Monday, September 28, 2009

Staying Motivated and Dealing with Rejection

Life & Still life No.3 by Robert Brackman--1898-1980 It was a big weekend for me, promotion-wise. Saturday I spoke at a writers’ workshop at the Gaston County Library in Gastonia, NC. There were around 75 people there, which is a good-sized group. Yesterday I spoke with my promotional group, The Carolina Conspiracy, at the Waldenbooks at the Carolina Mall in Concord, NC. It went well, too ( but I felt more distracted since my eight year old daughter was with me.)

One thing I picked up on from both workshops was the interest that writers in the audience had in handling rejection. Lynette Hall Hampton spoke on the topic and Joyce Lavene said a few words, as well. People actually spoke out in the middle of the workshop and thanked them for their encouragement.

Submitting material to agents and editors is very difficult.

It feels terrible to get rejected.

We all get rejected.

Lynette talked about the huge number of rejections that she’s gotten in a long career of writing for periodicals and writing books.

Joyce (who has co-authored nearly 60 books with her husband for Berkley Prime Crime, Midnight Ink, Avalon, and others) spoke about planning for rejection. To actually expect the rejections in advance and what your plan for the rejection letters would be: a bonfire, a bathroom papered with them (both have been done by writers she knows), or a treat you give yourself the day you get a bad email or letter.

I have a whole drawer of rejections. I don’t know why I keep them. But they’re there. I was actually rejected by my current agent before. And by many other agents and publishers. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t been rejected.

Joyce mentioned a great point: remember the rejection is a business decision. It’s nothing personal. It might be the right project, but at the wrong time. Continue submitting.

I got rejections.

Things that helped me deal with them:

Feeling I was cheating a little bit. I never followed the ‘no simultaneous submissions’ rule. But I made sure that everyone who did get a query letter from me was well-targeted and researched. I made sure they published the kind of book I wrote: both the subject matter and word count. I went to the bookstore and found books that were similar to mine and got the publisher’s name and the author’s agent and editor’s name (nearly always included in the grateful author’s acknowledgements.) For some reason, this tiny little rebellion made me feel more in control.

Finding publishers that didn’t require I have an agent. Read: smaller national publishers. This could be Bleak House, Poisoned Pen, Midnight Ink, Avalon. They’re big enough if you’re starting out. They’ll put you in the bookstores. Your print run might be smaller, but you’ll sell-through your advance quicker. I was not finding it easy to get an agent, so I decided to go right to the source. And this worked for me. (Now I do have an agent…a must when dealing with a big publisher like Berkley Prime Crime/Penguin Books.)

Working on different projects. I decided it wasn’t wise to write a sequel for a book that hadn’t been accepted by a publisher. So I started writing something completely different, to distract me.

Finally…I got an acceptance email. And another acceptance email.

Keep at it. Don’t get discouraged. Know the rules and follow them…to a point. Make your submissions well-targeted and well-written.

Expect rejections.

And keep on writing.