I was recently asked during one of the classes on my online writing group what to do when the doubt devils that plague most writers are validated. Like when you’re doubting your ability to ever write a publishable book and get three rejections from different publishers in one day. I’m very familiar with that scenario because it’s one I experienced.
My first and automatic answer was to submit somewhere else. You have no choice if *you* believe in your work.
There is no easy answer to the rejection side of our business. Because as objective as agents and editors would like to be, they aren’t always. That’s fact. A rejection from one does not mean your work is “unpublishable”. But that does not mean that every book written is going to eventually find its way into the hearts of readers either. Not even every good book written. There are poorly written manuscripts gathering dust all over this planet…a few of them in my storage room, but the fact is that not every book that gets turned down is a book that should not be published.
Let me give you a few examples from my own rocky road to publication…the first book I sold to Kensington (The Real Deal) was rejected by two other publishers. Not only that, but several agents told me it was not saleable. One well known New York agent told me that is *was* saleable…as a category novel. Kensington bought that book for Brava – without revisions. It received tons of stellar reviews and has recently been re-released as a mass market paperback.
Then there was the first single title I wrote period. My former agent hated it, tearing it apart in a six-page revision letter. I actually made very few changes in that book, got rid of that agent and sold it via my current agent to Kensington Zebra…again without revisions. It came out in May 2005. However, prior to its sale to Kensington it was rejected by HQN, Harlequin’s new single title imprint and I was already writing for Harlequin Presents at the time. In other words, it got no cache for being by an in-house writer. I could have given up on that book, but I didn’t…and it sold.
Then there is my first historical sale to Berkley…a book that got turned down by every publishing house in New York, once again…that included both HQN and Kensington (both of whom I was writing for at the time). I did do revisions on that book both before and after the sale, but what it really took to sell was having an editor read it who appreciated the unique flavor of my brand of historical storytelling.
And none of this even begins to include the numerous rejections I received from all sorts of agents on both my category and single title work, not to mention bunches of editors…my point? If I had believed any one of those agents or editors and given up on any of those books…they would never have found a publishing home. What is one, or even ten editor’s or agent’s dross *can* be another editor’s gold!
It isn’t always the book. Believe it. I’m not saying never. There are bad books written all the time, poorly executed and lacking enough focus to sell in the competitive marketplace, but rejection does not necessarily mean you wrote one of them. Success in this business takes believing in yourself. No one else can tell you that you’ve got what it takes and have that message stick. *You* have to believe in your stories. You have to believe in your talent and you have to keep writing and submitting, keep trying to improve your craft and understanding of the marketplace…for you to achieve your goals and dreams.
Most recently, my editor at Kensington turned down a werewolf novella I wrote and my editor at Berkley wants to buy it for the exact reasons my editor at Kensington doesn’t like it. I know I’m really blessed to have three editors and therefore a market for the many different types of writing I want to do, but the fact that they don’t all buy everything I write is a great case for my belief that a book isn’t necessarily unsaleable because it hasn’t sold…many times, it just hasn’t found the right home yet.
It might surprise you to hear that the question that spawned this article was asked by a published author. You wouldn’t believe how many published authors end up orphaned, let go or are finding their next book a hard sell. Many stick with the old and familiar out of fear of striking out on a new path, fear their naysayers are right and hope that the next book proposal will be the one. I say, don’t be one of them…it’s very possible for an author’s work to lose some of its magic because of the awful self-doubt that plagues her creative process because she begins to see her work through the rejecting agent or editor’s eyes. We all need to stop doing that.
Published and unpublished alike, we need to look at our stories with our own eyes…look at them with enthusiasm and belief. We need to stand firm on that belief and not let one, two, ten or even twenty rejections stop us from submitting our work. Over and over and over again if that’s what it takes.
There are so many examples of authors who are now NYT bestsellers who were rejected by everybody and their brother, wife, second-cousin and agent! The reason they’re on the NYT list is because they didn’t give up believing in their work and didn’t accept the naysayers’ view. Someday, maybe your name and my name will be there too…because we didn’t give up on our stories or our dreams.