Thursday, November 5, 2009

TUTAW: Rejection

The Ugly Truth About Writing is...rejection happens.

We all know this. When you put yourself out there, odds are you will be rejected. Even more true about writing.

You write a story. Or not. Some people have an idea first and wait to write until they have a backer. This is a good use of time, but I'd rather just write the book and worry about publishing later.

So here's this story. You think it's good. You think other people will think it's good. You do some research (hopefully. otherwise you will waste a lot of money) and pick a publisher you think will like your story. Actually, you pick a publisher who publishes stories like your story. The difference between those two sentences is the emotional meaning you will attach to their response.

You submit your story, following all the guidelines the publisher requests. You wait. You do whatever it is you do while you wait (don't bother the publisher!). I try to keep my mind on something else.

Your response arrives. It has probably changed, but back when I regularly attended conferences, it was your manuscript returned in a SASE (self-addressed stamped envelop) and a pink rejection slip. The slip is very polite, and states something like "We have reviewed your manuscript, and it does not fit our current needs. Thank you for contacting us." A polite brush-off.

You can be crushed. It's OK. It's not helpful, but it is natural. Even I would be a little dented.

Here's the problem. That slip doesn't tell you anything. It may be saying they are too busy to actually read your story. Or, they have so many submissions already they can't produce one more right now. Or, your story really doesn't fit their needs (meaning you didn't research your market well enough). Or, the editor (likely junior) who read it just didn't like it that day.

See? All kinds of reasons. None of them are personal.

It is possible the editor hates you. If you went to conference, met her and annoyed her, it's possible. If you call her twice a day for a month and ask if she's read your manuscript, it's likely. Don't do that, by the way. The editors I work for won't talk to anyone who "bothers" them about a press release (with certain exceptions, except none of those will apply to you and your publisher, believe me).

So, the rejection isn't personal. It doesn't stop it from hurting.

The Marcher Lord Select contest is an editorial review by other authors and potential readers instead of one editor. However, this doesn't mean that losing the contest assures none of these people would like my book if they read it.

The contest is set up with a lot of hoops to make conditions as fair as possible. I support this whole-heartedly. It is not fair for one person with a lot of friends to win just because they can rouse more support from people they know.

On the other hand, the audience itself is people who know about the contest; i.e., potential authors and readers who are Internet users. MLP books are sold on the Internet, not stores. These people are nerds and geeks (my own kind) but they are not the only nerds and geeks in the world.

Plus, the length of the contest itself and the commitment involved in following it through to the end may create conditions where the final voting is done by only a handful of people. As I read the comments, I'm seeing about 10-20 people currently active in the process. Will more vote? I hope so, but I don't know.

I want to win. I'm in it to win. I may not. Some of these books sound pretty good, and they seem to be touching nerves with this audience. I think that's great. I'm astounded to learn there are people in the world as weird as I am, and that we have a place to gather. That knowledge alone makes all this worthwhile. Even if I lose the contest, I am not barred from resubmitting my story to MLP. It will just take longer to get published (see? Optimism!).

Rejection happens. It is a fact. I try very hard not to connect it to my sense of self-worth. For the most part, I succeed.

It seems I may have sounded a little depressed and possibly suicidal in yesterday's post. Please believe, I am fine. Fear gives way to resignation for me. Whatever happens now is God's will. I'm just looking for the teachable moments. And I'm looking forward to seeing who wins.

It may be a book I wouldn't want to read. ;)

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