Sunday, 22 February 2009

The R Word

Hands up who thought the 'R' in the title stood for that dreaded word - REJECTION!!
I've decided rejection is too harsh a word for such a fragile ego as mine so henceforth I shall use the term 'not accepted yet.'
Anyone who's with me on that score start using it in your blogs and on your websites - let's abolish such negative language and fill our writing lives with optimism and hope. Let's make this a crusade. All those with me shout 'I'.

No, the 'R' in my title stands for Reality.
A reality we must learn to face because once we name the demon it has no power. (I read that somewhere.)
The reality of trying to get that elusive publisher or agent is that, if we are 'not accepted yet', it is because we haven't delivered the goods.

We've all heard the stories of writers doing the rounds of 100+ agents and it's the 102nd that finally says 'yes'.
This might be true, but I am somewhat sceptical, because are we told the truth about the rewrites and revisions that have most likely been done along the way?
How often do we read the stories of overnight success yet when you probe a little deeper you realise that the author had spent years writing and submitting. They consulted a literary consultancy; they did courses; they have had other books published though perhaps not in the genre they have achieved the greater success in.

What I'm saying is, if we are 'not accepted yet', (are you getting the hang of this?), instead of wasting our energy on getting angry, upset, ranting to the world that everyone in the publishing industry is a fraud, a fake and they haven't got a clue, we should take a deep breath, step back from ourselves and our work and say - "What can I do to improve this? Where am I going wrong?"

Yet again I hear those cries of - "But what do you know?"
All I can say is - "Not as much as I'd like to know but I've been interviewing authors for this blog so we can all read about success stories happening to ordinary writers like us. To give us hope and to make us realise that actually there is no conspiracy."

On another site recently, and this writer's rant certainly wasn't an isolated incident, a writer had been told by an editor who had been working in the industry for over twenty years and who specialised in this particular genre, that the novel as it stood was well-written but the premise was old-fashioned and unoriginal, therefore he couldn't see a market for it. The writer exploded on a messageboard and accused the aforementioned editor of not knowing the market, not understanding the genre and on and on...

Okay, let's face it, liking a novel is a purely subjective matter for everyone, there are so many influences; reader's preference, what mood they're in, favoured writing style, bad hair day...
But - someone who works in the publishing industry will also have an idea of what works, what doesn't, what's popular, what's old-fashioned, what's been done to death, what's going to be big in the market over the next few months because we all know how far ahead the publishing industry works. A book gets accepted today, the earliest it will be out is probably late next year. So how can we, as amateurs, be so dismissive of their comments - whether we like it or not, they know more than us.

So, we must all learn to stand back and, if we keep getting the dreaded 'not accepted yet' letters or emails, we have to realise that if this is what we continually hear we must try and make the work better than it currently is.

And if you want to know the odds on being accepted, and this will add a harsh dose of Reality to the 'not accepted yet' pot - read this interview.
This agent is not alone - I've heard his sentiments echoed by other agents.
I went to a talk by a children's book agent last year and she said that from the 300+ submissions she gets each week, she is lucky to find 3 that she wants to read to the end. And that's reading to the end of the short submission, not even the whole ms. So, only 1% gets her interest.Scary isn't it but it's the reality of the business. A reality we must face up to if we want to pursue this path and a reality that once we name it and understand it for what it is, we can try and overcome by creating the best writing and the best book we possibly can.

Say after me - "I'm not accepted yet but I will be."


SarwatC said...

The agents who say 'N.A.Y'?
Got some bad news, it doesn't get any easier on the other side. Then you have publishers who say nay, the editors who say nay, then booksellers who say nay (those celebrity kids' books need shelf space too, you know!)...
If you deal with it now, it'll help you to keep your head later.

Welshcake said...

"I'm not accepted yet, but I will be."

There. I feel better now.

Good post, and a good comment above me.

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