Posted on February 3, 2014
“Puberty is a phase...fifteen years of rejection is a lifestyle.” – Stanford, Sex and the City
How about five years and sixty-plus rejection letters from agents? Two years of agent representation and a dozen rejections from top editors? And after becoming a multi-published author with awards and stories hitting a few bestseller lists, being recruited by a top NY agent…who again wasn’t able to sell me to the Big 6?
Rejection as a lifestyle…hmmm….
My journey to become a published author has had its share of highs and lows. I even gave up writing for a whole year after one particularly brutal rejection from an agent. What I’ve ciphered from being rejected can be summed up by another quote, this one by Sylvester Stallone:
“I take rejection as someone blowing a bugle in my ear to wake me up and get going, rather than retreat.”
I agree with Sly (although, I itch to fix the grammar in his sentence)! Rejection means wake up, it’s time to change your approach, fix the problems and make a story more marketable. It took five years and a lot of rejections for me to learn this caveat and finally hear a “yes!”
Of course, “when one door closes another one falls on top of you”according to Angus Daeyton (comedian). Which is exactly what happened to me at one point when Operation Sheba was making the rounds in NY and caught the attention of an executive editor at a major publishing house. A handful of editors had already rejected Sheba…”great voice, good story, lacks market appeal, can’t place it.” I heard those rejections time and time again. The best ones were, “…write something with more of a commercial slant. I want the next Janet Evanovich or Sophia Kinsella!”
And I would have loved to be the next Jersey Janet or Shopaholic, trust me. If I could have pulled that kind of commercial story from my brain, I certainly would have.
But I digress. Operation Sheba perked Ms. Executive Editor at XYZ publishing house and went to committee. This was IT. My first book was going to sell! A two-book deal had been mentioned and my mind spun with possibilities! I couldn’t sleep or eat and kept my cell phone on 24/7 waiting for the call from my agent.
And that’s when the other door fell on me. Ms. Executive Editor came back and wanted changes. Not simple, easy changes—she wanted a complete overhaul of Operation Sheba. There was too much action and not enough romance. Too many flashbacks. Too many characters. Blah, blah, blah, the checklist was long. She proposed changing my characters, my plot…my very voice.
But, wait, this was IT, right? This was my big break. I had to go through it, didn’t I?
What should have been a high point in my career morphed into the lowest of lows. I felt like an idiot, damned if I did and damned if I didn’t. My hubby, caring and wonderful man that he is, sent me this quote from Bill Cosby: “I don’t know the secret to success, but the key to failure is to try and please everyone.”
I walked away from Ms. Executive Editor both disappointed and relieved. In time, I went on to sell multiple books to Samhain, Carina, and Entangled. I’ve had two books on the USA Today bestseller list, and have multiple Amazon bestsellers.
Along with that modicum of success, I’ve learned a lot about publishing and selling books. I’ve indie-pubbed seventeen books myself, have four active series, teach online workshops, and I began Strong Brew Coaching in 2013 after many of my author friends encouraged me to do so. I’ve been writing blurbs for other authors and helping them plot stories for years. So now, I get fan mail from my awesome readers, AND I help many authors, from those just starting out to seasoned professionals, land agents and sell books. That, my friends, is real success.
Rejection has been a blessing in disguise. At this point in my life, my current publishing path fits perfectly, and I owe much of that to the fact I used rejection as a tool to improve my storytelling abilities and never gave up.
And so, I’ve embraced this last quote (that I’ve tweaked) by famous French writer and physician Louis Ferdinand Celine. “All great authors are built on rejections.”
If you’d like to take advantage of my experiences and improve your odds of landing an agent or selling a book, I’d love to help! Contact me and we’ll go to work on plotting your next story, creating a knockout query, or building a blurb that will make potential readers hit that buy button.