So. You work and you slave and you dream and you revise and you submit to publishers and eventually if you work hard enough and the planets align you have a book come out. Then people say things like “This is probably one of the best romances I’ve read in a decade” (thank you, Dawn!) and “If it ever comes out in paperback I’d pay for the print copy to go with the e-copy” (thank you, JJ!) and you feel like a rock star, or at least a roadie for someone awesome, like Sting or Joshua Radin. You take yourself out to the best restaurant in your city (and you’re alone because your husband’s business has send him on an unexpected and unnecessary trip on your release day, the bastards, but they pay the bills so what can you do?) and you have fabulous tiramisu, and then your phone rings.
It’s an editor. A real live editor, one you submitted a book to back when your child was still in Pullups at night, not on the verge of kindergarten, and your heart stops beating. Then she says, “It’s not what you think.” And the conversation goes downhill from there. After you hang up you search for your heart and your self-esteem under the tables of the best restaurant in your city.
Rejection is a fact of life for writers. Liberating Lacey came out last week, and bookending that release (yeah!) by a matter of days were two rejections (ouch!). With one firm but kind rejection I had the option to revise and resub, which I’m electing not to do. With the other, well, we’re going to leave that dead soldier right where he is, thank you very much.
Embedded in both rejections, however, was valuable information about what each editor does want. If you’re in the right mindset, information included in rejection letters is worth its weight in gold. No, they don’t want what you offered. Fine. Pay attention to what they said and offer them something else. Something better.
Another fabulous book about being an artist is The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. He wrote Gates of Fire and The Legend of Bagger Vance but he wrote for ten years before he got a paycheck for something he’d written and another ten before he even had the chance to work on King Kong Lives which was a colossal bomb, so when it comes to failure and rejection, he knows from whence he speaks. A friend gave him this pithy piece of advice after KKL came out:
“So you’re taking a few blows. That’s the price for being in the arena and not on the sidelines. Stop complaining and be grateful.” (72)
I’m in the arena, and I’m grateful.