Today I received an email from an agency thanking me for my submission of The Chimney Rabbit, but apologising that they wouldn’t be able to offer to take it any further. This wasn’t the first rejection I’ve received, and it almost certainly won’t be the last, but what makes it difficult is the lack of feedback.
A literary agency may receive 300 unsolicited submissions a week – there are a lot of us aspiring writers out there. Usually, submissions comprise a short one- or two-page synopsis, and the first three chapters – say 10,000 words. That’s three million words a week that need to be looked over – the equivalent of fifteen copies of Moby-Dick. With that volume of submissions, it’s no wonder that agencies tend not to provide any specific feedback on why they’re rejecting a manuscript. Indeed, a manuscript that is rejected by a dozen agents might be picked up by the 13th and go on to be published quite successfully. Just because your manuscript has been rejected, it doesn’t mean that it’s no good.
Of course, it doesn’t meant that it is good, either, and that’s where the lack of feedback becomes tricky. There is no distinction between an excellent manuscript, destined to be a classic, soon to be a major motion picture, that just hasn’t quite clicked with an agent, and a complete pile of rubbish that you really should have been ashamed to let anyone read.
My other half compared it to playing darts blindfolded. Except I’m not even sure I’m facing the dartboard. Still, I’ve got to trust that I’m throwing the darts in roughly the right direction, and so far I’ve just been narrowly missing the board.
Maybe someday I’ll hit the bullseye.