Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Dealing with rejection

Things have been pretty serious around Type M of late, and I’m certainly guilty of a fair bit of it, in fact, I’ll put my hand up proudly to declare that, since the conversation has been elevated and the response from Type M readers pretty terrific.

But maybe it’s time to turn the page just a little. Yes, the current job situation – whether you’re in publishing or not – remains pretty grim, but doesn’t the saying go that “laughter is the best medicine”?

A writing colleague, Deryn Collier (we really must get her on Type M some weekend), posted a link on Facebook to an interesting article from examiner.com about rejections some rather, ah, well-known authors have received over the years. I’ll wait here while you click on “interesting article” and read it.

Okay. All writers will know what this feels like. Getting a rejection letter for something on which you’ve worked on so hard for so long is like a body blow. It is a very hard thing to take. However, when you’re also faced with a rejection where the rejector has worked hard to say something pithy and clever at your expense, it feels far, far worse. In essence, you’re being laughed at. Like many, I’ve had to deal with that. My first ever serious musical composition was labelled by the reviewer as “anal scribblings”, something I’ve mentioned here before. It was absolutely devastating. There were several more pithy comments at my expense in that review, but I was smart enough to read it once and not keep a copy.

When I read the above article, it did bring a smile to my face, though, because having been there, done that and received several t-shirts, it’s just so damned heartwarming to see at least some authors get the last word, their success being the best revenge. The poster child of this has to be JK Rowling simply because of  the magnitude of her success. Think of those agents and publishers who summarily rejected her first Harry Potter book. She’s now made billions of dollars, and if they’d been astute enough, they would have hundreds of millions in their pockets right now. I’m sure she received some kind rejections along the way, but I know that there were others that were snarky or overly clever, as well. Looks good on those bums, doesn’t it?

There is no reason to be nasty when rejecting something or someone. Isn’t it just as easy to say something simple, direct and honest, such as, “Sorry, this is not for us”? If you want to provide a bit of helpful criticism to the writer, then fine, do so. But there is never any need to dump on the poor soul as some of these rejection letters do.

Creating a piece of fiction – actually, any work of art – and then presenting it to the world (no matter how limited that presentation may be) is very much like standing on a street corner and removing all your clothes. You are revealing something fundamentally so personal, it’s a very rare person who can also take the body blows when those to whom you’re showing your work decide to be petty, cruel or downright nasty.

The examiner.com article should provide a soothing balm to any open wound an artist may have. Publishers and agents are not omniscient. If they were, they’d only have best sellers on their rosters, wouldn’t they?

Keep the faith and continue on! You, too, may be rewarded with the last laugh.


Hannah Dennison said...

Great post, Rick. "Never say never!" My agent at the time and my USA publisher told me that my series would never sell in the UK (despite my being British and the series set in Devon, UK). So when I went to visit family, I physically went to as many bookstores as I could and asked the booksellers what they thought. Without exception they all agreed to take my books on consignment. As it turned out, I got a bizarre lucky break when a friend of a friend read it and she just happened to be a scout for Constable's crime imprint. The series was bought and the rest is history. I often think that this happened because "the universe" (or whatever) recognized my perseverance and threw me a bone.

Toe Hallock said...

Rick: Know what? I'd be absolutely thrilled to get a personal note from some editor telling me I was a dolt. Up to this point in time, my submissions have garnered nothing beyond the usual standard rejection letters. Such as: "does not meet our needs at this time; unable to make a personal reply due to overwhelming number of manuscripts; best of luck elsewhere." But, give up? Never. Yours truly, Toe.

Rick Blechta said...

If a writer has just chucked their ms "through the transom" (as the saying goes), then they shouldn't expect a detailed response. If the editor or agent has responded to a query letter and asked to see the ms, however, than the courtesy of a personal response really is required and should be expected. Courtesy, though, seems to be in short supply these days...

Toe Hallock said...

Gotcha! Since all of my efforts have been short stories to zines that seem to welcome "through the transom" submissions, I understand your point. Thanks for the info. Besides, how does one get an agent without having been published? Seems like Catch-22. Yours truly, Toe.

Aline Templeton said...

I keep that cartoon pinned to my noticeboard, Rick!