Short answer to the above question: I was getting too many rejection letters. Here’s one I got from HarperCollins two and a half years ago. Have a look at what they wrote and see what you think.
Dear Mr Herron,
Thank you for your submission. I thought the tone of The Wake (And What Jeremiah Did Next) was entertainingly profane and found the semi-autobiographical elements intriguing. You capture the mood of the time with authenticity, humour, style and an infectious exuberance. The characters and events ring true and are always gripping. Also, your narration is intimate and highly atmospheric.The theme of being on the periphery of your generation’s great cultural/social movements is a fascinating and, to my mind, completely original one.
However, while the book would be absorbing to a good number of readers I feel it is not suitable for our company. I would suggest you try submitting it to smaller, domestic publishing houses. I’m afraid this one is not for us.
Best of luck in the future.
You know something? The second paragraph doesn’t follow from the first. The first was written by the good cop and the second by the bad cop. In some literary circles this is called a non sequitur. In my circle it’s called a kick up the cojones. When I showed the letter to another writer she said “You have to keep trying.” And then she told me to check out the rejections that some authors got. She gave me a list and I did some Googling. By the time I’d finished I realized how gentle HarperCollins had been with me.
Here are a few excerpts from other rejection letters:
“We are not interested in science fiction which deals with negative utopias. They do not sell.” Stephen King, Carrie
“Get a day job.” J K Rowling, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
“Maybe now that this book is out of your system, you will use your talent more effectively next time.” Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar
“Very long and rather old fashioned. Sorry.” Herman Melville, Moby Dick
“I recommend that it be buried under a stone for a thousand years.” Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita
“Stick to teaching.” Louisa May Alcott, Little Women
And then there were, let me see, George Orwell, Agatha Christie, James Joyce, Gertrude Stein, J D Salinger, Jack Kerouac, Cassandra Clare, John le Carré, Margaret Mitchell, Scott Fitzgerald. And someone called Etcetera Etcetera. Plus these snippets that made my eyes open wide:
-Beatrix Potter had to publish The Tale of Peter Rabbit herself.
-In Search of Lost Time would have never have been heard of if Marcel Proust hadn’t self-published it.
-Lady Chatterley’s Lover was rejected by all major publishers in the UK and US so DH Lawrence self-published it in Florence using his own press in 1928.
Late on in my meanderings I hit lucky because I came across a writer called Hugh Howey. Howey publishes only on Amazon and has written around fifty books. He is the renowned author of the Silo series which has sold more than two million copies worldwide. It was on his recommendation that I enrolled my latest novel in Kindle Direct Publishing Select which means that it is automatically enrolled in both the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library (KOLL) and Kindle Unlimited (KU).
With any luck this should beat the two cops any day.