“Dear Author: Thank you for your submission. Unfortunately . . .” And your heart sinks again.
You tell yourself that Gone With the Wind was rejected 38 times. That over a hundred publishers turned down Meg Cabot’s The Princess Diaries. That Tom Clancy, after everyone else had said no, finally found a publisher for The Hunt for Red October—the Naval Institute Press.
But still, what you’re hearing is that your book stinks. And that nobody, anywhere, will ever love it. So how do you keep from getting discouraged? Here are some thoughts that may help.
Publishers are risk-averse. Also agents. I worked in the publishing industry for 20 years, and have been on the other end of this one many times. If a publisher thinks a book has a 40% chance of making $100,000, he will take that bet over a 5% chance of making $2 million. What does this mean? More of the same! They want more of what’s been selling lately (BDSM romance, anyone?), because it’s too hard to predict what will sell tomorrow.
Success stories. I decided to self-publish on the day a major agent told me that she enjoyed my book very much, but “New Zealand rugby” would be too tough of a hook in the U.S. market. Avon’s new ebook line turned me down on the day I offered that same book for free on KDP Select and gave away over 14,000 copies. I sold 2,000 books in my first month, and 20,000 books in my fifth. And I’m not the only one. Being turned down by agents and publishers doesn’t mean your book isn’t good, or that the public (as opposed to the publishers) won’t buy it. You can choose either to keep trying, keep polishing your query and your manuscript, sending out a few queries at a time until you land that fish, or …
Consider self-publishing. We are living in a unique moment when the barriers to entry have come crashing down. Yes, this means some books are being published that probably shouldn’t be. But it also means that authors whose books sat rejected for years are putting them out there, and guess what? People want to read them!
The downside: What downside? If your book succeeds, the publishers may come to you. (It happened to me!) Maybe you’ll finance a little bit more writing time. And if it doesn’t sell much, what have you lost? Some time and the money for (I hope) a professionally designed book cover and professional editing. So make sure your book is the very best you can make it, do your research on producing and marketing your work, and give it a try.
Keep writing! Whichever way you choose to go, don’t stop writing. If people whose opinions you genuinely trust are telling you your work is good, and you believe in your heart of hearts that it is, you owe it to yourself to keep going, and to find a way to put your books out there for the market to judge. Nobody’s tombstone ever said, “I wish I hadn’t pursued my dream.”
Helen Keller said it best. “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. Security does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than exposure.”
Rosalind James, the bestselling author of the Escape to New Zealand and Kincaids series, is a former marketing executive who discovered her muse after several years of living and working in paradise--also known as Australia and New Zealand. Now, she spends her days writing about delicious rugby players, reality shows, corporate intrigue, and all sorts of other wonderful things, and having more fun doing it than should be legal.
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