Manuscripts Burn


"Manuscripts don't burn"
- Mikhail Bulgakov

Hi, I'm horror and science fiction author Steve Kozeniewski (pronounced: "causin' ooze key.") Welcome to my blog! You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Amazon. You can e-mail me here, join my mailing list here, or request an e-autograph here. Free on this site you can listen to me recite one of my own short works, "The Thing Under the Bed."

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Why I Love Getting Rejection Letters

Yesterday I got my first rejection letter in...well, it's been a while. I'd like to say that's because all my stuff is getting picked up lately (yeah, right) but the truth is it's because I haven't queried anything in months. (Those of you new to my blog, or the publishing world in general, may not know that a query is a request for an agent or publisher to consider your work. If they like your query, they may request your full manuscript or part of it to review.)

So this rejection I received was just an outstanding one from....oh, what the heck, I'll go check my querying spreadsheet to get you an exact date. Hang on. Okay, I sent the query October 7, 2013. So, I waited about 4 months for the response. This is a little longish for a rejection of an initial query, but by no means the longest I've ever waited. Industry standard, I think, is 4-8 weeks, but typically you'll hear back in 30 days. I've had rejections within minutes and I've also waited...oh, what the heck, I'll go check on the exact stats for this for you as well. (Why keep stats if you're never going to share them with anybody, right?)

Okay, the longest I've ever waited for a rejection on an initial query was 8 months, 12 days and the longest I've ever waited for a rejection on a requested manuscript is a staggering 1 year, 9 months, and 6 days. (Needless to say, I probably would have thought twice about working with those folks even if it had been a "yes.") But you know something? I wouldn't trade a single one of those rejections for all the tea in China. (Well, maybe ALL the tea...)

I suppose you think I'm about to say something uplifting, like about how we have to learn from our mistakes to improve or some bullshit. But if you thought that, then this is probably the first time you've ever read anything I've written, so welcome, and I hope you'll peruse some of my books which you can find on the right hand side of the page. But no, sarcasm aside, the reason I like getting rejections isn't any New Age lovey-dovey bullshit. It's simply because I hate the alternative. No, not acceptance. Acceptance is fine. But I get accepted in .0017% of queries (yes, that's a real statistic, too.) The realistic alternative to a rejection letter is:


Exhausting, heartbreaking, soul-rending silence. Right now all the writers in the audience are bobbing their heads but the ordinary folks (we just call you "normies," by the way) are probably going, "What?" Well, you see, dear reader, there is an invidious policy that certain publishing industry professionals have taken on which, while sometimes caveated in different ways, boils down to "no reply is a 'no' reply." I even keep a column on my query tracking spreadsheet marked "no=no" to track whether the people I'm querying have this policy.

Some agents and publishers are good enough to give you a date when no=no. "If 30 days have elapsed and you haven't heard from me, then your book was probably not right for my list." Something like that. Others give no such timeframe, thus leaving that spark of possibility forever burning in you that someday, perhaps a year, nine months, and six days from now, you'll hear back from that dream agent all the way up in New York City, where, according to folklore, the world's worst salsa is made. (New York City?!?)

I try to make it a habit not to complain about industry practices, or, particularly, individual agents and publishers. That's a big no-no. We're all colleagues now, you know, even though I'm a big fat impostor who doesn't deserve to be published and oh my God any day now everyone's going to figure that out. Nevertheless: colleagues. So I would rather couch this in positive terms. I don't like the "no reply is a 'no' reply" response when I get it (read: nothing) so I actually appreciate when a publishing professional takes the time out of his or her day to send me a rejection letter.

I love getting rejection letters. They help me track all those stats I was so proud of up at the top of the post. They help me know how long an agent or publisher was considering my work. And, perhaps most importantly, they give me a sense of closure. "Sent query Day X, received rejection, Day Y." Simple as that.

So, yes, perversely, I love being rejected. Just not by the ladies. Luckily THAT issue has never come up before...

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