Or I would…if they weren’t all email correspondence these days :).
It goes almost without saying that rejection is one of the most difficult things authors have to endure. (The only thing harder is writing the darned book, lol.) Even published, “successful” authors get rejections from publishers. It’s the rarefied author indeed who never has to contemplate the possibility that a manuscript won’t pick up an offer of publication somewhere, sometime.
The last round of rejections I received was pretty crushing, honestly. It’s taken me a long time to get my writerly mojo back. Not because they were awful rejections suggesting I didn’t know how to write my way out of a paper bag (although a couple came remarkably close, lol) or even that they were just form letters saying thanks but no thanks. No, it was hard because, let’s face it, as an author, I have to believe my characters and my story are wonderful and worthy or I wouldn’t bother writing them in the first place. No one likes to be told the characters and story they love aren’t up to snuff.
But you know…I’m starting to change my mind. While I don’t think I’ll ever be happy to get a rejection letter, I’ve decided I’d prefer for them to tell me forthrightly that my book/writing isn’t good enough for them to invest their hard-earned cash in than say that and then suggest I invest my hard-earned cash instead. I’d rather get an honest “You’re not there yet with this book, but keep working,” than “maybe you’ll rise to the top through self-publishing and then we’ll see the error of our ways.”
There’s been a lot of talk the last few days about agents and editors and the gatekeeper function and how that might be keeping readers from getting books they really want. That may be true in a handful of cases. I’m sure there are books out there that get rejected by publishers that would be blockbusters if they’d just gotten a contract and appropriate backing. But those books are few and far between. And more to the point, just because there are books like that our there doesn’t mean MINE is necessarily the diamond that editors just can’t see through the rough. As a reader, there are still plenty of books that are published that aren’t my cup of tea, but without that gatekeeper function to vet books for some level of quality, I think there’d be far more sub-par books published, not thousands of overlooked diamonds.
The publisher is right when it rejects a manuscript that the book isn’t “right” for the publisher. That doesn’t have to mean the writing sucks or that it’s a bad book, just that there are a lot of books being published and this book doesn’t really make the cut in terms of fighting for readers and shelf space. I’m honestly okay with that…as long as you don’t tell me to turn around and claw for the shelf space on my own dime, especially when you know the likelihood of my finding that shelf space is slim to none.
Anyway, I just want to let all the editors at all the publishing houses out there know that I will henceforth treasure every rejection letter. I will hate being rejected just as much as ever, but I appreciate your honesty in evaluating my manuscripts and deciding they’re just not there yet. Because that just means I know next time, I have to try to write a better book.