On Rejection

As you may know, I submitted queries for my third book to three publishers a little over four months ago. I just heard back from the last one. Another rejection.

It would be a lie to say I’m not disappointed. Actually, it would be a lie to say I’m not surprised. I am surprised. I think Amy’s Pendant is a very good book and I was cautiously optimistic that it would be grabbed by one of the three.

It is difficult not to take this as a criticism of the quality of my book. A person would have to be exceptionally thick-skinned not to. Whereas I can be fairly stoic, I’m not a robot (although there are some in my stories), and it twinges. But I’m adult. I can take criticism, so I must consider that there may be a quality issue, something about the plot or characters or prose that don’t quite measure up.

I read a lot, quite a lot compared to most, and if there are flaws like these, I’m not seeing them. My books compare favorably to those I’ve enjoyed most. When I reread them now, I can almost forget I wrote them, and I find myself wishing there were more books like these. Then I think that perhaps I’ve pinpointed the problem. It’s a matter of taste, and when it comes to books (and, quite honestly, many other things) my taste often falls outside the norm. I have enjoyed a few bestsellers, but more often than not, I’ve picked one up and wondered why it became so popular.

If this is the problem, I may have an insurmountable obstacle ahead of me. Taste is personal. It tends to change over time, but I can’t change a person’s taste to match mine, nor would I if I could.

I could, I suppose, write books like those that are popular, but I won’t. I won’t write what I wouldn’t want to read — and reread. An author will end up rereading his or her own work perhaps scores of times before it is submitted to anyone else, so they had better like it or have a fondness for aspirin an antacids.

I could give it up and just not write. This is theoretically possible. But it would redefine who I am, and I don’t wish to do that. I’m good with who I am, for the most part, although I wouldn’t mind being a bit taller, a few years younger, and considerably wealthier.

No, I’m going to have to continue as I have, writing what I like, and making it available to others as best I can. They can judge my books for themselves. Not everyone likes the same things. What a dull world it would be if they did.

My next step is to query agents. I haven’t tried that yet, but I’m hoping I can attract the attention of a few. Agents have access to publishers that authors do not.

In other news, my fourth book is coming along well. I think I’ll be proud of it once it is complete, as I am the others. It may be done by the end of the year. When and how it will be published is another matter.

Related Posts:
My Self Publishing Adventure
Ode to an Overconfident Wordsmith

About Dave

A reader and writer of speculative fiction. See my website for more information on me and my writing. https://dlmorrese.wordpress.com/

Posted on August 27, 2012, in Self Publishing, Writing and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. I don’t know how to make my reply nest beneath yours, but I’d love to talk to you more about the whole situation via email if you want. I have some suggestions for you that might help your self-published stuff sell better, and I have opinions (hard-won after my three years’ experience “in” the publishing industry, as much as I was ever in it) about self-pub vs. traditional pub that might help you think about it in new ways. Let me know if you want to chat.

  2. Hey, DL —

    I know how it feels.

    The Sekhmet Bed was rejected 52 times before it found an agent. Once it found an agent, nearly every Big Six imprint that publishes historical fiction rejected it in turn, as well as a few good independent small presses that have good reputations for historical novels. The first agent tried selling the next book in the series as the first book…no dice. Eventually she dropped me as a client. Or, well, she handed me off to another agent, but it amounted to the same thing. The second agent couldn’t sell my books either and eventually parted ways with me as well.

    Meanwhile, I self-published The Sekhmet Bed and gave it some time to see what it would do. I figured why not self-publish it, since virtually every imprint that might have taken it had rejected it. Where else was it going to go?

    I wrote another novel in the meantime, and tried to find an agent for it. I gathered 83 rejections on that one. I fell into a terrible depression — really a bad one, honestly, because after three years, three books, and two agents it seemed to me that I would never achieve the one goal I’ve had for my life since I was eight years old: to write full-time, some day.

    Then something interesting happened. What was initially a little bit of interest in The Sekhmet Bed from a small group of readers exploded into consistent, healthy sales of that book. Word is getting around that the book is good. People like it. It’s selling. People are reading my book; they’re liking it; they’re giving me money for it. It started out as a tiny bit of money. Now it’s up to $800 a month. It keeps growing every month. I’m on the verge of achieving my life-long goal, and I didn’t need an agent or a professional publisher to do it.

    Here’s the thing. We’re taught to take the word of editors and agents as the ultimate judgment of how good our books are. We’re taught that good books get published, that’s the way it is, and if your book doesn’t get published then it’s not good. But both those agents were wrong. Every editor who rejected The Sekhmet Bed was wrong. Readers do like this book, and they’re liking it more and more with each passing week. You know what? I wager that all 83 of the agents and editors who rejected my third novel were wrong, too, because I know I’m a good writer who produces books readers WANT to read, whether there’s a publisher’s imprint on the spine or not. I’m going to find out in a few weeks when I self-publish my second and third novels. And I have more planned.

    I’m not going after agents or publishers anymore. I no longer believe the party line that the only way to know that you’ve written a good book is to get the approval of somebody in the publishig industry. People our age grew up knowing that books come from book stores and book stores are stocked with books that come from pubishers, so that’s what we’ve always aspired to for our own writing. But we’re living in a different time now. Now it’s the readers who matter (and isn’t that the way it should be?), and we no longer need the middle men of agents and publishers to reach the readers. I’m not saying I’ll never take a contract from a traditional publisher. I might. But I am saying that I’m a lot happier and enjoying my writing much more since I decided that I’ll no longer be querying. I am producing a great product that readers want. That’s been proven by the money I’m making off a book I put no effort into promoting. If publishers want me, they can query me, and I’ll consider their offers and accept or reject them as I choose. It feels good to know that I have that power, that control over my own career is in my hands and nobody else’s.

    This is long, I know. I just wanted you to know I know how rejection feels. I’ve got you beat by 80 rejections, and that’s only on the most recent book. I also know how great it feels to liberate myself from the backwards notion that the only way to “be a writer” is to traditionally publish. You don’t have to go through that wringer for any longer than you want to. You can still find readers and make good money (maybe better money than you’d make with a publisher.)

    • Thank, Libbie/Lavender – 🙂

      I’m not sure if I’m encouraged or depressed. I can barely imagine submitting 80 queries, let alone getting 80 rejections. Three was bad enough! 🙂
      I do like your conclusion, though. Let them query you! I’m tempted to go ahead and self-publish my third book, but I still feel the need for that air of legitimacy that traditional publication gives. I may continue to self-pub my longer novels and just seek trad for my YA.
      I won’t say money doesn’t matter. I sell my books as cheaply as I can to offset my costs (although I’m still operating this hobby at a loss.) What matters more, though, is hearing that people have read and enjoyed my stories, that they found something in them worth their time and attention.
      Your success with the Sekhmet bed is encouraging. Thanks for sharing your experience. I admire your patience and perseverance.
      For anyone else reading this. The Sekhmet Bed is a good read. My review of it is here – or just do a search. You’ll find it.

  3. It is not easy to be rejected, there’s no doubt. Glad you’ve decided to keep writing. I do have books one and two of Defying Fate on my Kindle–I’ll put them next in the reading queue!

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