If you want to make a living writing books (or do anything in the arts on a professional level), you have to be thick-skinned. Rejection, insults, they all come with the job. Though, having written for a publishing house and as an indie, one of the perks of being an indie is not selling books to publishing house editors. If I write a book and think it’s good, if I send it out to readers and they think it’s good, I publish it. No editor stamp of approval is needed.
I was around 22 or 23 when I got my first editor rejection letter. I’d just finished writing my first book and thought it was the best thing since The Vampire Lestat. Seriously. Newbie authors are delusional that way. We imagine our query package will cross an editor’s (or agent’s) desk and nine pages in they’ll be so overcome by the awesomeness of what’s before them that they’ll fall all over themselves to get to the phone so they can call the author and beg to buy the book.
Spoiler alert. That rarely happens. I mean, rarely. More typical is the delusional author, happily living in fantasy land, shocked stupid by a rejection letter instead of receiving “The Call.” When I got my first rejection letter, I was devastated. I went around my apartment all day feeling like a zombie. I think I was in shock. It really hadn’t occurred to me that my amazing and wonderful manuscript would be rejected. And the rejection wasn’t even personally written. It was a form rejection letter.
My boyfriend (who’d become my husband) kept asking me what was wrong. Finally, at the end of the day, he asked me again, and I completely broke down and told him my manuscript had been rejected. I sobbed against him, heartbroken and feeling like a failure. He held me and let me cry. He’d seen how hard I’d worked on the story, and he knew how much publishing it meant to me. To this day, I’m grateful I had him with me that day.
This is where writers either become authors or go on to do something else.
The next day I was still hurting, but I went back to my computer and started writing. Somehow, someway, I’d become a published author. I knew that no matter how many rejection letters I got, I’d keep going. Being a published author wasn’t an option for me, in my heart, I knew it’s what I had to be. I could not NOT write.
So I sucked up the heartbreak, and I started writing again.
I lost count of all the form rejection letters I got on that story, but there were many. And you know what? Those editors were right. That story was not publishable. Nothing I wrote back then was. But I kept at it. I kept writing, and every day I got a little better. And eventually, I sold a book. That night, my husband celebrated with me!
New authors ask experienced authors for publishing advice, as though there’s some secret way to get published. There’s not. You have to write. Work on your craft. Shake off the rejections. That’s how you become published.
Now, I’m an indie (and I love it), and I don’t need the approval of an editor that my books are good enough to publish. I have readers who tell me that. So the moral of this story is to never give up. Even if you fail ten times, get back up and try again. Everybody fails, and it’s okay.
Never give up!