We’ve gone over this many many times before. And, to be completely honest, I don’t really have any good reason to talk about this right now. However, I came across a little essay earlier today and…well, let’s just say that it started bringing back some awful emotional memories that caused me to not even be able to read the whole thing.
This essay from an editor looks at the concept of rejection from the other side of the table, from the perspective of the person doing the rejecting. For an idea of how this would read to someone like me, who has been rejected hundreds of times…think of it as a letter from an incredibly hot woman expressing how sad she is about all of the people she has to say no to.
Maybe I’m being unfair. I mean, I get it, rejection is something that has to be done by these folks higher up in the industry (as well as by those unattainable women). There are only so many books that can be released in a year, so, even throwing out the fact that many of us author’s just couldn’t make the cut, no matter how many books a publisher releases in a year (i.e. …not even if you were the last man in the world…), rejection would have to happen. And I credit Mr. Shotts on what he’s trying to say here. It can’t be easy to have to reject people on a daily basis. I’m sure there’s some sort of pain that occurs in the soul every time that a rejection letter gets sent out. If not, then I’d question his humanity.
And Mr. Shotts does offer some thoughts as to what might make the whole process not as painful for the recipient, although the one I actually read (remember…I couldn’t make it through the whole thing) was followed up with something that made it sound like he was saying that option really isn’t feasible. This was, of course, putting in the author’s name after the word Dear, instead of just the generic Dear Author.
I’m a man who’s somewhat used to rejection. As a young, awkward, boy, I received a great deal of it. As I got older, things got somewhat better, but the theme of rejection was still there. As I got older yet, I got even better at rejecting myself until I finally found a corner of the world to hide in where I wouldn’t have to deal with rejection anymore…and then I started writing… Even when not submitting to agents/publishers, rejection is always a part of the writing process, both from readers as well as from myself. Rejection is the one standard you will always find in an author’s life.
So, Mr. Shotts took a shot (see what I did there?) at trying to give authors a reason to empathize with the rejectors, as well as giving us all some reason for hope, looking at other authors who received many rejections before finally finding the great success that lay ahead for them, such as Anne Frank and Gertrude Stein. In other words, he’s saying what every author has read in almost every rejection letter ever…”this is just one reader’s opinion, don’t let it get you down, someone else may absolutely love this”… which has always felt rather similar to the “it’s not you, it’s me”.
Now, I’ll agree with Mr. Shotts on something he didn’t outright say. We (authors) really should try to keep ourselves from villainizing the rejectors of the publishing world. Just because they’ll accept a book without reading it if it comes from a name like Kanye West (who is a noted book-hater), and reject ours stating that it “just isn’t a fit for them at this time” doesn’t mean that they are the bad guys. It means that a book “written” by Kanye West is guaranteed to sell X number of books. A book written by no-name me is probably going to sell 12 books. It’s simple math. Kanye’s already got a brand. We don’t. The amount of work required by the publisher is much less, with regards to ensuring the books they print are actually sold.
And this is where I think Mr. Shotts could have taken his thesis (and maybe did…once again, couldn’t make it through it…too many painful memories). Publishing is a business; a business that is failing more than its succeeding. In fact, if there’s one thing the publishing industry itself should be familiar with right now, it’s rejection, as the public has all but completed rejected it in place of television, movies, youtube, and farmville. Books are not the gold mine they once were. The advent of self-publishing and Amazon and digital technologies in general have put a good dent into what the publishers used to make as well.
I think there once was a golden age of publishing, in which almost anyone could find themselves into a Barnes and Noble, but those days are gone. Publishers are tightening their belt buckles and attempting to ensure that what they print will sell. Unfortunately for the reader, this doesn’t always mean that what’s being printed is worth reading, it just means that it will sell. Of course…there’s never really been a true safety net for readers, has there?
In summation, I can totally see where Mr. Shotts is coming from. I know that I would not be able to reject people like he is obviously forced to on a daily basis. That’s why it’s a good thing I’m not an editor or a hot woman. However, this letter of his does little toward really making me feel empathy toward him than it does cause me to once again remember the pain of rejection. Seeing why he’s rejecting me makes me feel even less loved; makes me feel even more like the chance that they even glimpsed at my manuscript is non-existent. Like the hot woman who doesn’t want to get to know me as a person and has written me off by looks alone, I feel the publishing industry has fallen into that same trap.
You might say, they’ve been forced to begin judging books by their covers…
Anyways, that’s my little rant about how rejection can still sting years later, where he’s already forgotten that he pressed send on my Dear Author letter. Mr. Shotts himself has never sent me one of those letters (at least I don’t think he has), I’m just noting that his pain from rejecting is much more generic than that of the rejectee. Perhaps he does feel pain every time. I’d like to think that if he did, he’d at least put the author’s name in the greeting.
But, I should add that I’m not bitter. Sure, when I still kept all my rejection letters in a file, I would glance in there from time to time as a reminder of how much it sucked to put myself out there like that. I’ve since deleted them and moved forward, as I realize that it’s not a personal attack and that many of these rejections came from reading little more than the first sentence of my e-mail. But the constant feeling of there being absolutely no chance for success that can come from constant rejection is a real pain that many authors deal with all too often. A real pain that I think this essay mostly overlooks in its attempt to try to get authors to see his side of the story.
Authors do need to come to terms with rejection. I know that I (almost) have. Even if a publisher puts your book out there and you make it onto the top of all the best sellers lists, you’ll still have people talking down about you. Just look at Stephenie Meyer, the author of the Twilight series. She’s in the pantheon of incredibly successful authors, a group that’s not all that large, and she has one of the largest group of haters out there. You’ll find the same for others (although not nearly as vehement) such as Stephen King or J.K. Rowling or Tom Clancy. And Mr. Shotts is right, you can’t hate the rejector. There are a multitude of reasons why they might reject your work, most of which are probably nothing personal (although it can feel that way when about your masterpiece).
Unfortunately, just as it is the right of those like Mr. Shotts to reject, it is the right of the rejected to reject right back. I think we can all just hope that we, the rejected, can do so with a little more class than the visceral response that can occur in these situations.
Okidokie…enough of that for now. Publishers who want to buy my book, I still love you!
Have fun out there!