On Rejection –

27 Apr

While I don’t yet have enough of the things to wall-paper my office (as some creative writers have creatively done!) I have collected more than a few rejection letters in my lifetime. They’re sort of scattered around in various boxes and file folders. That way, if I stumble over one, or two, it’s not a massive attack, and I can quickly get over it. I can always look at my bookshelf, where at least one copy of each of my books lives – and that’ll cheer me up. I’m very fortunate to be a ‘published author’ and I never forget that fact. Never.

But it took me a good many years, and numerous attempts to attain that exalted status, believe me.  And certainly I’m not the first person to have a  collection of rejections!

On occasion I stumble over a tid-bit of encouragement, and have made a habit of collecting them and trying to keep them handy. For many years, I had a page of them hanging over the kitchen sink, so that every time I did the dishes, I could read – and suffer, then get motivated by the ultimate success of those who’d gone before me.  Hmmm. I wonder if that’s why I’m not overly fond of doing the dishes!?

Well, anyway, these are a few of the items that were mentioned on that page. Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows, H. G. Wells’s The War of the Worlds and William Golding’s Lord of the Flies all faced initial rejection. Jack London received at least 600 rejections before selling his first story.

J. K. Rowling, whose Harry Potter books have now been read by more than 350 million people, was turned down by a dozen publishers before she was picked up by Bloomsbury.

The record is held by the crime novelist John Creasey who suffered the indignity of receiving an unbroken succession of 743 rejection slips. He went on to enjoy some divine justice, selling tens of millions of books.

Proving the point of publishing absurdity, a writer named David Lassman established a few years ago, that even Jane Austen would have had difficulty in being published in today’s world. Changing only the titles and the names of the characters, he retyped the opening chapters of three of her classics — Pride and Prejudice, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion — and submitted them under a false name. The result? Only ONE of 18 publishers and literary agents discovered the ruse! Eeegads! (I do not recommend that you try this, by the way. Plagiarism is serious business.)

Talking about rejections, it took the great basketball player Michael Jordan six years to win his first professional championship in basketball.

Lest you think you’re alone in this, read this paean to the rejection letter– No thanks, Mr. Nabokov . (Google found it for me-here-on another blog.)   http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/09/books/review/Oshinsky-t.html?pagewanted=1&_r=2&ei=5087&em&en=4176e79078fd3145&ex=1189396800

Oh, well.

Here’s more — Getting Published: The Writer in the Combat Zone by Leonard S. Bernstein  (not the composer/conductor/pianist)  tells of a manuscript accepted by a distinguished literary journal – on its 43rd  submission. It had already been turned down by the same publisher on its 15th and 27th times out! James Joyce’s Dubliners was rejected by 22 publishers; Irving Stone’s Lust for Life by 24, and e. e. Cummings by 12. Emily Dickinson saw only 7 of her poems published in her lifetime.

I must admit, however, that a great many of today’s rejection letters could be avoided by one simple act on the part of would-be authors. CAREFULLY READ THE SUBMISSION REQUIREMENTS!!!  I mean that, sincerely, and cannot stress it too emphatically. DO NOT send mystery novels to publishers of romance novels, unless they say they have a romantic suspense line. And vice versa – no romance novels to publishers of only mysteries! Especially hard-boiled mysteries! Or science fiction! If you’re a writer, you must be able to read, at least enough to discern which publisher is most likely to publish the kind of book you’ve just written. Or want to write.

If you’re writing a book that combines two or three or even four genres, pick the most prominent one and emphasize that element in your synopsis.

Then, hurry up and wait. If the publisher or agent says you’ll hear something in three months, wait three months and a week before inquiring politely if they’ve had the opportunity to inspect your submission. One thing about the new electronic submission process, you do lose out on being able to send a SAS (self-addressed, stamped) card for the recipient to fill out and drop in the mail to inform you that your manuscript had at least arrived where it was supposed to!  But the important thing here is to not make a pest of yourself bothering the overworked editor. And believe me, they are all overworked!

But still, if the submission requirements indicate that they are accepting manuscripts, that does mean they’re looking. They want more manuscripts. Write the best book you can, and send it to the most likely/logical publisher. Eventually, you may well turn those rejection letters into acceptances!

Happy writing – and good luck!

Are you a writer nearing the end of the writing portion of a book, and wondering how to find an editor/proof-reader? If so, please send me an e-mail, and I’ll be happy to tell you about my editing services.  Or, if you need a bit of assistance in just getting started, I can probably help with that as well. Again, I need to remind you that the SPAM filter for WordPress is VERY aggressive, and deletes almost every comment without even giving me a chance to see it first. It’s not adjustable, in any way. If you’ve written a comment that doesn’t appear anywhere, please write directly to my e-mail:  bookmechanic@gmail.com which is also the place for other questions. Thanks!

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