Pippa’s excellent post about overcoming rejection reminded me of my first Romance Writers of America National Conference in Washington, D.C. in 2009. One of the main speakers at that conference (whose name I forget—but she must have been big in the business to get the gig) described being brought so low by rejections in the early days of her career that she hauled a huge box of the letters to the curb and burned them, tears streaming down her face. She was ready to quit. She went back to the house, the phone rang, and it was The Call. You know, from New York.
We’ve all heard the stories of famous writers and their multiple rejections—J.K. Rowling, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Dan Brown, James Michener. I love those stories. You hear a lot of them at Nationals, inspirational tales of how those people we admire from afar reached those lofty peaks. They didn’t fly there on gossamer wings. They slogged through swamps and over rocky trails. And from the looks on their faces when they accepted their hard-earned awards, they could hardly believe they’d made it.
I have quite a collection of those rejection letters myself, or I would have if I saved them (I don’t), or if most of them didn’t come via email these days. I’m proud to say I went through nearly every agent who accepts SF and/or romance until I found my wonderful agent, Michelle Johnson. Then she and I spent a long time looking for a home for my SFR novel Unchained Memory, only to be thwarted by a publishing industry in flux and unwilling to try anything new. That adds up to a lot of rejection. And I’m not the only one who could tell this kind of tale.
Meanwhile every aspiring author has to contend with the news that some piece of unedited fan fiction schlock about a boy band has garnered 500 million downloads from a free website and jinned up a contract for the newbie writer from a Big Five publisher. Just like Fifty Shades of Gray. Great.
This is the sound of me plugging up my ears and singing: lalalalalalalala
But this is a strange and wonderful business. For every obstacle, there is a workaround. For every setback, renewed determination. Out of all the many hundreds of agents, I found just the right one for me. She’s not one to give up, and she believes in me and my book. Michelle came up with just the right solution for publishing Unchained Memory, through a newly-established publishing arm of Inkling Literary Agency called Ink’d Press. I have all the creative freedom I need to flourish, and I’ll have all the editing, artistic and promotions support I need to make sure my book finds its audience.
That audience itself may be a source of rejection. Not everyone will love my baby. Some will even go out of their way to call it ugly. Learning to turn a deaf ear to those kinds of comments will be harder, but it’s part of the business, too.
I’m willing to take the bad with the good, because I’m excited to be able to finally say, “Yes, my book is coming out in February, 2015!” And at last, like Pippa, I can say “nyah-nyah!” to some of those nasty little rejections that stick in my head.