The Writer's Badge of Courage
I browse a lot of writers' forums and one of the themes that I see constantly expressed is heartache over rejection, or fear of even submitting because of the risk it entails. Well, fear of rejection is certainly something I feel qualified to talk about, so I usually speak up. What I often say goes something like this:
I've spent most of my life suffering from a major lack of self-confidence and I still battle it every day. There have been times when it paralyzed me, times when I doubted everything I put down. However, I've found a good way of turning that fear around.
Believe it or not, I got an agent with my first manuscript. The third agent I wrote to responded and took me on. The manuscript was complete. She was enthusiastic. She shopped the manuscript around, but could not sell it. One day I went to my mailbox and found what are euphemistically referred to as "rave rejections." The "I love it but we've just purchased something with a similar a) lead character, b) storyline or c) setting," kind of letter, and always with the same sign off, "Would love to read her next manuscript." To come so close and still miss was frustrating.
So, I drove a nail into the wall and hung that stack of rejections on it. And then I sat down and wrote another book, HARLEM REDUX.
My agent, Julie Castiglia, shopped HARLEM REDUX around -- and guess what -- it didn't even get rave rejections. It got, at most, a lukewarm, "Yeah, nice idea, but ...." Julie couldn't even accumulate a stack of rejections to send me -- she could barely get editors to look at it. Well, I went and hung a mental set of rejections on the nail. Then I went the POD route. After the book came out POD, I did another rewrite and resubmitted it to Julie. This time, the book struck a home run. Both Random House and Simon & Schuster wanted it. Nice, nice.
My solution, ladies and gentlemen: Send out your manuscripts and drive a nail into the wall. If and when the rejection letters come, then hang them up and look at them with pride. One "mega-selling" writer says he collected some 400 rejection slips at the beginning of his career. Other "mega" authors say the same thing. In fact, it's a badge of honor -- to be able to talk about who rejected you on your way to the top. If you can't talk about how much you overcame to get where you are, people are not interested.
Take care. Keep the good vibes going. And never, but never give up.