we all seem to repeat the mantra when we get rejection slips)... but I will definitely stop when I have ten unpublished books sitting here going nowhere, and just be content to know that I had lots of material that got out in the world as a journalist! :)

Yes, I didn't like the bit about the assessors, but I guess that's in the standardised part of the letter and it was the PS that was the only personal bit.
It's funny they don't think there's a market for my story because they're a NZ publisher, I'm a NZ writer and the main character is a NZer. It may be the genre thing, as she says, because the story's a little bit 'different': an unstable NZ prime minister goes awol in Europe. Too quirky for a local audience? Maybe. If it doesn't sell in NZ though, I fear it won't sell anywhere! We can only keep trying though, while keeping on with other work:)

How do others like the title, by the way?

Suzan Abrams, email: suzanabrams@live.co.uk said...

A rejection letter with promising tips.
It's subtly saying, don't take this road but we're pointing you another one ;-)
Don't give up!
My impression though is that most of the mainstream publishers use literary agents these days. Are you still trying them, Shameless?

S. Kearney said...

Hi Susan,
Because most NZ publishers still accept manuscripts, I prefer to try directly with them. Over here I would still go for an agent though. :)

Suzan Abrams, email: suzanabrams@live.co.uk said...

ok, my friend.
Good luck. which reminds me I've got to contacts agents and publishers as well myself. Haven't done it all this year.
I must whizz up the discipline to do this asap.
I'm rooting for you, Shameless. I think you're a very good writer. :-)

S. Kearney said...

You are toooooo kind! :)
Good luck also with your approaches; I'm sure you will rock their socks off! :)

S. Kearney said...

Right then, I have made the most of my "dressing gown day" to print off three letters, three copies of the synopsis and early chapters to send off to Aotearoa, the land of the long white cloud. I also took the chance to make one or two minor changes to the manuscript, stuff I overlooked before sending the thing off the last time. I'm still unsure about the inclusion of the epilogue though - it comes in the form of a letter, which ties up some loose ends that need tying up, I think. I like books that give me some kind of clue as to how things proceed after the final scene and so I thought I needed to do that myself. We'll see. Could the book be rejected just because of the epilogue? I hope not. If they don't like it, they could just stop things after the final scene. Did I need to point out that I would be fine with this, that the epilogue is negotiable? Heck, what minefields we walk over!

Suzan Abrams, email: suzanabrams@live.co.uk said...

Stop fretting, you! It will all turn out fine. :-)

Saaleha said...

Actually Shameless, its in the legs. But what I was really trying to say, albiet in a roundabout way, is that both tortoises and turles get to where they want to go. And so will you.

Debi said...

Good on you for that last comment, Muffin. Have you been taking the positive visualisation pills I sent? Proud of you - and you should be proud of yourself too.

I do believe turtles and tortoises live a very long time ... Repeat after me - it WILL happen.

S. Kearney said...

Thank you for your comments, they are greatly appreciated. I also send you good vibes for your projects. :)

It's in the legs? Good grief! I will never work it out then. :) Thanks for your positive thoughts. Slow but surely! :)

and Debi,
Yes, we are popping back those visualisation pills you sent! Thanks! They are so wonderful that I check out my stats every day on Amazon.com, to see how many are buying my book! :)

Unknown said...

Yep, I've had some of those and I've learned not to try and read anything into what they might mean. Usually they say what they mean, there are no hidden messages. As writers a tough hide is the best suit to wear.
The important thing is that you keep submitting - and not necessarily just to NZ - try Oz, the UK and the US, even Ireland.
Good luck!

S. Kearney said...


Yes, we have to have skins made out of coconut shells! :)

Three packages were sent out yesterday (a few sample chapters)and one big one goes out on Monday (the entire manuscript). It seems there are very few publishers still willing to receive the whole book in one swoop, so I want to make the most of that! :)

Unknown said...

Wow what a post and comments. Shameless goes from down to up, uP, UP, we learn about rejection letters and the difference between turtles and tortoises! For some reason I find the picture very cute. Keep on trying, I'm behind you.

S. Kearney said...

Thanks V, your comment is appreciated. And wasn't it fascinating about the legs being the key to telling turtles and tortoises apart. Not that I totally got my head around that! :) They're all just turtles to me.