Friday, January 29, 2010

Handling Rejection

Late January is the time when editors and publishers come back from holidays, like the rest of Australia. It's a time of excitement for some, with phone calls and contracts. For me the year began with two rejections.

I emailed a friend and her reply was sympathetic. She's a single mum with two kids and she has just joined an on line dating agency. Of the fifteen 'nuffies' sent to her, the only one she was interested rejected her before they had a meeting. Her take on it was, rejection sucks no matter what form it takes.

I guess I know I've progressed somewhat up the writing ladder. I submitted to my UK publisher and received an email rejection in a couple of days. In between time, I went camping with the family. I sat under the shade , with my feet in a river, drinking a cold beer and dreamt of my next book. It's like the time between buying a lotto ticket and when the numbers are drawn.

When I first began submitting to publishers, the wait could be as long as 9 months, which was a very long time to wait. Because of this long wait, writers who are just starting out often ask the question about multiple submissions. You'll get lots of different answers. I started out being a little indiscriminate about submitting and submitted to many at a time, anticipating rejection. I knew what those large white envelopes addressed to me, in my own handwriting meant when they were sitting in my mailbox. Sometimes I'd bring the envelope in and leave it on the bench and pour myself a large glass of wine before I could bring myself around to opening it.

Publishers get so many submissions, they can't give personal rejections to everyone and many are simply one line standard letters stating that your manuscript doesn't fit their list. My first submission was amateurish in the extreme, poorly written, with a cover letter which was an embarrassment. Thankfully, I received a nice rejection letter from Penguin, encouraging me to keep writing. Their rejection letters seemed varied was only later when I heard one of their editors give a talk that I found out they have rejection letters from about A to K!

Still, I knew I was progressing, when my rejection letters began to sound like someone had actually read the book and evaluated it's potential. My Grandad Marches on Anzac Day was rejected by a number of publishers before it ended up with Lothian. It continues to be reprinted every year. I still have the rejection letters which said 'we only publish works which have commercial potential or literary merit' and the one which said ' we like your book, but it would only sell once a year.'

I comfort myself with thoughts like this when I have a rejection now. However, then I have to pick myself up, read the reasons for rejections and decide whether I can a) improve the manuscript, b) target it to a different publisher or d) put it in the bottom drawer.

My husband is a teacher and yesterday had a professional development session where apparently the topic came up about handling rejection. He piped up with, 'I know all about that, my wife's a writer.' He told them that this was a bad week as I'd had a rejection and he was asked how he handled it and supported it. In a way, existing in my own little vacuum of self pity, I didn't realise it affected him. I share rejection with my on line buddies, who I feel really know what that rejection letter or email feels like. But maybe my friend is right, rejection is the same no matter what form it takes and it sucks.

But tomorrow is a new day and I'm really liking writing about mad chickens at the moment. Until then, my daughter wants a new haircut, I need to tidy the house and decide whether I'm really going to start stripping the skirting boards in the hallway.

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