Friday, December 3, 2010

Hope For Writers After The Sting of Rejection

On Wednesday, 12/1/10, Nicole Whipple posted about submission and rejection and asked: What happens when it is you?

I found Nicole through Joanna St. James, one of my greatly appreciated followers when I visited her blog. She posted her own thoughts about submission and rejection yesterday, Thursday, Dec. 2, 2010.

I was so moved by each post that I had to respond. I have been a member of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers (RMFW) for at least twelve years. I can’t remember since I never write this stuff down. I am the moderator of a critique group and have attended critique for as many years as I’ve been a member of RMFW.

Critique has its own form of rejection. As a writer you learn over time what is valuable in someone’s comments and what is their opinion. But in the beginning, you can be hurt, insulted and humiliated to the point that you may consider dropping out of critique and never writing again.

I think the same is true of rejection by agents and publishers. Most of them are considerate in how they reject you. But there are some who should get out of the business.

I have been working on my current WIP (work in progress), for many years. I originally wrote this before I had children. Then the kids came and my life became a blur of responsibilities including working at a job I didn’t like. When my children were teenagers, I joined RMFW and took out the old story. I had to rewrite all of it. I only kept the main character’s names and location. Most of the rest was reborn by trial and error until I had the story I wanted. I submitted this to critique and learned about “show don’t tell,” 1st person, 3rd person, page breaks, when to shift point of view, (POV), descriptions, back story, you name it. I had to go to FREE College. The only cost to me was my RMFW dues and time. My motto was. “Never Give Up, Never Surrender!”

I waited to pitch my book until I had a completed manuscript. Then I started to try and sell it to the editor or agent I was meeting with at conference. I also sent out synopsis and query letters. I had so many people request partials, synopsis, etc. I received many rejection letters, most said, “We love it but it’s not right for us?” One editor wrote, after he had my ms. for 6 months, that they were no longer doing fantasy. Each rejection hurt. I was left asking the question. What is right? What do they want?

The last time I pitched to an editor, I had four or five minutes to sell my book idea to the woman across from me. The first question she asked was how long I’d been a member of RMFW. I told her and she said, “and you’re still not published?” My answer of course was “no.” She proceeded to ask, “Why aren’t you published yet?” three more times. I was hurt and offended, so much so that I stopped writing for a year. Yes, I did. I was crushed.

Last May, 2010, I started meeting with a published writer friend, Lynda Hilburn. She had her own horror stories and was in the middle of searching for a new publisher. One of the things she did was to put her vampire series on Amazon’s kindle. Lynda had information on the publishing industry and she encouraged me. I started thinking in terms of self publishing. Then I started to research e-publishing and what people were saying.

The reality of our current situation is this. Yes, there are some writers who are being picked up for the first time by publishers. But there are many more with excellent stories, who have done their work, learned the craft, honed their writing, who are not getting contracts. Just like the rest of the economy today, there are less and less dollars being spent on new talent. Publishers want the sure thing.

How do we weather this? Yes, I know the word weather equals storms, right?

We need heroes. Real people who persevered and made a difference. I have two. Abraham Lincoln, not because he was the president, or because he freed the slaves, both worthy indeed, but because he did so while overcoming personal loss, depression, and past failures. He weathered the storm and achieved great success for many people and a nation.

My second hero is L. Frank Baum; the author of The Wizard of Oz. Frank came from a wealthy family but experienced financial ruin multiple times and lived with a heart condition his entire life. Yet, he followed his dream. As a traveling salesman, he wrote everywhere he went and achieved success in publishing multiple stories.

You can learn more about Abraham Lincoln at The History Channel and L. Frank Baum at The Literary Traveler.

(I did try to get these pictures in the right spot, but they were stubborn.)

Do I want an agent? Yes. Do I want a traditional publisher? Yes. Am I willing to wait for someone to want me? No.

I do not advocate putting junk up on Amazon or anywhere else. Do the work. Hire an editor. Hire an artist for the cover unless you are one. Put out quality.

I know I have a good story because over fifty readers, writers, agents, and editors have read the story and given me their feedback. The moral of this post is. Don’t lose hope, if all else fails, self publish. It is FREE.

I hope you are encouraged. Now back to work.


Dominic de Mattos said...

The whole prospect of rejection is not hugely encouraging to those starting their writing career, and I agree that e-publishing is a very real prospect.
I know you can't blogsplash every book but Talli's amazing success shows the power of social media to get the message out.
BUT the absolute key is quality of product. One of the driving factors of Talli's campaign is that everyone who has read it is saying how fantastic it is, this creates a buzz and recommendations snowball.
I bought a book promoted through social media and when I got to page 2, I read "... when Robin was stood on the path ..." I put the book down - the grammar was clearly gong to drive me insane!

Joanna St. James said...

oh my world Dom grammatical errors crack me up.
Okay Nancy, I definitely agree with you and believe you me I already have plans A-Z in place. I have been on blogger for 3 months not because i have a book to sell but because i want to learn from my fellow writers, one thing I have learnt is that an amazing story always shines thru regardless of who publishes it.

Joanne said...

Rejection is such a necessary but difficult part of the process. I try to glean something from the meaningful ones, so that in some way my work grows or improves just a little more. I guess it's a way of finding some good in the bad.

Jules said...

Thank you. For the post and your support. You sure have built my ego up. :)
Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

N. R. Williams said...

That is a clear picture of someone who didn't put out a quality piece Dom.

Joanna, I don't mean to lecture you and I hope you didn't take it that way. I am passionate about this subject because of my past.

I agree with you Joanne. In my case, they were encouraging for the most part that I had a salable book.

I am so glad you are encouraged Jules.

Thank you all for stopping by. I appreciate your thoughts and your comments.

notesfromnadir said...

You're right, there is a lot of hope for writers nowadays. You have to choose your own path & decide if you want to wait for an agent or publisher to be interested in your work or not. You can also go the ebook route w/ an online publisher. That can take almost as much time as w/ a traditional publisher. Or you can do it yourself w/ Kindle & Smashwords. It's up to you.

N. R. Williams said...

Thanks for your comments. That clarifies a question that I had about e-publishers.

Dominic de Mattos said...

Congratulations on 200 followers by the way!

N. R. Williams said...

Thank you Dominic.

The Golden Eagle said...

There are many options for writers these days, even without traditional means of publishing.

Thanks for the hopeful post! :)

N. R. Williams said...

You're welcome Golden. I do hope that people read this post and consider e-publishing as a viable alternative. Thank you for your comments.

Marian Allen said...

E-publishing is an exciting new adventure, but I want to thank you most for addressing the concept of working through the rejection. We've had people come to our critique group and get offended if we suggested a change to make the story better--even if all we did was correct punctuation! Another member used to come in, toss his manuscript on the table and say, "Okay--make it bleed!"

We have to learn to separate our work from our selves, and only take critiques from people who honestly want to strengthen our work.

Thanks again for a useful and encouraging post.

Marian Allen

N. R. Williams said...

You're welcome Marian. We do need to develop thick skin. It isn't easy, but if our goal is to become brilliant writer's then it is worth it. Thank you for your comments.

Anonymous said...

Excellent post, Nancy! I'm where you are with self-publishing. Yes, I'm getting a book published the first of the year with a small press, but from there I'm going to self-publishing (with this press I have to do 95% of the marketing anyway!!). Yes, one needs to learn the craft and revise and revise, get objective feedback, etc. I don't want to put something "bad" on Amazon/Smashwords. But I'm finding it's fun and relaxing just to do the writing and not worry about querying an agent. In today's publishing world, not many writers are going to get one. It's just the way it is.
Ann Best, A Long Journey Home

Anonymous said...

p.s. Abraham Lincoln is my number one hero! And there are many, many others, "ancient" and modern!!

N. R. Williams said...

Thank you Ann for sharing that. It is a relief to not have to worry about finding an agent or publisher.

Milo James Fowler said...

We've got to be able to learn from rejection. Case in point: Yesterday, Electric Spec notified me via form letter that they'd declined to publish my submission but added the following: "P.S. You confused 'coarse' with 'course' in the first line." Boy, did I feel like an idiot! Humbling myself, I corrected the error and submitted my story elsewhere. Maybe now it'll be picked up.

KarenG said...

This was such a good post. Lexi Revillion wrote something very similar today. It's nice that writers have other options. I like that you said "hire and editor" !! Don't self-publish without getting your work professionally edited first! Because the quality of the work and future sales will pay for the cost multiple times over.

N. R. Williams said...

Ouch Milo, that hurts. It's so easy to miss our own mistakes. Thanks for dropping by.

You're right Karen. Put the best you can out there with professional help.

Thank you both for leaving a comment.

Patricia Stoltey said...

Your most important piece of advice needs to be shouted from the rooftops. If you're going to self-publish, invest in a good editor. I didn't know how much I didn't know until my publisher's editor went through my manuscript. That was an education in itself.

Emma said...

Heya, I hopped over here from Dom's blog,
This is a really lovely post, I particularly enjoyed reading about your heroes, I never knew they were such inspirational people!
Thank you for taking the time to encourage others and give them hope, it's a lovely thing to do.
Much Appreciation,

N. R. Williams said...

Patricia, You are absolutely right. Hire an editor.

Nice to meet you Emma. I'm delighted that you found my post helpful and my heroes inspirational.

Thank you both for leaving a comment, and Emma, thanks for following me.

Tara Maya said...

I came to the same conclusion. Although I've previously published two books and a novella the traditional way, this time I decided to self-publish an anthology of fantasy and sf stories, Conmergence. It's been such an empowering experience, that I've decided to self-publish my fantasy series The Unfinished Song, as well.

Tara Maya
Conmergence: An Anthology of Speculative Ficiton

N. R. Williams said...

Thank you for dropping in Tara and sharing your story. I greatly appreciate it.