|Fall wildflowers in my yard.|
I interviewed with two people, the first of whom asked if I could take rejection. Good thing I didn’t laugh out loud. Most people are unfamiliar with the publishing industry. They have no idea that authors don’t just bundle their books off to printers to be published. They don’t discern between self-publishing and traditional publishing. They have no idea just how much rejection is involved. Of course an interview isn’t the time to educate the public about the harsh realities of publishing, so I merely assured my interviewer that I handle rejection just fine. But do I?
I’ve received two rejections this week. Having an interview lined up helped temper them, but still. One was a very conscientious, although long overdue, rejection from a publisher regarding a children’s book I wrote which focuses on language extinction. The editor liked the topic, but felt there was a problem with the execution. I don’t know if I agree, but I certainly appreciate her response. The other was generated through a little game I participated in on a literary agent’s blog. The gimmick went like this: If you sent your query out a certain week, she promised to give you a brief explanation of why it didn’t float. I was a bit leery about my comparison books, which were MEAN GIRLS and OLIVER TWIST. I mean, a lot of books about bullying and queen bee-ish behavior use MEAN GIRLS as an example, so I was afraid it was too blasé. And with the latter choice—well, I felt a bit presumptuous comparing my writing to a Dickens work.
You’ll never guess what happened! I got the promised rejection cum explanation. It said, Mean Girls was very YA (my book is MG) and Oliver Twist was very…old. Dot. Dot. Dot. In short, she didn’t admonish me for comparing myself to a timeless genius; she insinuated that Oliver Twist is outdated. Irrelevant to young people. Oliver Twist! I'm sorry. I just can't live in a world where that's the case. (I'll have to watch some reruns of The Wire.)
Anyway, at first I considered this to be the snidest rejection I’ve received so far. But after I thought more about it (Like I said, over-thinking is what I do), I found I wasn't defensive on my own account. I mean, poor Charles Dickens! I'm sure he's cringing. I’d hate to be as old as he is. Not to mention, dead.
Seriously, though, this unhelpful exercise paid off, and I'm grateful because now I know I don’t have time for games. Early on, there might've been time, but I've since upped my game to the next level. I'm to the point where getting an agent, any agent, is no longer the directive. It's like a shift in the balance of power--and that's good news.
From now on, I will treat my writing the same way I treated my interview, and I urge you all to do the same. Prepare yourself, devote time to it, prioritize, get in the mindset, launch. The query process is a ritual too—and rejection is something that comes with the territory. No more. No less. Read only as far as no, and then move on.
Okay, so that worked for like a second. Now I'm thinking I'll hear back about the job and it'll be a no-go, because things come in threes in advertising. Rejections are probably no exception. With my luck, there’ll be a resurgence in Dickensian tales with a modern YA twist—and they’ll all be New York Times best sellers and none of them mine. In the meantime, while I'm waiting for disaster to ensue, let's hear tips on how to cope with rejection…in all of its incarnations.