Prose and Verse World

"Words ought to open windows and lift souls."

Posts tagged rejections

33 notes

Rejections—Expect Them But Keep Writing

Somewhere I read about a writer who wished to test his hypothesis that a terrific book can still be rejected by the publishing world. As I recall, he copied three chapters from Gone With the Wind (gave it a different title) and sent it around. What happened? All of the publishers and agents who supposely had an interest in that type of genre turned it down with form rejection letters.

Unfortunately, the media never talks about writers who were rejected. You’ll see on TV or read in the newspaper about some person who wrote a novel that suddenly became a best-seller and the Hollywood buzz is that a movie will be forthcoming. To an outsider, it looks as if all the author did was type out a manuscript, get an agent, and the first publisher who read it got a tingling sensation up and down his leg and gave the author a $500,000 advance. It never happens.

The truth is I rarely see or hear authors talk about any rejections they may have received in the past. The one exception I recall is Alex Haley, the author of Roots, who gave a talk to the California Writers Club, of which I was and still am, a member. Mr. Haley told the group how he wrote every single day for eight straight years before a small magazine decided to buy one of his stories. In all, Alex Haley received 208 rejection letters.

Stories like the above abound, but authors don’t discuss them. Did you know that one publisher told Ayn Rand that her novel, The Fountainhead, was “unsalable and unpublishable”? Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind was rejected by 38 publishers before it found a home. J.K. Rowling got 12 rejections for her Harry Potter novel, the Philosopher’s Stone, and would have been rejected by the 13th publisher had it not been for Bloomsbury’s daughter who insisted on having it published. Everyone rejected Tom Clancy’s first novel, The Hunt for Red October, except for an obscure tiny press. Stephen King received so many rejections for his first novel, Carrie, that he nailed them all to a spike under a timber support in his bedroom.

I’ve come to the conclusion that publishers really don’t know what they want and they often make wrong decisions. Furthermore, when a book with a potential multi-million dollars of sales comes under their noses, they are likely to reject it.  This makes me wonder if the people who reject such best-sellers lose their jobs. They should.

To add fuel to this insane situational fire, many agents want you not to make multiple submissions to other agents. So let’s do the math. You send your manuscript to one agent, wait two months, and then she rejects it. Then you send that manuscript to another agent, and maybe you don’t hear from for five months and then he tells you he’s not interested. So then you send it to another agent and maybe you wait for another three months before you’re rejected again. The score? No sales and you’ve already wasted ten months waiting.  What I would do is let the agent know you would prefer to do multiple submissions but that you promise to inform her if you receive a positive response from another agent.

There still seems to be an aura of respectability for authors who get published through “traditional” publishers and a lack of respectability for authors who are self-published. I can say this with authority because I noticed that my hometown newspaper and other major papers in the state of Kansas no longer will write a feature story about your book if you are self-published. I think their logic is if you can’t find a “traditional” publisher and had to pay to do it yourself, you can’t be very good.  This is crazy. Do they realize that Frank Baum, the author The Wizard of Oz, self-published children’s books, that Walt Whitman self-published Leaves of Grass, that James Joyce self-published Ulysses, or that Zane Grey self-published his own westerns?  I think there are some bad apples out there in the self-publishing world…just as there are some bad apples in the “traditional” publishing world. By the way, I posted in this blog a picture of the front covers of four of my books—all of which were “self-published”—and each of these books was a success. To learn more about them, click on HERE.

I guess the way I look at rejections is that writers have to decide if they are willing to waste a lot of time waiting for a “traditional” publisher or are willing to self-publish. If they do the latter, they ought to have their work professionally critiqued and edited. When I wrote Sissy! I had it rewritten at least six times and had it scrutinized and professionally edited before I released it, knowing it had to be as perfect as possible, and I think I paid more attention to my manuscript than a New York publishing house would have paid to it.

One more thing I have to say about rejections. If you ever get a personal note (instead of a form rejection slip)  from an agent or publisher, you ought to celebrate because it means you’re getting close. In fact, one editor wrote Alex Haley, while the writer still struggled for acceptance, and said on the note “Nice try!”  This comment brought tears to Mr. Haley’s eyes. He knew now he wouldn’t give up.

It should be the same way with you.

Read E-Books? Click on: tom mach on your device when you shop for a book and get a list of his superbly enjoyable stories.

Filed under publishers rejection rejections self-publishers traditional publishers writing writers