Rejection: An Aspiring Author’s Torment

Hi all!  Yes, yes, I know it’s been ages since I’ve posted anything, and I am very sorry (though I did say at the start of this blog that consistency wasn’t really going to be a thing).  The last time I posted was November, and the beginning of NaNoWriMo.  I’ll offer a quick catch-up of the last few months before we get to the actual topic of this post.  I didn’t accomplish my NaNoWriMo goal this time around.  It’s okay, though.  I’ve made peace with it.  Sort of.  Anyway, there are many reasons I didn’t complete NaNoWriMo this time, the biggest one probably being that I was straight up burnt out.  I’d pushed myself to hard the preceding months re-publishing book one of The Guardians, publishing book two, and finishing the first manuscript of my new series.  All while starting a new job in a new city.  That’s just an itty bitty more than one person should try to handle in such a short time, and it really effected my ability to write (and I’m still bouncing back from it).  It’s all good now, though.  I’ve taken some down time from writing, and haven’t been pushing myself as hard lately.

However, that’s not really what I wanted to talk about in this post.  Today, I want to talk about something that pretty much every writer who hopes to be active within the publishing industry has or will experience.  It’s something that I have been experiencing myself recently as I search for an agent to represent me.  Rejection.  Cold, bitter, soul-crushing rejection.  Let’s face it, rejection, in all it’s forms, sucks.  “I like you as just a friend.”  “You’re application is denied.”  “We just didn’t feel you were the best fit for this position.”  “I wasn’t as drawn into the story as I had hoped…”  Rejection is the WORST.  It cuts at your self-confidence, and can make you feel small and worthless.  It doesn’t matter if it’s not personal.  It almost always feels personal. 

Having your manuscript rejected by an agent or publisher can be one of the hardest things a writer has to endure.  When facing this daunting hurdle, though, it’s really important to remember that everyone, and I mean everyone, gets rejected at one point or another.  For the vast majority of writers, rejection never happens just once.  Even New York Times bestsellers, and classic authors whose works have become staples in the literary world faced multiple (and sometimes straight up rude) rejections.

Kathryn Stockett, author of The Help, was rejected by 60 agents before landing representation.

C.S. Lewis faced years of rejection before The Chronicles of Narnia became a worldwide bestseller that has been translated into 47 languages.

Agatha Christie endured 5 years of rejection before landing her first publishing deal, and now the only other literary figure in history whose works have earned more than her is William Shakespeare.

The freaking Diary of Anne Frank was rejected 16 times!  How does that even happen?!?

It wasn’t until the 13th publisher that J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter was put into print and became a worldwide sensation.  And that was only because the editor’s eight-year-old daughter demanded to read the rest of the book!

(For a vastly longer list of famous, bestselling stories initially rejected, check out http://www.literaryrejections.com/best-sellers-initially-rejected/  There’s one guy listed with 121 rejections for a single book!  Also, this website is just a great resource for aspiring authors in general!)

While this puts it all into greater perspective, knowing that famous bestsellers were turned down multiple times still doesn’t completely take away the sting of rejection.  It’s important to remember, though, that being rejected is not personal.  I mentioned above that it almost always feels that way, but the need to reiterate this point is very important.  Agents and publishers, for the most part, reject projects that they do not think they can sell, or that will sell well.  Never forget, dear readers, writing is an art, but publishing is a business.  An extremely difficult one to get into, at that.  Publishers and agents spend a lot of time and energy buying, selling, creating, and promoting the projects they invest in, so they aren’t going to invest in something they don’t completely believe in.  And really, that’s for the best of everyone involved.  Would you really want someone to represent you writing, work you’ve poured your heart and soul into, who didn’t feel passionately about it?  Agents want to represent work they love, publishers want to put out work they think will succeed in the market, and writers want the writing they love to have the best chance possible of reaching people.

Here’s my point in all of this: the people who are able to break into the publishing industry are those who don’t give up.  They are persistent, a little stubborn, but are willing to grow and learn through their experiences.  Sometimes that means a rewrite.  Sometimes it means starting from scratch with a whole new project.  Sometimes it means believing so thoroughly in a project that you willing face rejection after rejection because you know somewhere out there is an agent and publisher who will believe in it as much as you.  Those authors who manage to snag the attention of an agent and/or publisher are the ones who can get back up when they’re knocked down.  Sure, they’re a little sore, a little bruised, but also wiser and tougher.  If being published is what you really, truly want, then a handful of rejections can’t discourage you.

It’s not easy moving from a mindset of creative artistry to one of savvy business smarts.  That’s the reality all aspiring authors hoping to have even a little success in the publishing world face, however.  So, if you’re ready to release your work into this selective industry, or have already started trying, just remember three things: 1. Rejection happens to everyone, 2. It’s not personal, and 3. Don’t give up.  Keep working, keep growing, keep improving, keep going, and someday you could see your book on the shelf.

Until next time,
E.K. Broich

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