I said No To J.K.
The McDade Literary Agency Ltd
Dear Joanne Rowling
Thank you for your recent submission entitled 'Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone'. I'm sorry to say that after careful consideration of your manuscript I do not feel that I am the right person for this book. I admire your storyline and characters, but I'm afraid it does not grab me in the way it should.
I am sorry to disappoint and I hope that other agents and publishers feel differently. I wish you well in your future endeavours.
The lesson is that even though I (assuming the role of a literary agent) did not find the first few pages of the now legendary J.K Rowling's manuscript engaging enough (*ducks for cover from Harry Potter fans*), there are others who will. And aren't we glad Christoper Little did? Otherwise we would never have known the phenomenon that is Harry Potter.
We'll go back a few years...Joanne walks into the library in Edinburgh in 1995 and looks up a list of agents. She finds me. Fast forward a few days and the brown envelope goes into the postbox. That's after Joanne has opened the envelope again to make sure she has included the stamped addressed envelope and that she has spelt her own name right.
Picture this: I open Joanne's manuscript, I read the first page, my attention wanes, I sip at a can of Coke, nibble a few crisps, I look out the window and glimpse a man taking his dog for a walk, I glance at Joanne's synopsis. I wonder what the weather will be like. I go with my gut instinct – that she hasn't a hope in hell of this getting published. I don't even stop to consider this. Harry Potter really isn't my thing. Sorry, Jo.
So after Joanne receives her carefully worded rejection letter from me which I've forgotten to sign, she goes back to the library. She leafs through all the agents in the UK and Ireland and she likes the name 'Little.' Sounds like a character that would feature in a children's book. She sends it off to Mr Little and he loves it.
As her literary agent, Christopher Little receives between 10 and 15 per cent of J.K's earnings and a similar percentage of overseas earnings and film rights. J.K is believed to have earned a minimum of £150 million from Harry Potter – so my message is – don't give up, even when you get a pile of ten rejections in one day.
Have no fear. Believe in your work and your ability because that shows through when you submit it. It's also compulsory to enter The World Of Rejection Letters. Any respectable author has holidayed there for a period of time. They're part and parcel of the process and nothing to be ashamed of. You can file those letters away, frame them and make paper aeroplanes out of them, or do as I do and use them as bookmarks for your Writers' And Artists' Yearbook. If you hit the wall, walk around it. Please remember that someone out there will always say no. I said no to J.K.