Coloring by the Numbers

color by numberWhen I was little, I enjoyed doing color by number projects. The puzzle slowly unraveled to reveal a bigger picture at the end. Looking back, I try to make sense of why I enjoyed an inside-of-the-box experience when I have always been an outside-of-the-box type of thinker. One could equate this to page turns, and enjoying the suspense involved. Or maybe the step by step process of seeing something develop. Or perhaps it was the rule follower in me that just loved to be guided by numbers every once in a while.

As creatives, we color by numbers all the time without even realizing it. We want to know if ____ is working for others and if ____ is normal and if ____ has ever happened to our creative friends. Getting caught up in the subjectivity and waiting and rejection can leave us searching for normalcy. It’s not a comparison game, but more of a support system. We like to know what to expect while expecting. So, let’s color by numbers right now and rest in the comfort they provide. A special thank you to Carol Gordon Ekster, Kirsti Call, and Marianne Knowles for participating along with me in this survey.

About how many rejections have you had to date?

Carol: 1200 +

Kirsti: 150ish

Marianne: My agent knows and I am not asking.

Carrie: About 120


What is the greatest number of new drafts you have completed on a single manuscript?

Carol: So many, I don’t count.

Kirsti: 27ish

Marianne: 20?

Carrie: 28


How many drafts do you usually produce per manuscript?

Carol: I don’t count….I just keep revising, bringing it to groups, and reworking until I feel it’s ready to send out. But then I might go back over my many manuscripts when the mood strikes and change it again, and again!

Kirsti: 15ish

Marianne: I don’t count, I don’t want to get discouraged.

Carrie: On average, 11 drafts


What is the approximate number of times you have stumbled upon another book with the same concept as yours?

Carol: I don’t have an exact number, but I don’t stumble . . . I Google the topic and then take those books out of the library specifically to see how others have executed the concept.

Kirsti: Twice

Marianne: At least 10, and one of the novels I stumbled across was over 100 years old!

Carrie: At least 5 times. (Even after research.)


What is the approximate number of times that you have almost given up?

Carol: Never! Though, I have doubts frequently.

Kirsti: Never

Marianne: Six. . . so far this year!

Carrie: I’ve dipped to the bottom of the roller coaster more times than I can count, but I keep holding on!


What is your approximate number of queries before getting a contract or an agent?

Carol: Anywhere from two to 30+.

Kirsti: I only subbed about 5 times before I got my contract for The Raindrop Who Couldn’t Fall.  I realize that this is a complete miracle.  I’ve had at least 150 subsequent rejections!

Marianne: 20 before signing with my agent. No book contracts yet, but to be fair, I haven’t given her much to sell.

Carrie: 78 before first offer. 43 more after and waiting to be discovered! (Of this 121, 11 were requests, and 1 R&R.)

By the looks of things, we dedicate ourselves to revision, persevere through the tough times, and have not given up. This business is not always easy, but if we stick together we’ll get there.

How would you answer the questions above?


  1. This is one big reason I didn’t allow myself to get in deep — rejection. Now I am on a mission for myself – to find out what I can really do. What kind of writer am I? Where is my strongpoint when it comes to genre? Being part of a large community (I joined 12×12 again after the first one in 2012) is already making a difference in my attitude, my feelings of aloneness, and in helping me to keep on writing. I know rejections will come, but I’m no longer alone in this.


  2. We all hear the stories of writers who submit a manuscript Friday that is snatched up by Monday, or the manuscript that goes to a six house auction. Ah, those are the dreams! 🙂 And they do happen. But they are not the norm. The reality for most of us is a LOT of rejections. Like Julie said above, rejection is part of the process. I can’t say I’ve kept count precisely… I think it would be too depressing 🙂 But I once rewrote a manuscript 8 times for a house that ended up passing on it. I’d say rejections to date are well over 200, greatest number of new drafts on a single ms is in the 15-18 range, average number of drafts per ms, at a guess… around 10, number of times I’ve stumbled on a book with the same concept only once – early on before I knew to research – and I discovered to my dismay that Kevin Henkes had already written Chrysanthemum right down to the same name/title! :), I have never almost given up, but I have gotten deeply discouraged, and approx. number of queries before getting a contract is 1-3 for books that sell – to date it seems with my mss that they either get picked up pretty quickly or not at all! Hope that’s helpful to someone! 🙂

    Liked by 5 people

  3. You guys, this is a great post! I don’t know exactly how many rejections I got from agents and editors before signing with an agent, but I’m sure it was at least 20. What surprised me is that I’ve gotten even MORE rejections now that I have an agent and have manuscripts on submission. Now I know rejection is part of the process. It’s unavoidable. I’m hoping to have the one story to tell one day where I write something, my agent loves it, submits it, and it gets bought right away. But I know enough now to know that the odds are against that ever happening. It’s slow and sometimes painful, which is why the love of writing for the sake of writing has to sustain us as we wait for that “yes.”

    Liked by 6 people

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