Maybe AILLEA'S CARDS will sell, maybe it won't. There are a million reasons an agented book doesn't sell....the market's wrong, the publisher already has a similar book on its list, economic downturns, the content isn't quite right for the imprint, an editor who might've loved the book is on maternity leave, it needs to be more commercial, or the book just plain isn't good enough. And if your book doesn't sell, you'll never know. You'll never know the exact reason. It could be one, or a combination of many, or you could be just plain unlucky.
This thought used to terrify me. I used to get totally worked up over rejections. I would think about what might happen if AILLEA'S CARDS got rejected everywhere, falling short of both my expectations and my agent's.
But here's the thing: it will happen. If you want to get published, if you're willing to put in the work, it will happen. I'm confident I'll get published. Whether it's this book or the next book or even the one after that, some publisher is going to take a chance on me. So whenever I start getting worried about AILLEA'S CARDS, I think of my WIP. I know my next book is better; every time you write something new, you get better. And someday I'll write a book that's so good someone will have to take it.
Fifty years from now, it won't matter which book got published first. As a writer, I need to think about my career, not a single book. There are writers I know who worked on a single book for years, revising over and over, and when it didn't sell, they turned to self-publishing because they were so desperate to finally see their work in print. (This, of course, doesn't apply to all self-puslished authors....I think self-publishing can be a legitimate venture if done for the right reasons.) But me, I'm holding out. I'm holding out for traditional publication. Sometimes it's best to let go; if I have to give up on a few projects along the way, so be it. Those books obviously weren't good enough, or lucky enough, to land an editor, but that's okay because I've got nowhere to go but up. My writing will keep improving so long as I apply myself.
And when I finally obtain that goal of being traditionally published, it will feel all the more sweet because I struggled for it. I endured rejection after rejection and I even gave up on projects that took years to write. And I am confident that my debut, whatever it turns out to be, will be the right book for me. It will happen, and fifty years from now I'll probably be glad I didn't publish those manuscripts that got rejected.
So when writing gets me down, I take comfort in the fact that my WIP is the best thing I've written so far. I think it's good enough, and hopefully someone else will as well.
As writers, I think we (myself included) need to fixate less on individual projects and more on our careers as a whole. Sure, we love each of our books as we'd love a child. They're all unique and special and they contain pieces of ourselves. But if you want a career, it's important to look at the bigger picture. One book is just a small segment in your long path to success.
So this is my advice for dealing with rejections: keep looking to the future. Try to retain some perspective. Don't accept a sub-par deal, or sign with an agent you're not completely comfortable with, or self-publish just because nobody else will buy your book. The truth is, maybe you're not ready. Maybe I'm not ready. Don't sell yourself short for a single project, when it's the career you should be thinking about.
Because if you want it enough, you will get there. You will become a traditionally published author. And if I have to wait longer in order to find the perfect editor, one who really gets my projects, then I'm willing to do that. We should always strive for our best, and our best takes time.
And when you see your name on the spine of a book, with Random House or Harper Collins or any other press underneath, it'll be totally worth the wait.