Rejection

A couple of years ago a friend asked for advice on writing and publishing his book. I told him all I knew (not much) and wished him luck. And a few months ago he gleefully posted on Facebook that he was now a published author. How I rejoiced as I followed the link to his masterpiece. How my heart sank when I saw "Authorhouse" across the top bar on my screen.

You know how I feel about self publishing. I can't help feeling he sold out. Which is more than his book will do.

I asked him, in that wheedling way of mine, "Why?" Why did he give up? Why did he fund the publication of his book himself, and forego any possibility of profit or royalties, not to mention any sense of achievement, affirmation or accomplishment.

"I got fed up with being rejected," he replied.

As much as you are warned that rejection is part and parcel of being an author, it still smarts. I'm fed up with being rejected. Emon and the Emperor has now been rejected by fifteen agents.

But I believe in this book. I like it, and I believe that it is the best thing I have ever written and deserves to be published. So each time I get a rejection letter - or email - I just send it to the next agent in the list. One day one of them might read the sample chapter I send them, and maybe even request the rest of the book.

I'm in good company. Almost all books get rejected before they are published.

  • Jonathan Livingstone Seagull was rejected 18 times and went on to sell a million copies in its first year and become a cult classic.
  • Chicken Soup for the Soul was rejected 140 times but has since sold more than 80 million copies in 37 languages, and spawned numerous extra editions.
  • Dubliners by James Joyce - yes, James Joyce - was rejected 22 times, and even when it was finally accepted only 1250 copies were printed.
  • After Carrie had been rejected 30 times, Stephen King threw it out. His wife retrieved it from the bin and persuaded him to keep trying. It has now become a horror classic and has been adapted for film and television.
  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone was rejected 12 times, and only accepted by Bloomsbury because the CEO's eight-year-old daughter read it and insisted her father publish it.
I'm fed up with being rejected. But going to Authorhouse would mean I had rejected my own book. And I believe it it, so I'll keep welcoming each rejection as a step closer to acceptance.

Comments

  1. I think one of the perils of self-publishing's being so easy now is that it becomes harder to weather the rejections when you feel there's a quick solution to being published NOW. I'm not criticizing anyone who chooses to self-pub (and I have a project on the back burner that I'll probably self-pub someday for what I feel are strong reasons) but I think the danger is twofold--either that you give up too soon and self-pub something that, like the examples you listed, would have been successful with a traditional publisher if you'd held on longer, or that you self-pub something that is being rejected because it honestly isn't ready for publication.

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  2. Anna, IF profits came with self-publishing would you feel achievement, affirmation, and accomplishment? Of the books you list, I've only read the Harry Potter. Book publishing by major houses today seems much more about "packaging" a product than bringing a talented writer to print.

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  3. Stephanie, I too have a book which I might self-publish one day, but there are valid reasons why it would never fit with a traditional publisher. I've generally held the view that if a book isn't good enough that a publisher will pay me royalties for it, then it isn't good enough to be in print.

    Nancy, it's not the profits that are the issue for me - we know that royalties are hardly "profit" - as much as it is the affirmation. Someone likes my book enough to invest in it. That is achievement in itself. If I pay to publish it myself, I have achieved nothing. But actually were I to self publish (and, see above, I might someday) and the book were to go on to be successful and actually bring in money, then I might consider that an accomplishment.

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  4. Hi Anna.

    First of all, thanks for interacting with "Anna Jones" on my website! You might just have persuaded her to read the rest of Twilight!

    Although you are entirely right to question anyone's decision to go with AuthorHouse, an appalling vanity publisher and general con-merchant, I disagree about self-publishing in general. Your list of famous rejections only serves to make me wonder how many potentially successful books do NOT end up "making it" via the traditional route. What if that 10-year-old hadn't picked up the Harry Potter manuscript and nagged her father to publish it? The fact that the traditional gate-keepers have so much power over authors when their decisions are based on such arbitrary luck seems ridiculous to me. It only goes to show that much of it is based on personal opinion. My 'expert feedback' from agents/publishers that have asked to see my full MS has been phrases like "I just didn't quite fall in love with this enough". Hmmm. Hardly useful, and shows that even when your book is 'good' its potential acceptance all comes down to luck and the personal taste of whoever it is that reads it.

    Personally, I think it's very exciting that what has already happened in the music industry is now happening in the world of literature. The traditional gate-keepers had better look to their laurels or they will find themselves out of business very quickly. Apart from anything, more and more authors that are already successful are choosing to self-publish, especially in the UK. JK Rowling, for example, has decided to self-publish the eBook version of her Harry Potter series.

    Anyway - GREAT site, which is just as well. Given the similarity of my main character's name to your actual one, I think people are going to be bouncing between our sites in the future - I see that they already are!

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    Replies
    1. I may yet self publish someday, but I'm old school. I had to sell my books to publishers the old fashioned way (my first was published in 2000, before ebooks came along and changed everything) and I'm used to being paid royalties for my books and having all the design and marketing stuff done for me.

      Happy to send people backwards and forwards between our sites! Sharing the love. Good luck with your book.

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