Monday, February 14, 2005

Reject. Rejected. Rejection.

I got a rejection today to a query I'd written to an in-flight magazine. Around here, that's standard-operating procedure. I've been at this whole magazine thing since November, 2003 and I've racked up a modest 300+ rejections. The numbers would be higher except that I don't always meet my production goal of 2 queries a day. Bad worker, bad, bad.

My typical reaction to a magazine rejection is plain old indifference. I find another magazine to send the idea to and put the rejector on my list for coming up with new ideas. It's just a big machine. Feed it queries, get rejections, turn the rejections into more queries. Eventually, something strikes and I get to write an article. I have about a 5% hit rate, which I think isn't too bad when it comes to cold-selling, which is pretty much what article querying is.

Rejection is a normal part of my magazine business cycle. When it comes to my novel, rejections take on a whole new dimension. My book took me six months to write. While I'm proud that it's not biographical, there is a ton o' me in there. It's a tiny piece of my soul, embellished in a wish and sent out into the mean world.

As my query letter puts it: Flying Close to the Ground details one determined young woman’s attempt to fulfill her dreams without destroying herself.

The young woman is 17, the dream is racing horses, and the problems range from eating disorders to family and friend relationships.

I've sent it out to a small number of agents and editors. Friends who have read it loved it, of course. I've read it too much, so I hate it now. So far, I've gotten 2 agent rejections and 1 editor rejection.

While I can shrug off magazine rejections, book rejections are as painful as a pen in the eyeball.
I haven't waited by the phone so anxiously and been so disappointed since high school. While I do have a system for dealing with book rejections that goes beyond the rocking-and-moaning-in-the-corner stepI've gotten really hung up on agonizing over each rejection.

It's simple really - no one will tell me why they're rejecting my book. In high school, if a guy had said "Nope, I don't want to go out with you. You're fat and weird and have bad hair", I would have been hurt, but I would have been able to do something about it. Go on a diet, find a new hair dresser, get a personality transplant. But when a guy says "I don't like you that way" or "I don't want to ruin our friendship" or "I get so many girls who ask me out, I can't give reasons to all of them and I can only date a tiny fraction of them", that gives me nothing. All I can do is focus on the what-ifs and to run scatter-brained through myself trying to locate the potential problem.

Constructive criticism isn't an oxymoron - it's a gift. So, as you go through this Valentine's Day, breaking hearts, making girls cry and rejecting books, do everyone this small kindness: give a reason why.


At 15 February 2005 at 16:37, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your work is personal, but unfortunately that doesn't make business practices any more personal. Business is still business. So your book mght have been rejected just because certain agents do not reply to unsoliciated mail or manuscripts because they get too many. Or they might not be taking any new clients or maybe they didn't even read it and have no real answer why they rejected you. It's not personal, it's just business,

Guys do this from time to time, a guy will meet a perfectly nice girl have a perfectly nice night at the movies. And for no good reason just never calls her back. He doesn't have any good reason to not call her back. It's not personal, he's just a guy.

At 18 February 2005 at 04:33, Blogger Darlene said...

Well written Anne, I get a peek inside the world of a published writer. I have only sent out about 10 stories to magazines (recently). I got three rejection letters and the rest I am waiting on. Funny how I thought 10 was enough! I was thrilled to get the first rejection letter, I felt like a real writer. But the second rejection made me feel like a real loser.

Just remember how many times the winners had to try and how they kept perservering, you'll get there too.

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