Making friends with rejection.

As the second week of my agent hunting comes to an end, bringing with it three sensitively written rejection letters, how am I feeling? Surprisingly bouncy and evermore resolute!

I fully expect to have my work rejected countless times. And I fully expect to wait many years before having any book published. Years. There are no overnight successes in any form of art, whether this is writing, painting, acting or dancing. The road is a long one and the kerb is peppered with the weary bodies of those with great aspirations; with sufficient talent but insufficient tenacity. And often those who reach the end aren’t the most talented but the most determined. Take Chico for example.

I want to be rejected, for the lessons learned will be far more valuable to me than the instant gratification of being snapped up in two weeks. What would a ‘yes’ teach me? What more could I learn if my debut picture book was published by the first house to read it?

Unfortunately, I made the mistake of announcing my agent hunting duties on Facebook to an audience with no understanding of the perplexities of publishing. Now I am asked daily whether I have an agent yet or when’s the book coming out. Hmm, ask me in at least two years and I may have an answer.

I hope this post isn’t sounding disingenuous. If an agent offers me representation this afternoon, I’m not going to turn them away whilst I work on my self-development – “Sorry, I’d love to work with you but I was really rather hoping to get kicked in the crotch a few more times. I’ll call you when I can no longer get myself dressed.”

Rejection is good for me; for all of us. It tells me that I’m living the life I dreamed of. I’ve written a book, a synopsis and the feared submission letter. I am further along the path than I was a year ago. I had always wanted to write children’s books, but I never fully committed; perhaps I feared rejection. I have overcome that irrational fear and ploughed on regardless.

Furthermore, rejection can focus the mind brilliantly and make you more determined. At least it should do. There are bound to be times when a ‘no’ feels like a slap in the face and the only way to take comfort from the pain is to eat biscuits and watch daytime TV. I’m a big fan of the temporary pity-party, just as long as it doesn’t drag on too long. A day or two of not brushing your teeth is entirely allowable but, by day three, you really should at least swill around a bit of mouth-wash and put on some deodorant.

There is a big BUT in this jolly-in-the-face-of-adversity post. What if your manuscript just isn’t good enough? How can you tell? We’ve all heard the millions of examples of enormously successful writers who were turned down by 7000 publishers before getting an offer. Dr. Seuss was ‘too different’; Wind in the Willows: ‘boring’; Lord of the Flies: ‘rubbish and dull’; Watership Down – ‘language is too difficult.’ Etc etc etc.

Luckily they all persevered and refused to believe their work was drivel. How confident are you that your work isn’t? I’m fairly assured. I read several picture books a night to my children and I genuinely believe my book outperforms most of them in terms of humour and originality. But will I still feel this way if every literary agent dismisses my manuscript? Should I doggedly plough on or accept their feedback and set to work on a re-write?

I don’t know. I have not been doing this long enough to have the answer. But I would love to hear the thoughts of my fellow writers. Quit or carry on? Stick or twist?

I’m only two weeks into the process and three rejections is hardly cause for any towel throwing. And besides, I really should be getting on with my second book. And the third. And the fourth. I know my ‘yes’ is out there, we just need to find one another.

Happy writing everyone. x


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