It's a Friday, I have a full manuscript with an agent, and I'm querying others. This reminds me of a meme the Rejectionist had on her blog. It feels poignant today:
The Rejectionist asked another question, one I felt worhty of a response. The question returns us to a topic I have written on frequently here in the Brick City (a name I have not used in a long time but fits the tone of this post, so here it is again.) It is, in fact, a topic that comes up frequently, often in an attempt at humor, often resulting in a typical Joe Selby tirade. Regardless, I will endeavor to answer said question anew with both humor and derision, as is befitting.
What does rejection mean to me?
What a simple question. What an unsimple answer. Rejection, to steal a phrase, is like an onion. It has many layers. Specifically, in this case, rejection refers to query rejections in the pursuit of publication, so we can cast aside any blunders I had in my youth attempting to touch my girlfriend's breasts. We will keep this in the now, as I continue writing and continue querying and continue getting rejected.
Writing is one of the most important things in my life (truly, second only to my wife), and rejection is the largest hurdle I currently face to taking my writing to a national (international?) market. As I approach my writing as the second job it is, I will now address rejection as it impacts said job during a standard work week.
I received a rejection letter today. This makes me proud. Many of my friends who do not write or who write as a hobby do not understand this. They assume rejection means failure. This is because they do not attempt professional publication (or, at least, not in anything larger than self-publication, which I discount). They do not truly understand the challenges of finishing a novel-length manuscript. How could one understand without having accomplished the same. So often a manuscript is abandoned after the first surge of creativity is expired. One cannot compare the challenges of writing a 20,000-word manuscript to finishing a 100,000-word+ manuscript. And then to revise that manuscript multiple times and then to query an agent. It is a daunting task. And while true, many queriers do not go through all those steps, I did. I wrote professionally. I submitted professionally. I was rejected professionally. I am a professional. This makes me proud. Thank you, Rejection.
I received a rejection letter today. I appreciate this. It's a form rejection, as they almost alrways are. I recieved a semi-personalized rejection once, or the most politely written form rejection ever known. I hope it was semi-personalized because if she says how close she was to asking for it, that seems horribly unfair to the author. Today's wasn't one of those. It was just a form rejection. It was polite and professional. It went through all the standard statements of how this isn't a reflection of my work and that writing is subjective. I understand that and after having read it so many times, I wonder if it's necessary, but then I remember that it's a kind word and kind words are never unnecessary, so I say thank you. I do not write back thank you, because that would clutter a busy agent's inbox, but I say thank you in my brain, because she deserves thanks for taking the time to read my query and respond.
I dislike agent policy of not responding. I've seen the argument that it's a waste of an agent's time. The math and the totals of how much time out of the year would be spent replying to queries and I do not care. Agenting is not just about writing, it's about relationships, and taking the time to acknowledge you received, reviewed, and passed on my work established a good relationship. Not to mention it spares you from receiving follow-up emails and requries that I think in the end would take up more of your time than creating a form rejection. Email clients and super-copy/paste applications make form rejection absurdly easy. I have posted before what I think when an says she is too busy to do something. We're all busy. A rejection letter is not too much to ask for. So thank you, for sending me one today.
I received a rejection today. Dammit. I'm running out of agents I queried. It's not right for you or for her or for him. This has to be right for someone. Come on. This isn't hackneyed stuff. This isn't my first time at the rodeo. I've written. I've revised. I've avoided cliches and found an interesting hook. I wrote with character and with adventure and threw in some fun twists. This will appeal to the market. I've seen books with this tone before so how can you tell me it's not right for you? It has to be right for someone. How did those books get published if they weren't right for anyone either? There aren't THAT many fantasy agents in the world, and I've done a LOT of research. One of you has published this stuff before. Why won't you even ask to read mine? It's good! Yes the page count is high of your perfect margin, but it's not a 250k+ epic. I'm sure that number will fall during editing. I already brought it down once with my own edits. I edited. I've edited professionally before. I had beta readers and took into account their feedback. Come on. This has to be right for SOMEONE. Someone? Anyone? Listen, I'm productive. I write a minimum of one novel a year. I wrote two last year. I have over a dozen books percolating in my brain, so this isn't going to be a one-shot and we're out kind of thing. Professionally, I'm an investment. I'll produce regularly for you and of a quality that won't suck up all your time from your other clients. Come on, just give me a shot! I'm a steady paycheck! Read the damn manuscript. You'll like it. It's good.
I received a rejection today. One of my self-published friends tried to have a conversation with me today about the challenges of publishing in the industry. He talked down to me like he was some seasoned professional. Dude. Dood. You are self-published. I admit, the changing marketplace makes self-publishing more feasible, but you relied on your friends to edit, design your cover, and set the pages. Sure some of them have some experience, but this is small scale. Your friends were in the creative writing class in high school. They're not professional fiction editors. They do not make their living doing this. They do not win awards for doing this. The authors they edit do not win awards for doing this because you're the only person they edit. Please do not think because you are self-published, and I received another rejection letter, that this somehow puts me into a subordinate position. I am a better writer than you. I am a significantly better writer than you. It is because I am a better writer than you that I am attempting to break into professional writing. I am not cowering in self-publication, "setting my terms for success." My "terms of success" are succeeding. My sales will go well beyond the three-digit cusp. I will make advances. I will earn them out. I will earn royalties. I will be published in multiple languages. I will be asked to submit more manuscripts and even to possibly participate in an anthology.
So, dear agent, while I appreciate that you took the time to send me a rejection, I would ask you to reconsider if for no other reason than to save me from my friends who think I'm a failure. I am not a failure, but it is unlikely they will accept that until I can beat them over the head with an ARC.
I received a rejection today. What. The. Fuck. You posted on your blog that you wanted to expand your list. You said you were looking for fantasy. Hey, that's me! You said you didn't have enough male clients. I have a penis! I know. I touched it this morning! You said if the writing was good you'd ask for more pages. You didn't ask for more pages. You rejected me. What the crap is that? I've been putting up with this all week. You were the last one. My entire query list has rejected me. You see this book I'm reading? It's average. It's not crap. It's not testament to the poor standards of the industry. It's average. The author repeats himself too much and has this unnatural aversion to pronouns. I am better than this. He is a best selling author. This novel is a best selling novel. I am better than this. Why won't you even give me a chance? You know how many times I've revised that goddamn query? Just give me a chance.
I did not receive a rejection today. That's a Monday through Friday thing. I still write on the weekends, though. I write all the time. It's what I do. It's what I've always done. Some days, it's hard. I wake up on Saturday and wonder why I'm not playing frisbee golf or Xbox with friends. Why am I sitting at a counter behind a computer writing about a world that doesn't exist? My wife sees the look on my face and she gives me a hug. She's still in bed. She's going to sleep in. But she doesn't want me to be sad. She reminds me that I'm an asshole when I don't write and, while I may not feel up to it, she'd appreciate it if I'd go do it anyway. For her sake. She also tells me her favorite Babe Ruth quote. "Every strike brings me closer to the next home run." I avoid telling her that you only get three strikes until you're out. I kiss her. I thank her for her encouragement. I write some and see a new agent. Perhaps she'll like what I write. I send her a query. Maybe next Monday will be different.