Friday, August 05, 2011

Selection Not Rejection

So another rejection letter this week. Whilst my second novel nears completion (ETA Christmas time) I am still touting the first one round various literary agents.

I’ll put my hands up and say I am being very slapdash and slack about it. I finished the bloody thing two years ago but it’s only been this year that I’ve made a real effort to get it “out there”... and so far I’ve only sent it to 5 agencies. That’s not exactly a full-on production line, is it?

So. Four rejections so far and one coal still in the fire. Of the four I’ve heard back from three were standard and one was very complimentary. I’m not particularly pinning any hopes on the fifth; I think success at this relatively early stage would be too easy. It’s going to be a hard slog and I know it.

What amazes me is I don’t feel particularly down-heartened by the rejections. I mean, I don’t feel great. My self esteem takes a knock. But it’s a small knock. It bothers me for all of two minutes and then it’s forgotten about.

Maybe I’m just hard-headed? Arrogant? Deluded? All of the above?

I suspect though my time writing and submitting poetry all through my late teens and my twenties hardened me up to the “thank you but no thank you” missive. I used to bundle thirty or forty of my poems out at a time and launch then relentlessly (and vaingloriously) at various magazine editors and anthology publishers. Most came back besmirched with the weight of a “no thank you”. About ninety percent in fact. Some did get published, I have to say. About forty – but that was over a period of a ten years. I hardly set the world alight.

But it did vaccinate me against the disease of ‘the rejection blues’.

My poetry rejections were like cow pox. They have protected me against the dreaded small pox of the novel rejection. It doesn’t touch me like it should and I have milkmaid’s hands to boot.

I also try and bear in mind a wonderful piece of advice that one of my rejectees once gave me: “an editor / publisher does not reject; they merely select”.

Reflecting on that has assisted me through many a blue hour.

Now I just shrug my shoulders and go back to my writer’s year book...

...because at the end of the day I’m only up to the D’s and there’s plenty more fish in the sea.

Onwards and upwards.




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30 comments:

Nota Bene said...

You must have a thicker skin than me...I would have crawled into the coal bunker by now...so I'm well impressed with your perseverance...

Heather said...

Onwards and upwards! Having read and loved it I am sure that it simply a case of not having found the right agent yet. Cause it's a bloody good read.

Gorilla Bananas said...

It a long road isn't it? First find an agent, then find a publisher and then find readers who'll buy the ruddy thing. If I were you, I wouldn't tell anyone about the beard until you're a best-selling author.

Marginalia said...

All sense and sensibilty has vanished and fled to this hills.

I'm sure there's someone out there who'll recognise genius when they read it.

Keep your nib sharpened.

Steve said...

Nota Bene: in my line of work a thick skin is a necessity... and I mean that in more ways than one.

Heather: thank you, I may ask to quote you on the back cover.

Gorilla Bananas: it did Shakespeare little harm.

Marginalia: at the moment 'tis both sharpened and poisoned! ;-)

Wanderlust said...

I think that's the only attitude to have if you're going to be successful, and a realistic one. All of us writers have heard stories about famous authors papering their walls with rejection letters. You've got loads of talent. Keep going.

Steve said...

Wanderlust: I've also got loads of wall space left too...! ;-)

the fly in the web said...

I like the select rather than reject idea...and it sounds about right for what happens...might just not be right for their agency or publishing house.

Steve said...

The fly in the web: I like to be logical with my self delusions...!

About Last Weekend said...

God, I'm totally impressed about your two novels. I can't get a person to even cross the road in my writing - lack of motivation( believe me once a took a whole summer off to find this out) so there is no way I could write even one. I didn't even think about the touting it round! Well, anyone who can put "vainglorious" in a blog post should be published!

TimeWarden said...

Take a little encouragement from the title of a certain duet by Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush... which would also be my own advice!

libby said...

Well balanced and sensible response from you Steve.....you may never get another rejection note, you may get one or a hundred, but at some point...it will happen...don't stop believing.

Steve said...

About Last Weekend: I think I shall start putting "vainglorious" into my submission letters to editors!

TimeWarden: I take it you're not talking about Games Without Frontiers...?!

Libby: thank you.

Elliot MacLeod-Michael said...

That still says a lot that you had the tenacity to keep submitting and get those poems published. I pretty much just submitted my 5 best poems 7 or 8 places, most of them long-shots like Atlantic Monthly and places like that, and when they all said no I just said fuck it I'm blogging. Now I've been doing my comedy blog and no other writing for the last year, all with the ultimate goal of exposing people to my poetry at some point. And after that the ultimate goal is my novel, if I ever finish it. Once I have so many followers and feel ready I will start a poetry blog. I'm done submitting to publishing houses, at least for now. But best of luck to you sir.
+followed

Steve said...

Elliot: good to have you on board. To be honest I think you need to have as many coals in the fire as possible - not always easy I know. Keep the blog going, keep submitting and keep progressing the novel. About the only thing I regret is wasting time and not doing more in my twenties. Every little bit of writing improves your style and ability. If people send your stuff back simply choose someone else to send it to and send it out again. It's a war of attrition!

Lady Mondegreen's Secret Garden said...

I'm toying with the idea of doing a bit of novel touting during my forthcoming trip to the UK, but since I've not yet dipped my toe into the publishing pond, I have yet to field my very first rejection, er... selection. Good to hear how to deal with it, and soldier on you.

Steve said...

Lady Mondegreen's Secret Garden: the trick - and I realize this is difficult with work you have put your life and soul into - is not to take it personally. Editors and agents just don't have the time to be personal about things!

Mark said...

Tough though and no easy answer. I'm increasingly in favour of self publishing and at least getting the thing read by some people.frankly most 'published' books sell very few copies in any case.

Steve said...

Mark: I'm heading that way myself and am currently researching publishing on Kindle... it seems to be the way to go.

Being Me said...

It really is the best outlook to have. I'm so impressed with your perseverence over the years! Forty pieces published is nothing to thumb your nose at, no matter how many more rejections you had. You know you have to keep going. And you know you will. We'll be here, glasses raised, when that one agent finally sees the light!

(p.s. in teeny tiny comparitive but loosely related news... I finally finished mine this past weekend. Did you hear the sigh of relief from over there?)

Steve said...

Being Me: big, big congratulions. Such a wonderful feeling to have a major piece of work finished. Give yourself some time to enjoy it and then gird your loins for yet more read-throughs and edits...! ;-) I really think that any kind of creative work is never finished... you just get to the point where you are finished with it more than it is finished with you.

I shall keep going, my friend, giving up is something I have never considered... writing is like breathing.

John Gray said...

awwww
He not gor an invite for your other blog despite being tempted!

Steve said...

John: send me an email and I'll get you admitted with pleasure...!

TimeWarden said...

Don't Give Up! But you knew that all along!!

Steve said...

TimeWarden: ha! I did indeed!

autumnraven said...

I broke 15K words on my first novel recently...but hit a stall as I discovered the need for a small re-write. Actually finishing one has to be one of the biggest hurdles.

I'll soon be a member of Romance Writers of America. There is a special achievement called "path to pro" meaning you've become a pro writer. It used to be conferred with your first rejection letter. Lol. Congratulations pro :)

autumnraven said...

Not that you weren't pro before. Forty poems? Wow. And love the idea...will have to keep it in mind when it's my time.

Steve said...

Autumnraven: I leave rewrites to the very end, when you at last have a grasp of the bigger picture. The first draft I always write for me and me alone. ;-)

Keep going - you're pro laurels are waiting for you, I'm sure!

Suzanne said...

Back off my hols and catching up. Love your positivity. Keep going. It WILL happen x

Steve said...

Suzanne: I hope sooner rather than later...!