A Man of Letters

Dear Aran,

Many thanks for sending —– the rest of your manuscript. We both read it and while there is much to like in it unfortunately she didn’t feel sufficiently committed to the material to offer you representation. BY HIS OWN HANDS is very well written, and Alexander is a very appealing central character. I loved the concept of the citadel, and the way in which you played with the idea of returning to a medieval lifestyle but with the attitude, and occasional object, from modern times. However we felt that the scope of the novel was quite small. A lot of fantasy being published at the moment is very epic (A GAME OF THRONES for instant) and we were not sure how we would be able to make your novel stand out from the crowd.

Please do send us anything else you write in the future, and in the meantime we wish you all the best with your writing.

Best wishes,


Well, that’s right annoying. And nice. And courteous, and considerate. And annoying.

My instant reaction, of course, was to write a reply, a la (if not quite) that Dylan Moran video about the rejection letter.

Dear Ms. —-, thank you for your letter, and for reading my novel. However, you are gravely mistaken. By His Own Hands is not technically fantasy, for one thing. And if a lot of fantasy is very epic, then surely you see that producing a novel which isn’t is exactly the way to stand out from the crowd? Thank you for reading, and I look forward to having you represent my novel now that I have defeated your arguments with the cold blade of steely logic! Ha-HA!


PS: It’s “for instance”. Ha-HA!

I didn’t send that. But it feels good to have written it.

Obviously there’s a lot of positive here. A major literary agency actually read, and essentially liked, the first book I’ve ever cobbled together. “Very well written” and the  general tone of the letter suggest they found it, in terms of writing technicalities, of suitable standards. The Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook Guide to Getting Published suggests that getting a non-form rejection letter puts a book in the “top 5-10%” of submissions. And the aspects Ms. —- picked up on are ones I’m very happy to have recognised, not to mention proof that yes, they really read it.

It is annoying to be reminded of the need to meet the zeitgeist, especially as the literature inspiring me at the moment is far too a) old, b) obscure, and c) bizarre to lead me to imagine that whatever I write next will be remotely commercial. But hell. I’ll still write it. (Rather than leap at the implicit suggestion in the above letter, and write a massive-scope epic-fantasy called, oh, A Sport of Sceptres?) And BHOH will trouble a few more agencies’ inboxes before it’s laid to rest, although agency X here (one of the big ‘uns) was the one whose correspondence was raising my hopes thus far.

Really, it’s as good a rejection letter as I could have hoped for. And obviously I’ve been talking ever since I finished Novel the First about sending it out to collect rejection letters. But equally obviously, I didn’t mean it. Rejection, even the nicest, is, well…


5 thoughts on “A Man of Letters

  1. Holy Correspondence, Batman! I do not think that this is anything to be upset about. You just have to figure out which publishers are interested in “smaller-scale” fantasies, now that you know how your story will get classified in the industry. :) Plus! They want to read Future Things. That means that you are on a List somewhere. And being on a publisher’s List is not a bad thing for any aspiring author. Foot in the door, one toe at a time, yes?

    Congrats on your rejection! :D

  2. The former not quite so much — this was a reply from an agent, not a publisher, so what they were saying is “we don’t think publishers are buying this right now.” Future Things — yes, certainly! I’m sure that’s a fairly stock response, but I won’t pass up a perfectly good source of encouragement.

  3. O! Aran, this made me laugh and then a little mad. I’m so very proud that you’re putting your work out there (I imagine you on a cliff in Africa holding up the manuscript to the blazing sun, Lion King style). I can get a sense of how this all makes you feel from the post: annoyed, yes, and maybe a little encouraged? It’s good to have your voice back. Keep posting!

    P.S. A Sport of Sceptres sounds like it might be a winner.

  4. So “She” doesn’t want to marry your writing.

    This is disappointing.

    But you’re right- as far as rejection letters go, this is nice n promising! Wow, the idea of ordering rejection letters in terms of their rejection-ness…

    I am also enjoying the image of you and your manuscript on a cliff in Africa, and am hoping the weird hyena doesn’t eat you before you get something published. I trust you will steer clear of hyenas. and I trust you will continue to trouble inboxes. postboxes. bathroom boxes. drawers. cupboards. cupboards that lead to Epic Fantasies and cupboards that lead to non-epic fantasies.

    all the best x

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s