Tuesday, January 24, 2012

January Theme: First rejections

by Stephanie J. Blake

I've heard that galleys for my debut, THE MARBLE QUEEN, will be ready soon. I'm pretty excited because the book is going on five years in the making. I finished writing it in late 2007 and started querying right before the holidays. (Rookie mistake). I had 13 rejections before the book sold in June of 2010. And I had one critique at the 2007 SCBWI conference in LA.

And I've used every single piece of feedback from each rejection to make the story stronger.

Some of the rejections are from editors and only a handful are from agents. I have five form letters (snail mail--on actual paper!) Most of the rejections were personal letters with actual paragraphs. And boy do I treasure them! I worked on the novel for one editor for almost a year. In the end, it was rejected. I was sad, but knew the book was stronger for it.

The book sat in the slush at Marshall Cavendish for almost a year before my editor emailed to ask if it was still available. I revised for her. She offered. The rest, as they say, is history!

I'd like to share my very first rejection. It's from an agent. He was the first agent I queried, and he asked for a full, which I sent just before Thanksgiving. I waited on pins and needles until...December 17, 2007.

Hi Stephanie--

Thanks so much for letting me consider THE MARBLE QUEEN OF IDAHO FALLS. I think this is such an endearing and wonderful story with many great qualities. Freedom's voice is uniquely engaging, and the way you've structured the novel makes it completely accessible to young readers as well as old(er) ones.

While I admire all of MARBLE QUEEN's strong qualities, in all honesty, colloquial language has never been a favorite of mine, and I tend to like stories with more central conflict. MARBLE QUEEN is a "quiet" novel, in my opinion, and while there is certainly a market for this type of literary middle grade (award winners!), the short length combined with a historical setting will make this a tough sell for an agent who isn't 150% behind it.

Ultimately I don't think I'm the right person for this project, Stephanie, but I know that for another agent, this will be a perfect match. Sorry for the disappointing news, but I truly do appreciate the opportunity to consider your work and wish you the best of luck and all success. (And Happy Holidays, too!)

Agent x

This letter made my heart sing! I knew I had written something special. I realized early on that an agent wouldn't be interested in my little book. I had to target publishers on my own and kept at it.

THE MARBLE QUEEN has been through 12 revisions since 2007. It's still a quiet, literary story, but it's full of heart. I can't wait to share it with the world this fall.


  1. Just to say I'm so looking forward to The Marble Queen. So happy it found a good home!

  2. Sounds like my kind of book! Yay for you, keeping at it.

  3. I'm looking forward to The Marble Queen, too, Stephanie! And to get such a lovely personal response from the first agent you queried is incredible! Congrats...

  4. Thank you for sharing this encouraging story.

  5. Thank you for such an inspiring post, and well done for not giving up!
    P.S, I also kept all of my rejection letters! I even had some on my wall for a while lol.

  6. I'm so glad you stuck with this story, because I love it so much! So happy it will be a real live book soon! :)