Tag Archives: Publishing

Persistence


You know, as authors, people often disclose to us that they are writing their book. Maybe they just have a kernel of an idea, maybe they’re half way done. And they think that anyone can be a writer.

And you know what? They’re totally right.

Anyone can be a writer. If you’re putting words down on paper, you’re a writer. Trust me on this one.

There are a lot of good writers out there. There are a ton of former English majors out there (myself included!), and, for the most part, we’re all a pretty decent set of writers.

Before I ever set to write a story, before I ever thought to myself “Can this get published?” I was a good writer. I could crack out a paper in a couple of hours. I told stories to myself before I went to sleep.

Even the whole process of writing a book didn’t set me apart, in the great scheme of things. Lots of people have written books. Some of them are pretty decent, too.

Now, I’m no pillar of the publishing world. I’ve got a total of three books out, with a fourth book due out early next year, all out with small presses. Let’s be honest: most people won’t make it rich writing books and publishing them. Authors get between 7% and 35% in royalties from our publishers for the books we sell (and sure, there’s variation in there). Many people with small presses don’t get advances, and of those that do get an advance, it’s generally pretty small, so most of the money we earn comes from royalties. When you’re in competition with millions of other books, it’s pretty hard to make a decent living.

Most of us have other jobs that actually pay the bills, and if the writing supplements that, then AWESOME!

But, to all the budding writers out there, there is one thing that sets authors apart from writers.

It’s persistence.

Writing a book is hard work. So much goes into it. It takes persistence and patience to write a book, and to see it through to completion, especially when it’s a longer book. You will get stuck. Hopefully, you’ll push through it. But the real test is when you go to submit.

Writing the perfect query is hard. Shipping it off is harder, if you ask me. You will check your email a dozen times a day, hoping to see an email that says, “Congratulations! Your book is awesome!” (Because you know it is, right?)

Only, more than likely, you’ll get rejected.

The first one will sting.

The second one will sting.

The third one will sting.

Every time I’ve been rejected, it has broken my heart. Every time. The real test of your mettle as an author is whether you can pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and try again.

I’ll be honest, every time, I think about quitting.

You will question: is it worth it? What kind of blows to my ego am I willing to take in order to achieve this dream? Because it’s one thing to think you’re a good writer. It’s another thing to have other people in the industry think the same thing.

I’ve gotten some really harsh rejections, ones that made me question what I was doing. And it’s when I’ve gotten those that I’ve gotten some chocolate, had a glass of wine, and told myself I will never subject myself to that again. Let’s face it, sometimes life is hard enough without adding additional blows to the ego.

If you need an ego boost, a rejection letter is not usually the place to find it.

Anyway, I think that’s where authors and writers differentiate. I don’t think it’s a matter of talent necessarily, or innate ability (because editors rock). It’s a matter of being able to take the criticisms and the rejections and try again.

And doing it again and again and again until you finally get a yes.

It’s about believing–no, knowing–the yes is out there.

Maybe this book won’t hit. Maybe it will be the next book or the book after that. Maybe you’ll write for 15 years and finally get that yes. Maybe you’ll hit on the first book. But, if you keep trying, and you keep honing your craft, you will eventually get it.

Be brave. Be persistent. Never give up.

It will happen.

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Writing Wednesday: How To Handle Rejection


Yes, this is late. I meant to do this earlier, but hey, the real job got in the way.

So after I posted the Dos and Don’ts of Contests, I decided I’d write a post on rejection.

Now, any writer will tell you, in order to get published, you will deal with rejection. Unless you’re the one person who queries and then gets accepted on your first try. If that’s you, well, bully for you. Now off with you. You are way too awesome for this blog.

For the rest of us, though, we will deal with rejection at some point or another.

Don’t think it won’t be you. Because I’m here to tell you, it will happen to you.

You’ll polish up your manuscript, and you’ll think it’s perfect. First, let me assure you, it’s not. No, really. That’s why we have editors. Sure, you may have been working on your magnum opus for 10 years, but once it hits the editor’s desk (if you’re good enough, lucky enough and persistent enough to get that far), it will be torn apart.

But that’s another post for another day.

So you’ll send your beautiful, perfect manuscript off. And then you’ll obsessively check your email for anywhere from, oh, five minutes, to several months. You’ll suffer the disappointment every time you open your e-mail (which you checked five minutes ago), and discover that your blessed query has not been answered.

And then, it will happen. You’ll see an editor’s or an agent’s name in your email.

Your heart will race, and your blood pressure will skyrocket. No, trust me, it will.

Here’s my advice. Don’t read the whole email. Read the accept/reject line, then close the email.

Because here’s what will happen: you’ll read the rejection and you’ll immediately get up on your high horse. You’ll be ready to rumble, to have a smack down, to have a heart to heart. DON’T.

You’re upset. If ever we have learned something from our phones, it’s that the immediate message, sent in the heat of anger a) can’t be taken back and b) is generally not constructive. There are things no rational human being should ever do, one of which is to respond to an email when pissed off.

So the editor didn’t understand the genius of your work. Get over yourself. I have Shakespeare plays that I can’t stand. Now, go ahead and send me hate mail for my opinion, but I hate Hamlet. Not because I don’t get it, but because I hate it. I know, I know, everyone loves Hamlet. But if I want to read about some wishy washy person who can’t make a goddamn decision and has an overbearing mother, I’ll read my journals from 8th grade. It’s not that I don’t get Hamlet. I do. I’ve read the damn thing often enough. I just don’t like it.

Does that mean Hamlet isn’t good? Nope. Lots of people love Hamlet. Me, I prefer MacBeth, because Lady MacBeth has balls. Chick might be a power-hungry bitch of questionable sanity, but I’d prefer that to an indecisive twat with Mommy/Daddy/Uncle issues who is taking a ride on the crazy train.

Think of your rejected manuscript as Hamlet. Maybe it’s genius, but some poor sap just doesn’t get it.

That being said, for the love of all you consider holy, DON’T TELL THEM SO.

They don’t need your hate mail. They don’t need to hear you whining about how your manuscript is brilliant, and they’ll regret their rejection. So, do yourself a favor. Close your email, and walk away.

Console yourself in any way you feel you must. If you need wine and chocolate, then awesome. Have some wine and chocolate. But let me make myself perfectly clear: drunk emailing and angry emailing are essentially the same. Don’t get smashed and then email the editor. You will say things you regret. And again, these are people who are trying to make a living, too. They aren’t out to destroy your dream. No, seriously. Agents and editors are not soulless assholes out to steal your firstborn. So, give them some respect (even in those cases where they don’t show you any). If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. Seriously. Wordsmith though you may be, sometimes the most eloquent thing you can say is nothing at all.

So, after you’ve let yourself simmer down, re-open that email. Yes, it might give you a headache, but read the email. Start to finish. If the editor gives you some constructive criticism, bear that in mind. I’ve gotten rejections that ranged from “I have a migraine, so I lost interest,” (Yes, really), to a two paged, detailed description of what worked for said editor and what didn’t.

Let me tell you something, the detailed critique was by far the harder rejection to take.

What that editor did for me was a gift, and I knew it. It kind of felt like a gift where you’re punched in the teeth upon reception, but still. It was a gift. I saved that rejection, because it was the nicest–and most professional–rejection I’ve ever gotten. It was also the only rejection that ever made me cry.

Which brings me to my next point: If you get a gift like I did, where an editor offers you a detailed critique, where she points out areas where you can improve, then do yourself a favor:  listen. Make those changes.

I took those criticisms to heart. I changed my manuscript. Rewrote it all. And the next place i queried offered me a contract.

Would my current publisher have offered me a contract if I hadn’t made those changes? Possibly. But what I know for a fact is that I made those changes and was subsequently offered a contract. You can decide how you want to take that.

So, in short, here’s how to handle rejection:

1. Read only the line where you get rejected, and then close the email. Walk away from your computer.

2. Go ahead, cry to mom, or get drunk, or text your friend, complaining about what a dumbass said agent or editor is.

3. Do not email the agent or editor and call him/her a dumbass. If you do, then you are the dumbass.

4. When you’ve calmed down, re-read the rejection. If there’s anything pertinent you can take from it, do that.

5. If they’ve offered advice, email them with a short and polite thank you. And then leave it at that.

6. Last but not least, try again. Move on to the next agent or editor on your list. Maybe you got the editor who likes MacBeth when you wrote Hamlet. You’ll never know unless you try.

MCC