Manuscript rejections really piss me off.

Manuscript rejections really piss me off.

Who likes rejection? Certainly not me!

I entered my manuscript, The Maiden Aunts in the Adaptable: Turning the page to screen contest run by the Queensland Writers’ Centre, hoping to at least make the longlist if not the shortlist. When the list was published a few days ago, my name was not on it. I suppose I should be used to rejection by now, but I’m not and it really annoyed me.

Where did my novel begin?

It was 2015 and the LGBTQ+ community and supporters in Australia were lobbying for laws to be changed to allow marriage equality. Cruising Facebook, I spotted the below image of an elderly lesbian couple wanting the right to marry.

The moment I saw this image, I felt compelled to write my novel, The Maiden Aunts, and dashed off the first chapter. As I was completing another book, I let this first chapter sit, but each day I spent time mentally plotting out this novel. A year later, I began and three months later I’d completed the first draft. It took another three years of editing, rewrites, proof reading and even more rewrites, before I was satisfied and began the process of finding an agent to represent me.

Finding an agents to represent me.

Early 2019 I began the search for an Australian agent to represent me. I sent each agent a query letter, my writing biography, a synopsis of The Maiden Aunts and the first three chapters of my manuscript. Responses were slow, which is normal. Some were quite dismissive, while other were encouraging and some even requested the full manuscript.

One agent really got my hopes up when he replied. Here’s what he said.

Steve! THIS IS ABSOLUTELY DELIGHTFUL STUFF – I’m loving it to bits! More please!

I started a little nibble yesterday along with some other submissions, but it was yours that I kept returning to. You’re just capturing it all so well: family and other secrets, rural Oz life (incl an arsonist!), small town life (and not just the prejudiced view), same-sex attraction etc

And editorially it’s in excellent shape too – well done.

So: very eager to read the whole thing!

This really raised my hopes and I immediately send him the full manuscript, but he went cold after this. Other agents praised my work, but declined to represent me as they didn’t feel it was a good fit for them.

Back to the drawing board.

After a year of knock-backs, I accepted that my manuscript was missing the mark so I had it professionally edited again. This led to a huge rewrite. I tightened it up by deleting one character’s back story, Increased the tension in the story, introduced a couple more characters and added three more chapters. It was completed and looking great. As all the agents had knocked me back, I decided to submit my novel directly to publishers who accepted unsolicited manuscripts. In February, 2020, I sent my MS and my hopes to Hachette Australia Publishing.

And then COVID hit.

Hachette finally replied on the 2nd August, 2020. Here’s what they said.

Thank you for your submission to Hachette Australia.

Your submission will be reviewed by members of our editorial team. Due to the high volume of submissions we receive, we are unable to respond to each submission individually, nor are we able to give feedback.

If you have not received a response from us within six weeks of this email, your submission has been assessed as not suitable for our list.

Regards, Hachette Australia

My COVID life overtook me and the world, and I stopped sending my manuscript to other publishers.

Adaptable: Turning the page to screen

I’d written The Maiden Aunts so it would easily be turned into a mini-series. I always have big dreams. Adaptable: Turning the page to screen seemed perfect for me and they were considering unpublished as well as published works. To give myself the best chance of making it to the longlist and shortlist, I had my first three chapters and also the synopsis edited by a professional editor who had made the shortlist in 2023. I made the changes he suggested, submitted my work and waited. I was sure I’d make the cut and it was a devastating blow when I missed out. But I never wallow in self pity for long and reviewed all the possible reasons why I was overlooked.

Is the title appealing?

I love the title The Maiden Aunts, as it reflects the photo that inspired my story. But my novel is not just their story, but also the love stories of a gay couple and a much-married heterosexual woman. It was time to change the title so that it more accurately reflected the narrative.

Love is Love

In the lead up to the plebiscite to determine if Australians thought same-sex couples should have the right to marry, Love is love, became the catch cry of Australians lobbying for same-sex marriage. In the November, 2017 vote, 61.6% of those who participants in the voluntary survey approved a change to the law. On the 9th December, 2017 parliament amended the marriage act, allowing same-sex couples the same right to marry as heterosexual couples. As I pondered a suitable title for my manuscript, previously titled, The Maiden Aunts, I settled on Love is Love. This seemed the obvious choice.

Now what?

A new title means I must rewrite my query letter, synopsis and elevator pitch. I am in the process of doing this and within the next week, I’ll be once again searching for an agent to represent me. The results of the plebiscite indicates that the majority of Australians want equality and many are interested in reading stories that embrace this. Love is Love has a readership out there. It is time for me to redouble my efforts, find an agent and a traditional publisher. Wish me luck.

I’m no longer pissed off. Instead I am hopeful and optimistic.

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10 thoughts on “Manuscript rejections really piss me off.”

  1. Your dogged perseverance and refusal to let rejection take hold is more than admirable. Most would have given up and I really admire the fact they you just get up, brush yourself off and keep moving forward. Amazing and I wish you every success in the future ????????

      1. Thanks Kristi. There is no alternative if I want it published traditionally. If I don’t have a publisher by the end of this year, I’ll self publish but that’s a last resort. How is your writing going? Steve

    1. Thanks Emilia. There is no alternative if I want it published traditionally. If I don’t have a publisher by the end of this year, I’ll self publish but that’s a last resort. Steve

  2. Strange reaction from that agent who initially praised your book. He obviously wasn’t happy with the rest of it, but did he ever tell you why?

    1. Hi Carina, He requested the full manuscript and later said that he hoped he was not too late as he thought it was great. And then he went quiet. He’s started his own agency now and I’ve queried him again, but he is not interested. And on it goes. I have returned to querying again now that COVID is over. Steve

      1. Hm. OK. Let me tell you about how I got my first book published. It was a story that partly took place in India and partly in Sweden. As it turned out, the publishing house liked the Indian part but not the rest of it. I realized they were right and simply threw out the Swedish part and wrote a new ending. They were happy with the result and published the novel. I love it when my editor says: This is boring. Get rid of it. The books get so much better.

        1. Thank you for sharing your publishing journey. The moral is to take note of the editors comments and I will. Thanks.

  3. I continue to support all of your efforts. I love the story and have followed it from its first draft. It just gets better and just needs to land on the right desk. I know you, and believe in you. Giving up is not an option!

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