Grateful for Every No

More than 200 rejections over 20 years? Yeppers! It’s been a long, wild, winding road to publication.

The manuscript for my novel was rejected by agents.

It was rejected by contest judges.

It was rejected by publishing houses, big and small.

I stopped counting a couple years ago when I hit the 200 mark. Looking back, though, every single one was necessary. Each led to a better book and, ultimately to a contract with St. Martin’s Press for my debut, The Sunflower House. (Coming in Fall, 2024!)

In the beginning…

In the beginning, the rejections I got from queries were both painful (yes, I cried) and deserved. They were impersonal rejections, ones that told me the writing needed work.

So I took a break, redoubled my research, and read/studied a lot—about voice and plot structure and everything writing-related. Years passed and life happened, but once I’d revised the manuscript three times, I began entering contests, since they’re an economical way to get feedback from other writers, agents, and editors.

Feedback from those first few contest entries was brutal. (Yes, I cried more.) But I took the feedback and used it to improve. I joined writing groups/shares. I read a ton of books—took them apart, put them back together, and applied what I’d learned to my writing.

By the time I started to final in contests, the agent rejections were more personalized. Some even asked to see the MS again after I’d made revisions. Then along with the wins came more requests for fulls.

Still, plenty of rejections, though. Helpful rejections, but rejections nonetheless.

An agent—finally!

In 2017, I attended a pitch conference, where I met Shannon Orso, who became a junior agent at The Eric Ruben Agency. She fell in love with the book, and I accepted the agency’s offer of representation in 2018. We made revisions before submitting to editors. This resulted in (you guessed it) more rejections, although most gave very specific feedback. So I went back to work.

A year or so later Shannon started her own agency, Victress Literary. I was thrilled as I had two books completed by then, and we worked with her team on multiple manuscripts I had going at the time. (Yes, more revisions.)

In 2021, Shannon passed unexpectedly which was devastating for all on her roster. Her co-agent, Lizz Nagle, was determined to keep the agency going—a decision I’ll be eternally grateful for. We reviewed the manuscript again, decided we didn’t need to make further adjustments. Be patient, Lizz said, it’s a beautiful book. Your time will come.

The offer—finally!

When we heard from Brigitte Dale at St. Martin’s Press in January of this year, it was surreal. I couldn’t believe it at first. Did I misinterpret that email? Was this happening? Yes, she was really interested. Brigitte fell in love with the story and characters and themes, much as Shannon and Lizz had years before. Our first tele-meeting was bliss. She got the plot, got the characters, got me.

I’m still elated, and this all still feels miraculous. And I’m very grateful that Brigitte is helping me tell Allina’s story because she’s the perfect editor for my book—just like Lizz is the perfect agent for me.

And I finally realize:

10 or 15 years ago, Shannon and Lizz were not agents.

10 or 15 years ago, Brigitte wasn’t an editor at St. Martin’s Press.

10 or 15 years ago, I had less life experience—and all the experiences I’ve had in the past decade or more, as painful as some were, helped shape this book.

So what would I have changed?

I joke sometimes that I should have gone back to school for my MFA—that this first novel would have gotten published quicker. But everything happened at exactly the right time, although I couldn’t see it until now.

But truthfully?

I wish I’d spent more time writing and reading and enjoying life—and less time worrying.

I wish I’d tried to silence that Crazy Imposter Syndrome Chick inside me—she’s not helpful.

I wish I’d trusted the journey more and taken the time to appreciate everything learned.

So if you’re not exactly where you think you need to be on your publishing journey—or any goal—don’t give up. Take action, do the work, and be patient. Be stubborn enough to keep at it, even if you feel crazy occasionally. The universe falls in love with a stubborn heart. Your time will come.

🌻 Adriana xo

  1. Valen Cox

    July 12, 2023 at 7:15 pm

    Just beautiful, Adriana. I cannot wait to read your book for I know you have poured your beautiful, bright soul into every word. You are an inspiration. Thank you.
    Hard Hugs,

  2. Elizabeth

    July 17, 2023 at 2:25 pm

    Inspiring! Thanks for these words of wisdom. Excited to read this when it comes out!

Comments are closed.