by Rebecca Cantrell
I planned to write a scathing rejection letter for the blog this week. Being a good student, I did research. I googled rejection letters and found some doozies for classic books. Here is an actual rejection of Animal Farm by George Orwell: “It is impossible to sell animal stories in the USA.” Here’s one for Steven King’s Carrie: “We are not interested in science fiction which deals with negative utopias. They do not sell.”
I then wasted far too much time on the Internet (what a surprise!) reading other people’s rejection letters. And after I was done I realized not only that my blog post would now be late, but also that I didn’t want to add more rejection to the world. I don’t think it’s helpful to dwell on rejection.
Truth? I got 30+ rejections for my first novel, A Trace of Smoke. It went on to be published by Tor Forge, sell just fine, and get nominated for various awards. The conclusion I drew was not the 30+ people who rejected it were idiots, but rather that publishing anything is excruciatingly difficult.
Why is it so hard? First there’s the financial risks: paying the author an advance plus paying the team that brings it out: the editor, the cover artist, the copy editor, the fact checker, the publicist, the printer, the sales staff, and others I’ve forgotten to name. Then there’s spending social capital as you call in favors to get other writers to blurb it, reviewers to review it, and booksellers to read it. All that with no guarantee of success.
To do that someone must love your book a lot. Not just like it, not just think it’s brilliant, but absolutely let their heart fall out of their chest onto the pavement to get walked on love it. Nothing less is enough for them to take those risks. I have Marlene Dietrich's picture over there from "Falling in Love Again" in the 1931 classic, "A Blue Angel," because it's a great reminder of the risks of falling in love. We all know it doesn't always end well.
By and large acquisition editors aren’t mean people eager to reject talented authors. They are dedicated and overworked and I think most of them start reading every submission hoping to be amazed and inspired and fall in love. It doesn’t always happen that way, but when it does, it’s magic. Instead of rejections, I try to focus on that magic.I try to write the best book that I can and then never give up searching for the one person who will love it.