Coming to Terms with Rejection

Quick update #2: Now up to three agents perusing my manuscript.  The Agora Files has now officially surpassed Buddy Hero in number of people requesting materials at the same time, and done so in a much shorter time frame.  And the two are now tied for total material requests. W00t!

Disclaimer: I know I said I’d hold off on the writer’s talk for a bit, but felt the need to explain what happened to my brain yesterday.

In my life, there has been one fairly constant item.  Rejection.  Now, I don’t mean to get all mopey on you, but my life has been molded by rejection.  Ever since I got my first pair of glasses, I remember friends suddenly deciding they didn’t like me anymore.  High school meant several women I was interested in showing absolutely no interest in me, or deciding they weren’t interested in me after a time of interest.  Rejection’s nothing new to me.

Do I consider myself somehow different from others in rejection?  Absolutely not.  I realize that the vast majority of people, especially within the nerdling community, have experienced similar rejections.  And it’s not like I’ve never been accepted.  In fact, there were those who considered me popular in high school.  I never did, but that was probably due to my feelings that rejection could come at any moment.

Yet, with all of this rejection, and the feelings of insecurity that accompany them, there’s another constant that has also remained.  This stupid sense of optimism.  I have always been one to be optimistic about the future.  Even during the days I struggled with depression, I was optimistic about the future, just not very happy with what was going on at that time.

And so I am here today fighting that same struggle, but with something completely different.  When I wrote my first novel, The Legend of Buddy Hero, I was overly optimistic about how easy it would be to get an agent.  After all, I had written a book, therefore it must be a marketable item.  Not many people actually complete a book, right?

Dumb.

Rejections ensued, and I was heartbroken.  Callouses grew and I became able to continue selling the book, but as more and more rejections came along, I became more and more heartbroken.  But my optimistic self did manage to come forward and look at things a tad more objectively.  It realized that my book, at the very least, did not meet a market need at that point, and, well, was not a strong enough book for someone to really want to take the chance and try to sell it for me.  Totally understandable.

I was finally able to mop myself up off the floor and received instant inspiration on the next book, now known as The Agora Files.  In a flurry of excitement, I plowed through the writing of my new masterpiece, fixing the issues I new to have existed in Buddy Hero and really honing my craft.  I completed the novel in record time and, after taking it through it’s paces, I was able to determine that it was as solid of a book as I believed I could make it.  And optimistic me took over as I began submitted to agents once again.

Optimistic me is an odd one.  Although he knew the struggles of trying to get anyone interested in Buddy Hero, he just assumed we would be able to plow through the process in no time, now that we had a book that was much more market-friendly.

This is where the other persona always has to step in.  We’ll call him pessimistic me.  Pessimistic me is the part of my brain that fears rejection.  The idea that someone might say no terrifies him to no end.  He knows, even more so, that the idea of rejection, when so certain of acceptance, can mean certain doom.

And this brings us to yesterday.  I was on a bit of a high after getting my fourth request for materials.  It was a fantastic feeling.  I felt like people really cared about me.  I felt acceptance nearing.  And then I checked out the twitter feed for the newest agent in my circle and he had a message stating how many awesome queries he had received over the weekend.

Optimistic Me:W00t! I’m included in that, right?  I’m not just a pity request, I’m actually something someone’s interested in.

Pessimistic Me: Well, he could have gotten to ours first and then realized he had so many other awesome ones that ours might not have made the list.

Optimistic Me: Shut up, we could use a little validation.

Pessimistic Me: Fine, just don’t get too excited.  He hasn’t read anything yet.

Optimistic Me: You’re right.  But it does mean that we’ve finally come up with a great query letter, right?

Pessimistic Me: Sure.  We can go with that.

And so the conversation ended rather amicably.  Pessimistic me allowed optimistic me a little bit of lee-way, and a happy dance between the two occurred.

Then later, the same agents twitter feed stated something to the effect of: “I may finish this manuscript in one sitting, it’s rocking my face off with its awesomeness.”

Optimistic Me: <squee!!!!>

Pessimistic Me: What?

Optimistic Me: He’s talking about us.  He has to be talking about us.  I mean, how many people actually write books that are single session books.  Our’s may not be perfect, but it technically fits that genre.

Pessimistic Me: Dummy, he just got the book today.  There’s no chance we’re at the top of the pile yet.

Optimistic Me: Well, yeah, but maybe he liked our query letter so much that he just had to pick it up right away.

Pessimistic Me: I knew I was going to regret letting you get away with the whole query letter thing.

Optimistic Me: Come on, it has to be us.

Pessimistic Me: You’re an idiot.

That conversation has continued to rage inside my head ever since.  My instinctual response wants to immediately believe that the good news being broadcast about some random person must be about me because I fit the loosely defined confines of the message’s subject.  My brain, however, isn’t even being pessimistic here, just using the facts.

But that’s how it goes. There’s this piece of me that wants to get excited about everything, no matter how trivial.  And then there’s this governing authority that tries to protect that piece of me, just like I try to protect my children from harm.

No matter what I do to try to restrain this inner excitement, he just keeps jumping at everything, just like it did whenever girls I was interested in while in high school would give any form of sign that they might even be okay with me around.  But my brain, well, it remembers those times that the inner excitement has forgotten, and it wants to protect the innocence this excited piece of me keeps forgetting.

In other words, the inside of my head is completely nutso.   And if there was ever any reason for me to never get an agent, it would be that I have now posted this split personality to the internets for the entire world to see.

However, from my research of the process of other aspiring authors, this seems to be the case with most of them.  And I don’t see how it can’t be.  Here you’ve spent however long to put together what you believe to be a work of art.  You’ve put your own sweat and tears into it, and finally got to the point where you’re ready to show it to the world.

Once you get to that point, there are really only two directions you can go.  You can either be a pessimist and say it’s not good enough, which means you’re not going to really want to show it to anyone, meaning you’re probably not going to actually try to sell it.  Or, you can be an optimist and believe the world will adore your craftsmanship.  Authors(and artists in general) have to, in at least some small way, be optimists if they ever try to sell their work.  They have to believe that someone will appreciate it enough to plop down cash for it.

But, at the same time, they NEED to be ready for rejection.  Every artist deals with it.  Even if they become revered in their art form, they still will have haters.  J.K. Rowling has more than a few haters, yet she is easily the most successful author to have ever lived.  Artists will be rejected.  It’s a part of the lifestyle.  And so although I sometimes feel way too crazy when having this battle between these two versions of myself, I can’t help but believe it’s something that happens to all artists, or at least the sane ones.

So, anyways, in the diary of my life as an aspiring published author, I give to you the full crazy that is the interior of my head.  Feel free to use it against me someday.

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