I actually feel good about this, and I'll tell you why.
The first two things I heard back about Nurk were variations on "Love it, love it, lot of potential, really would like to publish it, is the author willing to do a re-write addressing the following points?" and one "Love it, but having a hard time getting it past marketing--if we can get a proposal on this other project, though, Ursula will then be one of Large Nameless Publisher's stable of authors, and it'll be a lot easier to get Nurk past 'em." (Apparently this is one way publishing works. I found that interesting.)
Not being willing to jinx it, I'll just say that one of the publishers is lookin' promising, and if I don't kill it with the rewrite,* I think it might actually sell to them. And they are a large name. I have heard of them and everything. But don't get excited or congratulatory yet--nothing is certain until there is a contract in one's hands.
Because I am a believer in worst case scenarios, I had sort of assumed that these were the positive ones in a sea of rejections, and my agent just wasn't passing on the rejections. (Hey, I'm new to this stuff!) So when I got these two rejections, I realized, to my surprise, that she hadn't been filtering the bad stuff--just hadn't had any rejections come back yet. Which means we're three positive and two negative, and frankly, I'm pretty sure that's a great ratio. (After all, you only need ONE positive to sell the book...)
The other really funny thing is the disovery that it's absolutely true--editors are wildly different. (Almost like real people in that regard! Good lord! Do other writers know about this?)
Every single response talked about the writing. Two of them were specifically enthusiastic about it and thought it was the strongest part of the book. The other two used phrases like "overdone" and "fell flat." (They were in the main polite rejections, I hasten to add, I'm picking out the worst phrases. I have never had an editor be anything but desperately courteous to me.) It's the same writing, and yet the range of responses is sort of amusing. I bear these editors no ill will. (Well, very little.) It's just so...weird, somehow! Perhaps I'm just astonished by the sheer subjectivity of it all--and yet I shouldn't be at all. But I still am, somehow. My own bias there amuses me.
So I guess it's true--you really can't quit after one rejection. Like many things I've heard about writing, it actually looks true now that I'm poking at it. And yet, I could see getting discouraged easily--back in the day, I stopped sending out "Black Dogs" after a pitifully small number of rejections, even though they were nice and included personalized and lengthy notes from the editor, which is apparently a helluva good sign, because I didn't know what I was doing. (Of course, that cleared the way for Sofawolf later, so it all worked out in the end.) And honestly, if I hadn't gotten the nice notes about Nurk first, I might be gnawing my fingernails down and making plans to change my entire writing style. And that would have been a mistake.
So, err--I don't know if I have a point, but if anybody out there is working on stuff--really, honestly, don't quit after the first coupla rejection slips, I guess.
I'll keep a tally and see how many Nurk runs up before somebody actually decides to buy it. Keep your fingers crossed, gang...
*The points they wanted addressed were all quite plausible, and the sort I'd expect during editing anyway--my fear is more that I'll bungle the handling than that they want bad things. My experience with "Black Dogs" was that that the editor is the person who keeps you from embarassing yourself in front of the readers, not a murderer of one's precious prose, anyway. Not to mention performing a valuable comma-ectomy before the commas spread to important parts of the text.