Ottawa, April 2018

The email was sitting right there, buried under the other 12 unread messages filling my inbox. It was stuck between an early-morning assignment from a European client received at 5 a.m. and a question sent by a friend/fellow translator.

I opened it last—business first, after all, and I had the feeling no action would be required on that one. Publishers interested in your work don’t email back six months later. They send a limo, a contract, or more realistically a request for the full manuscript. It seems that the average response time in the publishing world is in weeks or months—processing queries is probably laborious—, but I suspect the most promising projects are identified faster after an initial screening.

I sent a query to this publisher last October.

I knew the email wasn’t going to bring me joy but closure.

Dear Juliette Giannesini,

Thank you for considering XXXX as a possible publisher for your project, and please accept our sincere apologies for the very long delay in getting back to you.

The editorial board has now had a chance to read your text, but we regret to say that after careful consideration we’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not quite right for our list. We have decided not to pursue this project for publication.

We’re truly sorry not to be coming back to you with a positive answer. All of us on the editorial board sincerely thank you for giving us the opportunity to read your work. We wish you all the best with this and all future publications.


The Editors

The rejection didn’t hurt; it didn’t even sting. I don’t know for you, but I noticed first attempts are rarely successful. The first version of a recipe tastes so-so, the first boy I wanted to kiss didn’t give a damn about me, my first trip abroad wasn’t very memorable, my first work experience made me consider becoming a housewife, and let’s just say that losing your virginity is a bit overrated. The exception is Mark, my first and last kid, who is (mostly) perfect—phew.

I read the email again and against all logic, I actually felt proud of myself. After all, I was expecting rejections, it’s part of the process. And this is what made me feel good—the fact I was experiencing the manuscript submission process. It means I have a completed work of fiction and that I took the first step toward publishing. Being successful would have been nice but one failure wasn’t the end of the world.

Two days later came the second rejection email.

Hello Juliette,

Thank you for taking the time to submit to us. Unfortunately this doesn’t sound like the right fit for XXXX. We receive a high volume of submissions and are only able to represent a few. Good luck!

I embraced it as well. Plus, we’re all Canadian and super polite—these boilerplate emails sound almost apologetic, how can you even be offended?

That night, I updated my query master sheet and considered my options. I doubt the manuscript will ever get noticed. I think I have a good story and I’m pretty sure I can write—but so do thousands of people, so why me?

But on the other hand, the last time I checked, new books are published all the time—so why not me?

I can’t stop now. Maybe I’ll learn something along the way, maybe I’ll connect with new people. I think my dream would be to receive a rejection letter that would say “look, sorry, this isn’t a good fit. But I read it and on a personal level, I enjoyed it.”

The fatalistic French side of my brain is telling me that I have no chance, while my Canadian side encourages me to follow my dreams—and a little Chinese voice reminds me that I haven’t accomplished anything yet.

If response timeframes are consistent in the publishing world, I’m bracing myself for a bunch of rejections this month. It’s been six months since the fall 2017 queries and I think I can safely assume I’ll never hear back from the spring 2017 ones.

Should be fun.

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  1. Aylyon April 16, 2018 at 11:02 am

    I am happy that you are not disappointed because all I want to say is :
    congrats for your first two replies!
    It is huge that people had actually the chance to read it and they did reply to you!
    Don’t listen the Chinese and French voices (if YOU accomplished nothing in your life who does?).
    You’re great!

    1. Zhu April 17, 2018 at 12:31 am

      Aw, thank you! I just wanted to share this latest update, but I don’t feel disappointed. I’m too realistic to be disappointed 😉

  2. Jeruen April 16, 2018 at 3:58 pm

    These letters you’re receiving remind me of the time when I was applying for faculty positions, or the time when I was applying for grant funding. In my case, it wasn’t fun seeing these rejection letters, because eventually it spelled the end of my academic career, and it more or less forced me to jump ship and change careers.

    Then again looking at where I am right now I think I am in a happier place. I suppose I just needed a little bit of a tight squeeze.

    But yes, hang in there. I find it hard to believe that there isn’t a publisher who would think your story fits their profile.

    1. Zhu April 17, 2018 at 12:32 am

      The stakes are lower for me, it’s not like it affects my livelihood. I’m more stressed out when business is slow or when I can’t find new clients!

  3. Frenchie au Canada April 16, 2018 at 6:26 pm

    Funny (sort of!) how polite they are! How very Canadian, and as you said hard to get mad at them.
    Writing a novel and submitting it is huge, and in and of itself is a huge achievement! Well done you, seriously!
    I’m glad you are getting some sort of closure though, it’s tough to be left hanging…
    I’ll let you know if I can get some names of publishers for you…
    You wrote it in English right?

    1. Zhu April 20, 2018 at 1:07 am

      Eeek, I thought I replied and apparently, I didn’t!

      Yes, I write in English 🙂

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