Dealing With Rejection

Alright, let's talk this week about one of the awful truths of the publishing industry. Rejection. Yep. It happens to the best of writers--and to the rest of us as well. For example, C.S. Lewis was rejected over 800 times before he finally found a home for his Narnian Chronicles.

I got my first rejection letter when I was 16. It was for my Bonds of Blood, Bonds of Steel book. (More on that book's odyssey at a later date--when I feel up to it.) It was from TSR, which back then used to be in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and used to publish original fiction. Now, as most gamers know, TSR publishes only game tie-ins for their Forgotten Realms, D&D and WOTC lines. Ah well. I tried.

I've gotten rejected by all the big names in both publishing and agents. In the 90's when I first starting trying to see my name in print, the big guys were the only game in town. So, I have very nice paper rejections from DAW, Del Rey, Tor, Little Brown and Company, and a host of other imprints. There were no small presses and when they did start to pop up in the mid 90's the majority of them were vanity presses. Let me just say this: if anyone tells you that you can see your book on the shelf of major bookstores or on Amazon, but all you have to do is pay the $3000 for the initial set up costs--run. Run far away. Those are vanity presses. They're still out there. They're a little cagier now than they used to be and the advent of self-publishing has put them on the endangered list, but still be careful.

Why do I keep my rejection letters? Well, most of them now come in the form of a standardized little email. So, those I drop in a "folder" and let languish. The ones I got when I was still stuffing self-addressed-stamped-envelopes in the mail? Well, first of all they're relics of a lost time. Even the big guys have gone to e-rejections. So, they're little time capsules. Also, they're records of my journey. I can see how I've grown as an author. Many of those rejections are for books that have been completely rewritten and have now found a publishing home. So, that's a nice little thrill. Finally, some of them have good advice. Many of them are the old "Dear Author..." slips, but a few have told me that I had excellent world-building skills, I create believable characters, I am a strong writer... those books just didn't speak to that junior editor.

Did it set me back sometimes? You bet. Did I whine and moan and complain and stomp around the house? Of course. But I always went back to the keyboard because of those few glimmers of hope handed to me by those slush pile editors. One last word on those rejection emails. If an editor tells you that you have a strong style, or great world-building take those comments to the bank. They don't say it to everyone and keep on trying. There's a whole new world of publishers out there. It takes time for every book to find it's home. It took me twenty years and a binder full of rejections, but it was worth the wait.

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