Friday 28 August 2009

Rejection is Hard

In all the books and websites dedicated to the daunting quest of seeking out and finding the right literary agent or publisher to suit your manuscript, it will tell you exactly what to do and how you need to do it: How to format and create a submission query or cover letter, a book blurb, a will even tell you the proper forms of etiquette that you must follow so you do not offend the prospective agent or publisher. All of this is backed up with a long list of reference materials, including publications from individuals with impressive credentials that you can source to help you on your way to becoming that next big name on the best-seller's shelf.

But when it comes to rejection, they glean over it with flowery words that hope to encourage you to 'chin up' and take it in stride. They tell you to use rejection as constructive criticism and not to take it personally because, remember, the agent or publisher wades through thousands upon thousands of submission queries. So, unless it is properly written (after all, you are supposed to be a writer and your words: shud reflekt yur wurk), or catches their eye, or holds their attention, they toss it in the slush pile, trash it, or reject it on the spot. So, don't take it personally.

Yeah, right!

Of course its personal! Your baby that you conceived, created, and gestated in your mind for long months - years, even - has just been told its ugly, the wrong sex, and probably born in the wrong place at the wrong time by the wrong mother and looks nothing like you. It's like getting the proverbial slap in the face as you blink in disbelief for several minutes while you read and re-read the extremely politely written rejection letter. In general, the most popular choice of words tend to be as follows:
'...We have received your query and first three pages of your manuscript and have reviewed it with interest. However, we regret to inform you that it is not what we are looking for at the moment but wish you every success in the future...'

Once the news settles in that you're still that same insignificant spunk bubble as you ever were, you draw out that long list of A-List agents and strike their names out in bright red ink...a little too roughly, but that's beside the point. All you can think of is the time you sat and wasted as you investigated each agent, seeking out which one was best suited to represent you and the genre of your book, reading their bios, the books they have sold to publishers, the agency's track record in the literary world... All of that time wasted!

Then, reality hits you and those annoying little encouraging words about keeping the chin up pops back into your head and you begin again.

And again...

When desperation hits after each new rejection letter or email, you begin trolling the websites of other authors - you know, those famous ones with the fleet of books tucked under their armpits that have been published by those prestigious publishers you can only dream of attracting. You read the snippets and tidbits of their early years, how they handled rejection, what they did to get through it. All it takes is one agent to have faith in you, to take a chance. You then begin to feel good again, motivated into going on.

By then, you have also re-read your manuscript twice and made more changes, hoping to lure the ever-keen eyes of an agent with your fantastic skills with the written word.

Then, the last query letter has been sent to the last name on your list of agents and the waiting game is over. You've followed all their guidelines, excluded those that do not accept multiple submissions (that's a tricky directive that needs more explanation since at first, I had not a clue what that meant), waited the required time (the usual 1-3 weeks or 1-3 months) before moving on to the next submission query. And still you've no agent who cares to represent you.

Against all your better judgment, you then create a list of prospective publishers and the whole process begins again. You tell yourself you don't need an agent, you can sell yourself just fine to any publisher out there. Boy, do you feel so wrong when the wave of rejection replies come in. But by then, you've become a seasoned submitter and you can whip up a cover letter with your eyes closed and rattle off a book blurb like a movie trailers' voice over. Rejection becomes a new tune, a background beat that keeps time with your daily creative routine.

And every-so-often, you hear the record screech off the track like fingernails on a blackboard and you look back at the vanity press option...

And go hmmm...

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