We've all heard stories of the dreaded rejection letter, or rather, letters. I once read that by the time a writer publishes a book they should expect to have enough rejection offers to wallpaper a bathroom. Stephen King displayed his many rejection letters on a spike on his wall. Rejection is part of the publishing process. That doesn't mean it's warm and fluffy. Rejection sucks. Luckily there are many authors out there who can serve as role models on the rejection front.
One of my favourite blog features is Dear Author First Sales series. Sure, there are the lucky ones that never did deal with that pile of rejection letters but many, many authors have. Deirdre Knight is one of the founder of The Knight Agency, which represents authors, and even that didn't make her immune from rejection.
“That book will never sell,” she told me after I described BUTTERFLY. “Readers just aren’t ready for that kind of thing.” I left the building, climbed in a cab, and as we wove our way through Central Park, collapsed against the seat. I was writing the unpublishable book. I was supposed to know better. I was supposed to spend sixteen months writing something marketable.
Finally, in early 2008, I received another revision request that meant a complete and total rewrite. I remembered telling my agent I would do it while simultaneously shaking my head becuase I knew it was totally crazy to start over after more than 20 rejections. But I did.
And that editor rejected it. But since it was practically good-as-new, my agent decided to try one last round of submissions, and it went out again. We received two offers on the new version, and I signed a two book deal with Razorbill books. My "overnight sale" took nearly two years, two agents, and over forty rejections on my two projects.
There is no such thing a true "overnight success". Somewhere someone started off with an idea and spent months crafting that idea into a book. Then they edited and queried and rewrote and edited and queried and rewrote. Sometimes they shoved that first attempt into a drawer, where it now The Book That Must Not Be Spoken Of.
Did you know that many successful books have long histories of rejection? The Examiner recently looked at thirty authors who were rejected repeatedly (and sometimes rudely). Would you believe that someone once thought that Anne Frank wouldn't be worth reading? Or that someone rejected Animal Farm? Or that someone said Sylvia Plath didn't have enough genuine talent for anyone to take notice? A Wrinkle in Time was rejected at least 26 times before being published and winning the Newbery.
Judy Blume and J.K. Rowling had loads of rejections between them and it's something that author Jill Cantor is taking some comfort in.
Remember that part about this being my fourth attempt? That means three other attempts were thwarted based on some level of rejection, which also means, I've dealt with a lot of rejection over the past few years. And I've come to the conclusion that the best way to deal with rejection is this: No matter what, keep going. Keep writing. Keep trying. Get rejected. Then try some more.
And since something isn't really something until there's a blog about it, I give you Literary Rejections on Display.
So if you find yourself with a pile of rejection letters, remember that you are in very, very good company.
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