I've just been following Gonna Be A Writer's comments on her blog http://gonna-be-a-writer.blogspot.com/ - about how many rejections a published author might have, before getting a novel accepted. It prompted me to check back in my files, to remind myself what happened when I was sending out 'The Trouble With Ally' - the first book I had published (as Sheila Norton, my own name).
It actually took even longer than I remembered! I first sent it out to agents in September 1999, and it was accepted by Piatkus in February 2002. I didn't keep all the rejection letters - I think I probably found most of them too depressing to keep! - but I did keep a few, including one from a major publisher which stated that I had 'a bright, confident style and a gift for amusing dialogue', and that the novel was 'quite publishable' ... but it wasn't for them! Even though they rejected the book, I remember being thrilled with that particular letter! But not, of course, as thrilled as I was with the e-mail dated 13 February 02, which told me there was an offer letter in the post to me. I remember sitting at my computer crying when I read it - I could hardly believe it was finally happening.
If that lengthy time span is depressing for would-be novelists, all I can say is that I didn't give up because (having already abandoned several previous attempts at novels which I knew weren't good enough) - I always had a feeling that 'The Trouble with Ally' was good enough to make it, if only someone would agree with me! And secondly, throughout that waiting period, I continued to write short stories, so that I had some acceptances to cheer me up and keep me going, and I also wrote my second novel, 'Other People's Lives'. I was glad I did, because Piatkus offered me a two-book contract, and I'd almost finished the second book by then.
On the subject of persistence, I've recently sold a couple of stories to magazines, which had been turned down several times already. You know how sometimes you have to accept that a story wasn't that great, and file it under 'given up' - but at other times, you think that it's worth a bit of tweaking, a bit of improving, lengthening or cutting, and sending out elsewhere? Well, both of these had been revamped and re-written to within an inch of their lives by the time they finally got accepted (by different magazines) - proving that it's still possible to sell something even when you've almost exhausted all the possibilities.
I'd like to say 'don't ever give up' - but I know, as well as anyone, the angst that can be caused by disappointments and rejections. I'd been writing as a hobby for several decades before having that first novel accepted - and have had some painful rejections since, too. It never gets easier!
But sometimes, the waiting game does pay off. So good luck to everyone out there who's waiting for responses!