The book that wasn’t, a journey of rejection

Back in 2011 I wrote a manuscript (I guess it’s not a book until it is published) which blended a Christian text with Buddhist and Zen concepts. I described it as “using the Book of Saint James as a writing prompt, broken into individual lessons and expanded by sharing my insight, life experiences and the Buddhist precepts I have learned through the years.” I submitted this manuscript to over 250 literary agents and publishers in 2012 and even put together a small blog posting portions of the manuscript each week.

Prior to submitting, I had the manuscript professionally edited which cleaned up the grammar and punctuation but in the end I felt changed the tone of what I had written. Never the less armed with a book I bought containing the name and email addresses of thousands of agents and publishers I started sending it out to those I had narrowed down based on the subject matter. For two months I emailed or mailed literary agents and publishers. I set time aside every morning to thumb through my “Agents/Publisher” book and made the literary world aware of the masterpiece I had written. And then I waited.

Over the next ten months (yes the last response took ten months to get) I received emails and a few letters like the following;

I have now had the chance to consider your writing, and regrettably, I do not have sufficient enthusiasm for the project you’ve described to pursue representation. 

We appreciate your submission and apologize for the delay in response. We regret that this project is not right for our agency at this time, as we are taking on new clients only very selectively. We wish you the best of luck in finding representation for your work elsewhere.

Please be assured that we have carefully considered your project. Unfortunately, we don’t feel the manuscript is right for us at this time.

Thanks for thinking of me for your book, but I’m not interested in religious enlightenment.

And my favorite;

This is a crappy ill thought out statement (“the essences of Christian values, ideals which are common to Buddhism and other world religions.”) and ignores the different quality of the contributions by each world religion. (Mr. Simon Warwick-Smith at Warwick Associates if anyone is interested)

250 plus submissions, 237 rejections.

After the first hundred or so I got my feelings hurt. I worked hard on this document. Carefully building each page with both thought and research. The next fifty made me angry. I assumed these people were just blowing me off. They didn’t really read what I had written. They had some intern cut and paste an email response. Hell in some cases none of the fonts even matched in their reply. And then it became funny, almost a game. Over the course of several months one or two rejections would dribble in. I marveled at the creative ways people told me no. Most were very kind about it, but for some like Mr. Warwick-Smith you could just tell I caught them on a bad day (at least I hope he isn’t like that with everyone).

For whatever reason I have saved all those emails going on three years now. I will occasionally read them to see if I missed some gem of wisdom, some advice to tweak what I have written to make it more marketable or appealing. Unfortunately no such guidance was provided. Some offered encouragement to continue, or at least to find another agent but after 250 submissions I ran out of air.

I realize that literary agents get thousands upon thousands of queries from would be authors. And with the advent of electronic mail it certainly makes the submission process easier for those of us who think we have just created the next great pièce de résistance. But it also makes the rejection process easier as well. Mark and click, mark and click.

So my masterpiece sits and waits. I hope it is aging like a fine wine, one that I will pop the cork on in a year or two and think that guy at Warwick Associates was a fool for passing on this remarkable, change the world work of art. What could 237 people possibly know about good literature? Hopefully Mr. or Ms. 238 will be much more enlightened.

“It took me fifteen years to discover that I had no talent for writing, but I couldn’t give it up because by that time I was too famous.” – Robert Benchley  


About ends and beginnings blog

I am a frustrated writer and poet waiting to be discovered. A stand-up philosopher performing on a street corner near you. A Christian with questions but I don’t want to hear your answers. A Buddhist with a bumper sticker on my truck to prove it. A collector of quotes. A grower of lettuce. The Patron Saint of earthworms who name their children after me. A cyclist whose big ass strains the seams of his Lycra bibs. I am American by birth, Southern by the grace of God. My goal in life is to leave an imprint on the lives of the people I love not a footprint on the earth. I am a son, a husband, a father composed of 65%-Oxygen, 18%-Carbon, 10%-Hydrogen, 3%-Nitrogen, 3%-Diet Coke and 1%-Oreo.
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18 Responses to The book that wasn’t, a journey of rejection

  1. I had a similar experience years ago, trying to get a couple of songs published, but I gave up much earlier in the process than you. I think the initial rejections caused me to no longer believe in my songs enough to push it any farther. It’s a tough, tough business.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Nan says:

    So why haven’t you (or have you?) considered self-publishing? Amazon has a great program for it.

    BTW, sometime back I came across an article (can’t remember source) that indicated publishers (at least the larger ones) rarely consider “new” writers. Even though every writer was at one time, “new,” these publishers have narrowed their parameters to only those they have worked with before. There are a few small, independent publishers who are still accepting manuscripts, but the content must be within their preferred genres.

    And the best way to get a literary agent’s attention is to mention the name of a client, editor, agent, author, or bookseller who suggested you contact the agent. Submitting something “cold turkey” generally doesn’t bring results.

    In case you’re interested, I have a website called You may find something there that will interest/help/encourage you. 🙂 I put it together after writing my own book (self-published).

    Liked by 2 people

    • I was approached by a small publisher that wanted me to have a daily blog with a substantial number of followers. I have the blog but don’t know what is defined as “substantial”. Probably more than the 1,000 plus that I have now.

      When I pop the cork in a year or so I may look at self publishing, if I like the way it has aged 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Jennie says:

    Well said, and a very good post.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I’d say, keep writing. Start another. You can always self-pub your baby to at least get it out to the world!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. ericstrong51 says:

    If you’re a Zen student and have done any Koan interviews then you must be familiar with rejection. How many times have I gave what I thought was a correct answer only to be slapped down by the ZM. Anyway, keep trying. There’s only one person that really matters if your book is good. All the rest are just opinions.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I have finally realized what I try to create is for me. If somebody else likes it, that’s terrific. I’m all over that Muslim/Judaic/Christian/Buddhist connection. Too many similarities to call it bunk. You are one of the few whom I can read first word to last sentence. But, alas, I am not an agent.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. samdfb1 says:

    Well, it seems as though your rejections have made you resilient and not despondent-this is good! My so- called rejections have come thick and fast and in the finish I was grateful for them and felt that I dodged the said bullet. Am about to start my own journey with literary agents…yikes. Anyway, your manuscript sounded interesting-am no agent- just someone who writes. But…good luck and keep trying!

    Liked by 1 person

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