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rejThey tell you there are rejections, and then there are rejections. They tell you that publishers, at first, just plain reject you, and then one day they start rejecting you but. And that’s a sign: you are about to make it.

Yes, well.

I won’t say it can’t happen, but let me tell you a small cautionary tale.

Back in the day, when I was young and naïve, I sent Out There a novel. Out There was a local small publisher, and the novel was a mammoth, 250k word historical – and the first volume in a trilogy…

You won’t be surprised to hear that the answer was “No, thanks”, but it was a qualified “No, thanks”. Why, the Small Publisher even had me over for a cup of coffee and a good chat. Remarkable novel, he said – just impossibly huge for such a small house… Why not try something shorter?rejected

I drove home in a daze. I’d had a Good Rejection – the sort of mythical beast that, they say, means the publisher is interested. Three-book deals, long partnerships, and happy careers have been known to blossom from this sort of rejections…

Fast forward a year or so, and watch me as I send in something shorter.

“Good,” is the answer. “Originally conceived, well written, thoroughly researched. Really good. A pity that you chose this rather outlandish setting… Why not try some local history?”

One more year and a half, and back I am – with some local history.

“How wonderful! What an unusual structure, and lovely writing! Isn’t it a pity that the market isn’t what it was, say, two or three years ago? Small houses, you know, have no hope when it comes to fiction. Still, with your style… I think you should really try some nonfiction.”

rejection-300x188As I said, I was young and naïve: instead of smiling, saying thank you, and walking away, I did write what seemed to me a nice piece of nonfiction and sent it to the Small Publisher. Can you guess the answer?

“How very clever. How brilliant. But you know, don’t you, that there is no market at all for this sort of books?”

And yes – I’ll grant that my persistent foolishness probably deserved it, and this is an Italian story, but beware: the day you get a Good Rejection, do rejoice, but don’t discount the chance that the publisher (especially if it is a small one) is trying to buy time in hope that you’ll give up.