Madeleine Milburn

Utter Torture

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I have now received 15 rejections from various literary agencies for The Clockwork Butterfly. And each one hurts like the crushing of a childhood dream.

There is a pattern to it now.

I check my emails every few minutes. It doesn’t matter what time it is. In my mind agents beaver away reading unsolicited material twenty four hours a day and my writing is so good that they won’t be able to wait a second to send me a gushing email telling me how great I am. And how they would sell their diamond encrusted pants for the chance to represent me.

So I check. And (very, very occasionally) there is an email from an agent. I am immediately paralyzed. This is it. This is the one. Someone has finally recognised my genius. But I am unable to open the email because a tiny part of me knows that it’s another rejection. My mouse hovers over the email. And then, holding my breath, I click on it.

The first time I read it I don’t understand any of the words. It must be a defence mechanism to stop the excitement or hurt destroying my soul.

I calm down. Exhale. And read it again. And it turns out that perhaps I’m not a genius. I’ve been rejected.

A few minutes later, I read it again, just to make sure I haven’t misunderstood what they’re saying. But I haven’t. I’m still a reject.

Then I get cross. And I stamp about and complain that they obviously didn’t read it properly. And that they’re stupid. And fat. And smell. How could they not realise how brilliant it was? I’m going to write back and tell them how wrong they are. About everything.

Then I’m stomach churningly sad and I mope.

This whole process has now happened fifteen times. It’s a positive yet horrific thought to think that it could happen another thirty or forty times before I’ve exhausted my list of potentials. I am unsure if I’ll be able to cope.

Of the fifteen rejections thirteen have been bog standard, copy and paste daggers through my heart. The other two have been ever so slightly more encouraging. Jamie Cowen from The Ampersand Agency said:

You can clearly write, and there is a good deal of imagination on display in terms of the plot. Sam is cleverly thought-out and will appeal to a broad audience, and the cast of supporting characters is remarkable in its scope.

Which is nice and fairly specific to my novel. The other one, from Clarie Wilson at Rogers, Coleridge and White was less specific and now that I’ve read it again may just be a standard reply (disguised for the willingly gullible). I read it the first time and felt enthused though so I’ll still count it as encouraging…

The most confusing email I got was from Madeleine Milburn. I was on holiday (which I mistakenly thought would make the waiting easier) and we were out and about, but that didn’t stop me checking my emails every few minutes. And I went through the process mentioned above. Now Madeleine Milburn is one that I have high hopes for so I was even more excited about this and deliberated for longer than usual before opening it.

And… its title was “Celebrating SOULMATES publication with the Madeleine Milburn Agency” Now, my book is not called SOULMATES, which is a clue that this was not about me, but it didn’t stop me thinking that it was. For the best part of a minute my addled brain tried to wrestle the words in the email into an order that said they wanted to represent me… I failed. It was an email telling me about a new blog post from Madeleine Milburn. And I felt like a reject once again. (Heartfelt congratulations to Holly Bourne though – now that I’ve recovered)