Before my self-pubbed readers click away, thinking that this post couldn’t possibly have any relevance to them, let me say this: if your sales are dismal or you’ve gotten a lot of one-star reviews, you’re getting rejections. Only they’re from readers, not editors. I hope you’ll read on…
So I got a rejection yesterday. It wasn’t a particularly bad rejection. One of those that’s best described as a not-for-me-gram. Except–dang-it-all–it was another rejection.
Now, by no means am I defeated. This is only my second (or third?) pass on a project that’s been on sub (via my agent) for a mere a two months. It’s still waaaay too early in the game to think my battleship’s been sunk.
But here’s the interesting thing: When I got the rejection, I didn’t flinch because I knew, deep down, that there was nothing essentially “wrong” with my prose or story mechanics. I assumed that the pass was, in all likelihood, a matter of reader preference. This is quite a shift from the writer I used to be, but a completely natural progression that I suspect many experience during the six to seven year “apprenticeship” that all scribes go through (whether they know it or not):
The First Year of Rejection (The Honeymoon Year): Those idiots in New York (or millions of Kindle owners) have no idea what they’re doing. I’m brilliant.
The Early Years of Rejection (The Spanish Inquisition Years): Oh, God, it’s true. I suck! I’m a hack! Why did I ever think I could do this?!?!?
The Middle Years of Rejection (The Lightbulb Years): Ohhhhhh. Crap. How could I have not seen this (stilted voice, snarled plot, lousy opening) before? Jeez, and I submitted (self-published) this to how many people?
The Late Years of Rejection (The Zen Years): My writing is solid. I just haven’t connected with the right editor (group of readers). After all, a flower needs but a single bee to flourish.
Okay, that last part got a bit too Obi Wan Kenobi, even for me. But you get the idea.
I’m guessing many of you identify with one of these stages. For those in the early years: it is going to get better, Sunshine, as long as you don’t quit. For those in the middle years: learn, but don’t over learn from your mistakes. Okay? For those who made it to the late years: congratulations. But we’re only at the threshold of our careers. Don’t let up. Ever.
There will always be those super human outliers who skip to the head of the line, bypassing much of this angst by magically scoring a book deal or a million downloads seemingly overnight with a dewey-green manuscript (or blog or Twitter feed or manifesto inked on toilet paper). This may, however, be more indicative of their ability to resonate with the right people at the right time than their ability to write. For the rest of us mere mortals still chasing that lightening strike–our golf clubs held aloft to the storm clouds–it’s going to take time. And rejections.
Do I ever have moments of doubt or days when I get crabby and impatient? Yeah, I’m human. But I’ve built up enough confidence, learned enough of my craft, and gained enough perspective to know when I’ve written a good book. And I’ve written a good book. Several, in fact. Soon, someone is going to believe in one of them as much as I do.
Where are YOU in the apprenticeship? Do you take rejections personally? Do you let them slide? Do you incorporate suggestions into your writing? For the self-published among you, have you ever re-written a book (or tinkered with a cover, etc.) because of low sales or wonky reviews? I’d love to hear from you!