Submitting a novel to literary agents; aka “coping with rejection”

It’s been quite a while since I posted anything about my writing.

Snoopy rejection slips

For those of you I haven’t managed to bore with it yet, I have written a book. It’s called Art and Soul and is a contemporary romance – and when I say “romance” I mean in the vein of Pride and Prejudice, not 50 Shades (one of my friends was very disappointed!). It features love, art and cake. If you want to know more, click here.

In early June, I began submitting samples of Art and Soul to literary agents here in the UK. This usually involves sending them a covering letter, the first 3 chapters of the novel and a plot synopsis. I believe the process of querying is a bit different in the US.

Sounds straight-forward, right? Well, yes, probably. But I find the whole thing rather stressful. Every agent has their own submission guidelines which must be followed to the letter or you give them one more reason to reject your work. This makes the composition of each submission as stressful as applying for a job. A job you really, really want.

So, how’s it going so far?

Four months have passed since I sent out the first submissions and since then I’ve sent out two more batches. The idea of submitting in small groups is that I can makes changes to my submission if it’s getting rejected wholesale by everyone.

Of the 12 agents I could reasonably expect to have heard back from by now, I have 6 rejections and 6 nothings. To be fair to the non-responders, a couple do make it clear that if you don’t hear from them after X number of weeks then they’re not interested. And the others could be drowning under submissions and may not have laid eyes on my work yet.

Drowning under Paper

Anyway… Last week I sent out another small batch to see where that gets me. I’m truly beginning to understand what other writers are going on about when they say the only difference between the successful and not-so-successful authors is a refusal to quit in the face of opposition!

After reading this great article by Linda K. Sienkiewicz about the importance of submitting to a large number of literary agents (of course, if that’s the path you want to go down), I’m committing to sticking with submissions until I have an overwhelming pile of “no”.

In the words of that great philosopher, Dory from Finding Nemo:

Dory just keep swimming

Anyone else in the middle of the submission/querying process? If you are, I hope it’s going well πŸ™‚

Β Claire Huston / Art and Soul

22 thoughts on “Submitting a novel to literary agents; aka “coping with rejection”

  1. I wish you the very best of luck, Claire. Finding an agent is no mean feat, but even then it’s no guarantee of success. I had four books with a top agent for many years, but she couldn’t sell them simply because the publishing industry doesn’t like to take risks and my works were non-genre-specific. I eventually went the self-publishing route because my works were languishing unread and I had enough confidence and experience to know I could produce a professional product. The advice from Dory is spot on, though. Keep on keeping on. Just remember that sometimes you have to take things into your own hands.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, that’s good advice and reassuring. I’m trying the agent route first just because I think I could do with the support and expertise. However I’d also be very happy to self-publish, particularly if I was confident the book was a professional product.
      And I guess all us beginners think writing the book is the hard part πŸ™‚ ha!


  2. I really hope you get some good news soon. It must be so tough putting yourself out there like that.

    I’m sure you are probably sick of hearing this but look at how many rejections J.K Rowling got and look at where she is now.

    You will get there too. One day you will get a letter that will have you jumping for joy !!!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hello, Claire! I went through the rejection process a few years ago and can remember how stressful it can be. I went the self-publishing route, too. I now just blog because I have time to do that.

    Keep going with the Literary Agents and Good Luck!

    As Norman Stanley Fletcher says (in Porridge) ‘Don’t let the bastards grind you down!’ Xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! I’ll keep going with the agents for now. It would be nice for just one to show any interest at all – ha!
      I like the idea of self-publishing but would need to do a lot more research into it before going down that route πŸ™‚ I do like the idea of having control over title/cover/how its marketed etc. But of course that means all the work too…

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! I thought it would get easier as I went on. But I swear, every time I press the “send” button on an email submission I scrunch up my face and squeal! And I’m pretty sure I’ve sent out a few things with mistakes in them. Hey ho. Live and learn πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! I do like the idea of self-publishing (particularly the idea of retaining greater control over my work) but I’d need to do a lot of research into it first. Perhaps once the toddler starts pre-school… I may well have questions about self-publishing one day. It’s so nice to know writers with such valuable experience.


      • Thank you so much. I think it’s all a bit daunting when you’re starting out. It’s been great to find other authors who are reassuring and supportive. Whatever happens I will publish. After all my hard work writing my book I won’t leave it in a drawer! πŸ™‚


  4. Best of luck with your submissions πŸ™‚ After submitting to numerous agents, I received one rejection and a load of nothings. I hated the waiting for nothing at the end of it. At least my rejection email felt real.

    I had always written for myself and my love of writing, and thought, ‘sod it! I’m going to go indie.’ If even one person liked my novel, then that would be great. I never imagined the work I’d have to put into self-promotion etc. It has been a massive learning curve; one I’m sharing in talks at my local library soon. It seems the world and his friend wants to go indie πŸ˜‰

    I’ll continue to plug away, and who knows what the future may bring. I hope you get some good news soon πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! I like the idea of self-publishing but, as you say, it’s a lot of work. It would be nice to have someone to help with all that. That said, I think I’m going to start my research on self-publishing now so I can be ready to go for it should I get a big bucket of nothing from the agents.
      It’s great that you’re sharing your experience with others who would like to self-publish. All advice is really helpful.
      Approaching agents must have been harder for you too because the number of agents I’ve seen who are “no sci-fi” and “no YA” – what is that about?!
      I’ll keep everyone updated…

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I would definitely tell every writer to try their luck at the traditional route, it makes life so much easier. Since I have self-published book one, half my writing time is taken by promotion, keeping up with social media etc.

    When I was submitting, if agents were reading YA it was only contemporary romance. I think they were jumping on the ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ band wagon. I even submitted to obscure agents with no luck 😦 It’s hard to not have self-doubt when you think everyone hates your work.

    I hope you have a good response. Keep on at it! πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

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