Rejections: It’s Nothing Personal
This is the first rejection letter I ever got; I was 14 years old.
It’s a standard rejection letter in every sense: the basic message of ‘sorry, this isn’t for us’ will be familiar to anyone who has ever submitted to a major publisher. The thing that makes this particular rejection a bit notable is because the book that’s being rejected went through several transmutations and eventually became the subject of a bidding war won by Disney in the USA, Hodder in the UK and Sony in Japan, among others. I have it on good authority that the editor who sent the above letter was present at the auction and eventually lost out on the deal on behalf of another publishing house by a very narrow margin: the irony isn’t lost on me.
Publishing is a business of opinions. This is especially vital to understand if you’re currently receiving a lot of rejection letters and feeling a bit down about your writing. Imagine that you’ve been chosen to sit on a panel at a country fair, judging cakes or some other variety of pudding. If you try something and don’t like it, you’re going to reject the product and the person who provided it. Now, despite the fact that you’re in a position of power for this particular contest, yours is only one single opinion. It doesn’t reflect on the quality of the product or the ability of the contributor to impress other people with the same product. However, in this case it is your opinion that counts…so that puts an end to the matter.
This is not always the case in the modern practice of the industry, admittedly. Publishing is an ever-changing, constantly growing business where every decision either empowers or casts doubt on the opinions of the commissioning editors and editorial directors who take on new books and authors.
When an editor looks at your work, he or she is not simply deciding whether or not they like it. Often, liking a project is simply the first rung on the ladder. The editor then has to consider whether it’s saleable, on trend or original enough to break new ground in the field to which it’s being submitted. If one or all of the above is the case, we get to a point where the battle really begins: convincing the rest of the team.
A publishing engine regularly consists of sales, marketing, publicity and art departments who all have to work with editorial to create and drive the collective enthusiasm that will make a book or an author get ‘over’ with the public. Getting ‘over’ is a term often used in American Wrestling and relates to a situation where the audience is so emotionally invested in a particular athlete that they will follow said talent to any venue and buy every piece of merchandise the company produces. In publishing terms, this means building an audience of readers who will loyally follow the career of the author, pre-ordering copies of new books way in advance of publication and regularly pushing their favourite titles on potential new readers.
In summary, what I’m basically saying is this: don’t ever let rejections become personal. If you get one for a project that you yourself believe is polished and worthy of publication, simply resubmit it to another publisher.
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© 2016 Keystone Brown Ltd
David Grimstone (David Lee Stone) from Ramsgate is a bestselling author of series fiction for Disney USA, Penguin USA and Hodder UK.