I was interviewed recently on the subject of rejection letters. The article, possibly with a photo of me, will be printed in the next week or so. I have mixed feelings about the prospect.
So why did I do it? Part of me is aware of the “any publicity is good publicity” school of thought. It’s tough selling books when you’re not a ‘name’. Media coverage is one way to build a profile and, hopefully, boost sales. Indeed, part of me was grateful that I should be considered credible enough to discuss the topic.
As I have blogged previously, I believe rejection letters are a fact of life. There’s certainly no shame in getting one. JK Rowling reportedly got 12 for Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone before she got an acceptance.
No, my main reservation was that I wasn’t sure I had any wisdom to offer on the topic. I told the journalist this and then proceeded to babble away anyway… I’m not sure how useful or newsworthy my thoughts were. As a journalist myself, I don’t think I was all that quotable – but it’s not my article so I guess that’s not my worry.
With the benefit of hindsight, there are two main things I’d say about rejection letters:
1. You’re more likely to get constructive feedback, as opposed to a form letter, if you have an agent. You can use this information to improve your work.
2. It really doesn’t matter how many rejection letters you accumulate. You only need one acceptance letter to get your story published.
Get one letter that says ‘yes’ and the disappointment of one ‘no’ (or several) fades very quickly.
If you’re yet to get that letter, keep the faith. And don’t be afraid of criticism or hard work redrafting. Attend a writing group or take a class. Workshop your manuscript. Put it in a drawer for a while and then read it with a fresh perspective. Ask yourself, honestly, how could it be improved?
Very few of us can claim to be God’s gift to literature. Chances are, there will more blood, sweat and tears required. You need to earn that one letter you’re seeking. When you do, be sure to celebrate.