Monday, 25 October 2010

Rejection slips

Rejection is something that every writer has to deal with.  You'll notice I didn't say "aspiring writer" or "novice writer"; I said "writer".   The sad fact is that no matter how successful you may become, you'll still have to contend with editors saying "Not today, thank you".  True, as you become more established you won't get rejection slips so often, but they'll still come in.

Rejection slips are disheartening and it's often difficult not to take them personally.  I certainly have from time to time.  You can't sweat blood over a manuscript for months on end and then feel a bit put out when your reward is a form letter that hasn't even been signed.  However, don't let disappointment turn into despair.  There many best-selling works that have sold in the millions that started their literary lives bouncing from publisher to publisher before finally getting into print.  George MacDonald Fraser, James Joyce, Stephen King, and J K Rowling all faced multiple rejections before getting published.  Granted, I often wish that Miss Rowling  had skipped sending off that last submission, but the principle is still valid.

The thing to bear in mind is something I was surprised to discover myself: Not all editors who return my work are piggy-eyed, illiterate, uncultured vermin who wouldn't know good writing if it hit them square in the face tied to Hellfire missile.  Manuscripts get rejected for many reasons and it often has nothing to do with the quality of the work.  Publishers cater to particular audiences with particular tastes.  Sending off a Tom Clancy-style thriller to a romance publisher isn't going to have much of a chance.  Then there's the problem of everyone having the same great idea at the same time.  Do you have a brilliant idea for a novel about a sexy female vampire detective in San Francisco?  I hate to break it to you, but so did 999,999 other people. 
It's even possible to be rejected by being successful.  I've been turned down by some magazines, for example, because they'd just published one of my articles and didn't want my name showing up twice in a row. 

The one sort of rejection slip you definitely shouldn't feel discouraged over is the one with a note scribbled on it or the email with the electronic equivalent.  So long as the note isn't "We all hate you and hope that you're eaten by rabid weasels," you've just been given proof that you've taken a step up the ladder.  Editors are incredibly busy people and taking the time to say anything besides the usual form letter is proof that they see that you have potential.  I wished that I'd realised this when I received my first rejection letter as a teenager.  I was so put out by the editor pointing out my messy typing and done-to-death plot that I didn't realise that what he was saying was, "Keep sending them, kid."

In the end, the best way to handle rejection is to persevere.  If you've have talent and if you've put the work in, you'll eventually find your market.  In the meantime, approach rejection slips as a hobby.  Keep a scrap book of letters and email printouts and treat them like a stamp collection.  One more slip from Random House and I'll have every publisher in New York.

If nothing else, it will give a prop to use on the book tour.

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