Yesterday I got the best email. It is slightly odd that it was so exciting and that I am sharing it because it was a rejection letter. That’s right: Not interested, no thank you, but it was not presented that way, and in turn, this letter was hugely encouraging to me.
If you have read anything from this blog you will know that over the past year I have been writing up an adventure that I had with five of my students as a book. The manuscript was finished at the end of last year, and then I did what I guess any new author does, sent it in to publishing houses. I knew many well known authors, J.K. Rowling for example, had numerous rejections before an acceptance. I got a really nice letter back from one publisher on January 11th that said….
Thank you so much for your submission. It is a fascinating and inspiring story, well told.
However, it is not a good fit with the publishing program of XXXXX. As you say, your book “is neither a theoretical nor a how-to book,” and those are precisely the central pillars in our approach to professional development material for educators. I’m sorry. So many times I wish we could make room for things outside the box—and we did when I first began working here 27 years ago…
That was encouraging then, and I knew that it was unlikely that a mainstream publisher would take it, certainly it was a long-shot that an educational publisher would be able to take it on as a project. I hoped maybe one of the other publishing houses might ‘bite’, but no… mostly they didn’t reply. I got one form letter back saying thank you, but no thank you, and then just silence. I didn’t really want silence. After writing the book, what I really wanted to do was share it.
So in my inbox yesterday, 10 months after I sent my submission I was surprised to receive a letter from a publisher entitled ‘manuscript submission’. Here is what it said:
I want to start by thanking you for sharing your submission with us- we found this to be a dynamic account of your students’ and your own journey, with a hugely empowering and positive message of collaboration and creativity. Your passion for the subject really shines through your writing, and I admire you for sharing your story in order to inspire others.
Unfortunately, whilst this is a very intriguing and original submission, I am afraid we are unable to take your submission any further as we feel that it is a little too autobiographical for our current list and market. … While your submission is packed full of invaluable messages and inspirational people, it could be useful to interact with the reader at a deeper level, with practical suggestions to assist their understanding and application of your ideas.
That last bit is a good suggestion, but it was never intended to be a workbook. My academic book has all that in it… how to, and questions for further thought. I like that they gave me constructive advice in case I did want to alter the book. The letter went on to give suggestions of other publishing houses I might contact, and even the self-publishing branch of that company, and then ended with:
We wish you the very best of luck with the next step of your publishing journey.
Very best wishes,
A person signed it, not ‘the team’, but by a person, and I am sure that person actually read it. Overall this lovely sweet rejection reminded me of the value of feedback. Even if a student (or author) ‘fails’, there is so much reason to and merit in providing valuable feedback. I took affirmation of value, sincerity, and just the fact that someone took the time to write to me means so much. I am aware that in the professional world time is money. The time it took to both read and write is not insignificant.
It did take 10 months for that reply, and in the meantime I did publish the book. I didn’t write it for money, but just to share the story – for people, for learners, for teachers. I wanted to show them about failure, about learning, perseverance, and making a difference. -and by self-publishing, I could make it immediately available for very little cost (I struggle with charging anything at all for it, but got around that by having no DRM, so if someone or anyone wanted, they could just share it 🙂 ). As an ebook I thought hey as a bonus, fabaroo, there were no trees harmed in its production. win win. To be honest I haven’t sold many copies of the book yet. I really didn’t know how or even if I should promote it, but was encouraged by that sweet rejection, in that someone I really don’t know took the time to write such positive feedback.
So I can recommend this book – I’ve been told it’s ‘packed full of invaluable messages and inspirational people’ and it can be yours… for the price of a cup of coffee. (here’s the link)
Featured image by Sean MacEntee CC-BY