Before I became a wannabe-author, I was a wannabe-lawyer. Or rather, I was a law student. And the reason I became a law student is because I like to argue! I enjoy a right to reply. The idea that one person’s opinion might not be the only answer.
And then I became an unpublished author and realised I had no right to reply!
Because my career, my future and my life-plan currently sit in the hands of a selection of faceless editors. (I say faceless, but nowadays, thanks to LinkedIn and Google, it’s pretty easy to add faces to the names!) And those editors are unassailable. THEIR WORD is the law!
These days any book chosen by an editor for their label will become his or her personal project. He or she will take on your story, and decide how it needs to be edited. He or she will be responsible for packaging your story as a gift for the reading world. And so it is essential that he or she likes. More than that. He, or she, needs to LOVE IT!
And the obvious problem with that is that liking or even loving something, is subjective. One person’s decision whether he loves or hates your work … and all the options in between.
These days authors tend not to submit their own work to editors. Agents act as a middle-man, sifting through the submissions and selecting the ones they deem ‘publisher-worthy’. After agent-led redrafts, the agent then submits the book to publishers he or she has handpicked (in the same way the author originally submits his manuscript to agents that he or she has handpicked.
So, with this extra level of selection and direction, you’d think that your work is being sent to people who will generally appreciate it. However, unfortunately, as I’m gradually learning – one rejection at a time, that’s not always the case!
This week I’ve had a particularly bad week – the lowest point being realising I’d written the wrong date down for the Glee concert I bought tickets to, and only realising on the day I thought I was going (the day after the day I had tickets for! DOH!). So maybe the rejections I received this week weren’t any harsher than the other 8 I’ve received over the past 7 months … but they definitely stung more than normal. One rejection questioned the ‘strength’ of my writing, whilst the other one found my main character difficult to ‘truly engage’ with my main character.
Obviously those are both opinions. Subjective analysis. And completely different analysis to any of the others I’ve received. Because everyone’s opinion is obviously different. (And also, less professionally, because apparently some editors send out set rejection responses!)
But the problem I find every time I get one of these rejections, is they kick up the inner lawyer inside me! I want to DEFEND myself! I want to DEFEND my writing!
No one likes rejection! How many of you have been dumped at some point in your life, and itched for the urge to answer back? To give your side of the story? To tell your ex their reasons for ending the relationship were wrong!
The obvious problem with this is that feelings are subjectives. Your feelings can’t be wrong, because they are your feelings. They are personal to you. Completely subjective. And likewise, the reasons why someone rejects your book are subjective. They’re not wrong. They’re just how he or she feels. The editor’s personal feelings. It’s not a point for debate. And as such you get no right of reply.
Which is particularly annoying in this day and age, when you can type in a name and a company into Google and very easily arrive at an email address. A way to actually reply!
Not that being a sane, aspiring author, you ever would, obviously!
But I guess you can always dream 🙂
And so I guess, getting rejected by a publisher is just one of those situations where you have to take the other option to arguing your case. Taking the moral upper hand. And to take that upper hand, you keep your mouth shut, and show them you’re wrong NOT with a ranting email highlighting all the reasons why they’re wrong, but by holding your head up high and trying extra hard with everything else you write, so that one day you’ll be the ‘J.K. Rowling story’. The writer sticking two metaphorical fingers up at all of the editors who have criticised her work and told her she’d never make it as a writer 😉