Rejection? In the publishing world? Ha! That is downright inconceivable! I mean, isn’t writing all about pouring your heart out into the novel of your dreams and then everyone loves it and you sell it for a fortune and land huge film deals and you earn enough money to quit your day job and take some fun trips and maybe pay off some loans and you all live happily ever after as you write subsequent bestsellers in your lovely Parisian artist’s garret???? Welllllllll….Gather ’round, kiddies, and let me dopeslap enlighten you! Not to complain, but just to burst your bubble open you to the potential soul-sucking vagaries realities of the publishing business… Rejection isn’t simply the rejection of your words by agents and editors and reviewers. It’s really more like the endless obstacles that threaten the potential success of your writing career/marathon. A sample of such things that you might well encounter along the way:
- A director of sales at a publishing house who doesn’t like your book and therefore won’t do much to try to sell it (which means forget it, your book is doomed).
- A publishing house that goes belly-up and you never see payment owed you (don’t quit your day job!).
- Editors who are Goldilocksian in their rejection of your masterpiece (Too long! Too short! Not happy enough! Not sad enough! Lacking character development! Too much character development! Plodding! Too fast paced!). I think if the future of the human race relied upon editors loving someone’s work, the species would be long gone by now.
- An agent who disappears off the planet after you sign with said agent, who then simply never does even the basics of what needs to be done to pitch your book, leaving you flapping in the wind and your career on default life support.
- An editor who leaves the business halfway into the editorial process, leaving your book with no advocate (also known as Dead in the Water; see doomed book, above).
- An editor who loves your voice and loves your book and really wants to publish it, but one editor on editorial board kiboshes it, so it’s not going to be acquired (Dead in the Water, natch).
- A big name author who bails at the last minute with the cover blurb promised you for months.
- You get so bogged down with marketing and publicity that you never write another book.
- An industry that changes like the shoreline, leaving you feeling as if you are trying to capture elusive air between your fingers.
- Life crap that decides to interrupt your creativity so that you fall off the planet and miss the myriad changes that have befallen the industry and, as an added wallop, lose your readers, while you were in a life-induced writing coma.
A career as an author is not for the faint of heart. It is for someone who has deep conviction in their product and one who is determined and hearty and perhaps a little foolish and—despite deeply-entrenched, occasionally self-sabotaging cynicism—holds out a bizarre scintilla of optimism in the face of overwhelmingly grim odds (this could simply be human survival skills at work). So my advice is this: ignore everything. Ignore it all. Because you can’t control one damned bit of it. Instead, just write. Get back to the basics: read and write and write and read and refine your craft as you so do, and to hell with the rest of it. In the early days of my career, writer friends and I repeated to one another this mantra: TPT—Talent. Persistence. Timing. Honestly, I can tell you from some books I’ve read that talent is actually optional (though desirable)—plenty of crap books get published, which still mystifies me. Persistence, however, is essential. And timing? Well, that’s the ingredient over which we have little power. If you’re lucky enough to have the fairy dust sprinkled over you and you write a book that becomes a blockbuster and you are the darling of the publishing world, well, hey, good on ya’. But if you don’t, it’s vital that you are able to maintain that very core of what started you on the process to begin with: you love words, you love stories, and you know you have an ability to combine them in a way that works. And sometimes, that’s all you can hang your hat on. I was quite frustrated recently, feeling as if launching a book nowadays is sort of like felling a tree in a remote forest—does anyone hear a thing? —wondering how anyone can hear about your book if no one is listening. And then, voila, I got a lovely review from a book reviewer, which helped me to remember what it’s all about: writing something that will touch others. Now go. Write. And to hell with all the rest of it.
The first of my IT’S REIGNING MEN series was just released: SOMETHING IN THE HEIR. Here’s the cover (alongside the covers for books two and three in the series–more to come!) … and some time soon I’m going to reissue Anywhere but Here—I’ll keep you posted. Sleeping with Ward Cleaver
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