Writers face an inordinate amount of rejection as they pursue their craft. I’ve often thought there ought to be workshops at writers’ conferences on how to handle rejection letters. If we’ve been sending out queries frequently, we must have developed a thick skin or sense of humor. As my friend, a realtor says, the best response to rejection is to say, “Next?” Here are some truths about rejection.
My friend Robby managed her family restaurant in Fort Lauderdale. When they needed another server, she interviewed several and was particularly impressed by a woman named Sue. Sue was hired, but after several weeks, Robby noticed Sue wasn’t earning the tips she should. After a discussion, Sue turned in her notice and left. Robby advertised again, interviewed several, and was impressed by another woman who, coincidentally, was named Sue. This Sue was hired. After a day or two, she didn’t show up for work and Robby never saw her again. Robby advertised again. The best applicant was, you guessed it, a woman named Sue. With misgiving, Robby hired her, and again, this Sue didn’t work out either and left after a couple of days.
If your name was Sue and you showed up for the next interview, no matter how good you were, no matter how much experience you had, Robby would not hire you. Was it your fault? No. Was it fair? No. Was it good business practice? No. You would be rejected, and it would not be your fault.
Writers often face the same arbitrariness. If they have submitted their book to the scrutiny of their critique group, had it professionally edited, subjected it to beta readers, and are confident it’s the best book they could have written, it may—probably will—be rejected. Why? Maybe the agent was hung over that morning and was rejecting everything. Maybe your name was Sue. Maybe he had too many manuscripts at that moment. Maybe it didn’t fit in with prevailing trends or her current choice of genre. There are a hundred reasons why your manuscript was rejected, and none of them had anything to do with its worth or quality of writing.
It takes guts to bounce back and try again and again. And again. That’s why so many of us turn to self-publishing. It’s not necessarily because our book is poorly written or disorganized or faulty in any way. It’s because of the system, which too often is arbitrary and inherently unfair. It calls not for originality in writing, concept, or ideas. The questions more likely are, “Will it sell?” and “Is it like a current bestseller and could be marketed to that audience?”
The agent-publisher system is an insidious form of censorship.
The best determinant of a good book is more likely to be reviewers and the audience than an agent or publisher. Did independent reviewers like it? Did readers buy it? Even those avenues to a writer’s fame and fortune are blocked by the traditional system. Major reviewers won’t review self-published books, although a few will review them for pay. Self-published authors usually don’t have the money or knowledge for expensive marketing campaigns, which is another barrier.
Traditionally, the author had to find a distributor or wholesaler before he could get into bookstores, which was an expensive proposition unless your book turned into a bestseller. Now with Amazon and other online retailers, e-books, and social media, the marketplace is open to absolutely everyone, producer and customer alike, at little cost.
So if you really are opposed to censorship and interested in original, avant-garde, or unpopular ideas, take a look at what’s available from the self-published author.