Saturday, April 7, 2018

Unfortunately, Despite Our Best Efforts ( Joy Preble)

Rejection sucks. It hurts. It makes you sad. It makes you feel small and pointless and angry and bitter and less than.

We also know it's mostly not personal, just the nature of the business, except it usually feels really personal, doesn't it? And it's got its own special language, publishing rejection. All these polite phrases that still sting.

  • Unfortunately, despite our best efforts...
  • I just couldn't connect with the characters.
  • Writing a book is hard and highly competitive.
  • Unfortunately, there is no budget for...
  • It isn't right for my list
I bet you can add a few of your own 'favorites.'

And yet. Rejection comes with the territory. If you're going to make art, you are going to get rejected and that my friends is why, as I've said before, Goodreads is for readers and not for you. Or unless you really want to know that someone thinks your novel is the 7th worst book they've read this year or possibly ever. (That's an actual rejection I received once for Dreaming Anastasia, and it's so hyper-specific that I kinda really love it.)

If you make art you need to be ready for the fact that people will love your work and they will hate your work and they will feel apathetic toward your work. They will totally get what you're doing and they will completely fail to see what you're doing and that is because no two people read the same book in the same way, which is what you were trying to tell your 10th grade English teacher when she told you that your essay on The Great Gatsby sucked.

If you write YA, you will also receive rejection from adult readers who don't quite remember what it's like to be a teenager. 'Why didn't she tell someone?' they'll rail about a character. Or 'I hate that her mother is so awful.'  And so it goes, friends.

And another truth? It's hard for a mid list title that fewer people have heard of to find its full readership. It is hard to compete with say, the huge machine that is books in Scholastic Book Clubs. I see it as a bookseller. Those are the titles that kids come into the store knowing and having a very clear expectation about because they've been fed advertising and a video. So don't let sales numbers feel like rejection. (Okay, you do have to look at them. But shhh, don't tell anyone: Most books sell far fewer than you'd ever imagine!)

Publishers rejection hurts more. You know it's not all going to be totally equal. You KNOW that. But still, when you're at a book festival or whatever and a publishing mate is putting expenses on the publisher's expense account and you're not, or there's a dinner to which you are not invited, it feels bad. And there's a longer conversation to be had here about the decision making process that goes into those choices. Some of it's pretty simple, though. It's about money and about which book they planned to promote in a larger way because that's the one they expect to break out and be a huge hit.

I have had break out books despite this. Dreaming Anastasia broke out and sold hugely because of sheer will and word of mouth and being the right book at the right time, despite having lost its editor before it went to final edits.

And as I tweeted the other day, please remind yourself: It is entirely possible to have a solid writing career without being a NYT bestseller, front listed, or having movie deals, twenty foreign rights deals and only starred reviews.  It is  harder, but it is totally possible. So keep writing.

Because at the end of the day, rejection means this: You are IN THE GAME. You are creating art. You are writing books. And you are going to keep at it.

What are your thoughts about rejection?









5 comments:

  1. Right on, Joy! Rejection is still there, no matter what stage of the journey you're on, it's just part of the art-making process. Great post.

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    1. Agreed. Rejection doesn't discriminate along the journey. It IS the journey!

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  2. This is perfect: "You are IN THE GAME. You are creating art. You are writing books. And you are going to keep at it." Well said!

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