Monday, June 24, 2013

Perspective on Rejection.

Last night at a library event I was asked, yet again, the question Rick talked about in a post the other week: ‘How do I get published?’

He talked so much sense about the realities that aspiring writers quite often don't understand that I plan to crib them unashamedly (though of course I'll give you the credit, Rick!) the next time I'm doing a workshop.

What I would add to it, though, is not to assume that the author of that brutal rejection letter is an expert on what makes a good book, and feel totally crushed by it and end up believing that you really are rubbish. They're not always as expert as you might think.

Some time ago my daughter did work experience with my own publisher, then Hodder & Stoughton. As one of the big names in British publishing they naturally were sent piles of unsolicited manuscripts which became the 'slush pile'. so-called.  Despite the fact that the number of these that is ever published is vanishingly small, Hodder were at that time (not sure if this is still true) giving them a reading, though most publishers refuse to read anything that doesn't come through an agent.

As you can imagine, though, the slush pile isn't a high priority with editors and when my daughter arrived on the first morning of work experience they found her a desk and sat her down in front of the slush pile.  All keen and eager, fresh out of university, she started the first one and read till coffee time when she asked, a little gloomily, if she had to read the whole book.

‘Is it any good?’ the editor asked. ‘No, it’s terrible,’ my daughter said. ‘Then of course not. Junk it and send them the form letter.’

So someone got that letter and probably felt this was a seasoned judgement about their precious book when it was merely the judgement of someone on work experience whose degree wasn't even in English. So if you have had that form letter recently, don’t get too discouraged.

And there are worse things than a rejection letter. My first book was published when in fact it really would have been happier in that drawer where we keep our rejects. It sank without a trace and it was quite some time before I managed to get a firm foothold in the market with the next one. I’m happy to say that it is now long out of print, condemned to the obscurity it richly deserved!

No comments: