Saturday, April 14, 2012

When it happens

The first time I got a rejection, I cried. Even though three agents had already requested fulls of my manuscript, the rejection came from my dream agent. During the long weeks of querying that followed I became convinced I would never get published. When I got an agent, the high didn't wear off until two or three months later. I made it! I had one of the best agents in the country! There was no way my book wouldn't sell.

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.


  1. Oy, I definitely needed this this week, Kate. (Just got a bunch of rejections from fulls/partials.) Thanks for the hope! I'll be sure to keep this in mind while I work on my WIP. :)

  2. And the most recent time you got a rejection, you laughed and texted me ;)

  3. Just yesterday I was explaining to my non-writer friends about agents and queries and rejections, when one of them asked me if I'd ever got a rejection...well, I must have pulled the biggest "DUH" face! Rejections...had 'em, hate 'em, live with 'em. One day there will be good news!

  4. So well said Kate. I guess I never looked at it this way, as focusing on my career vs focusing on one story, but I do have the same philosophy. If I don't give up, I WILL get published. I don't care if I have to write 20+ manuscripts before it happens, if I don't give up, it will happen.

    That's why I just keep writing. Someday :) And when someday comes, gosh will it feel AMAZING!

  5. This is such a positive approach to take. I love it. And I believe in you because of that positivity and conviction. I have no doubt you'll be traditionally published one day.

  6. Love this Kate!!! I want the traditional too, even though many of my writing friends have self-published. And such a great attitude. Awesome!

  7. This is just the post I needed to read, Kate. I kid you not, I have a spread sheet of over a hundred agents I've reached out to since October. Most haven't responded yet, but I've had half a dozen requests with some still pending. I leave it in luck's hands at that point. I have a great story to tell, but am waiting for a "yes" first. :)

  8. i'm on the verge of querying my first manuscript, and am hoping my skin stays nice and thick :)

    in some ways, i think the second manuscript that i'm currently working on now will be easier to find representation for... so i hear you on patience and perspective.

  9. I remember Orson Welles saying he disappointed a fan who came up to him and asked him detailed questions about one of his movies. He replied to her that he couldn't immediately remember those things about his past movies because he was so occupied with his current project.
    Someday, we aspiring writers will be like that. The great science fiction writer Robert Silverberg picked up a book at a used bookstore, and it took him a few seconds to realize he had written it.

  10. Yes!! To all of the above! Good things are worth the effort and the waiting. Great things happen for people who refuse to give up and refuse to settle for less than their dreams. Great post, Kate.