Writing Posts

Swapping Perspectives

If you think getting rejected is hard, how hard must it be to be in a profession where you reject people constantly?

I mean, honestly, when phrasing it like that so bluntly, it is hard to not recognize how difficult lives of agents and editors and publishers and publishing houses must be. Of course, I’d never really thought about what it must be like for them. Selfishly–or perhaps just simply naively–every rejection letter I’ve gotten or every time I’ve lost in a writing contest or not been selected for a conference, I just get majorly bummed. Sometimes I’m pissed, if the mood is just right. Or, I’m just left with a feeling of hopelessness, staring down at my manuscript and wondering, “What can I do to help you?” or “Where is the person that is going to love you?” Eventually I recoup, I learn whatever I can from that experience and then I move on; whether that means going back and editing, starting a new project, continuing querying or just taking a nap to refuel. I get my groove back and I stay positive, despite that hour or evening of feeling down and rejected and hopeless (it happens more often than I’d like to admit). I’ve never really considered what it must be like to be the person handing out the rejection, the bad news, the no deal.

I think it was easy to not think about how those on the other end experience it because the emails I received were usually form. There aren’t a lot of chances to connect with an agent directly, because their lives are just so busy. But in the last contest I was in via Twitter, I got a chance to interact with the editors participating directly. They posted their thoughts and their struggles, which forced me to realize that they have to make very difficult choices every day. Sure, it hurts to get rejected from an agency or be turned down from a contest, but what about when your profession is rejecting 95% of the contenders and only taking on 5% (if you can even take on that)? I could understand why someone wouldn’t want to always send personalized rejections, even looking past the time constraints. It has to be emotionally draining, turning away talent and not having a chance to explain why they aren’t for you, while wanting to encourage them to keep going. Or turning away a story you know is great, but being forced to be the mind of reason and recognizing its chances in the market, because your paycheck is on the line and rent is due in two weeks. Or even simply being forced to say no so you can dedicate the proper amount of time to the authors you’ve already committed to. Living a life consisting of being flooded with dozens upon dozens of queries daily, knowing you’re going to have to reject most of them. And that will never change.

Yeah, that sounds like a hellish nightmare, looking at it in that light.

I’ve learned a lot in the past week, but I think some of the most important lessons have been these: just because it’s the first novel you’ve ever written, doesn’t mean it has to be your debut. Or, that if it isn’t your debut, that it won’t be published in the future. The agenting world is built upon luck and perception. And, agents and editors don’t like to reject people. It’s not fun for them. But it is a necessary part of their lives and patience is necessary in order to achieve your dreams. Patience, hard work and a solid foundation of research. Plus, never giving up. I’m thankful I’ve had the opportunity to get an insight to how the people who are in the role of making my dream a reality deal with the same type of emotional struggles and decisions when it comes to finding representation–or, in their case, finding clients and partners. I think, truly knowing that, it might make the next rejection easier and will help me appreciate what they do just that much more.

And when I finally do find my partner insane enough to help my stories be told to the world, my gratitude will be endless.


1 thought on “Swapping Perspectives”

  1. “just because it’s the first novel you’ve ever written, doesn’t mean it has to be your debut. Or, that if it isn’t your debut, that it won’t be published in the future”<—YES. SO MUCH THIS.

    I completely understand why writers want to make their first completed story – their first love, the first thing they finished, the thing they finally committed to and poured hundreds of hours into (not to mention their heart and tears and frustration and souls) – their first publication. AND I think it's important to acknowledge that (1) Our writing will get better with every book we write; (2) If our first book is a first-in-series that doesn't stand alone, our chances of hooking an agent/publisher with it are slim because it's risky for a publisher to commit to publishing multiple books by an author with no established audience or proven track record of success; and/or (3) It may not be the right time for this book because what we've produced doesn't fit the current trends. In no way does any of this suggest that our first books are unworthy.

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