Because book publishing is surrounded by semi-regular failure, no matter if you are an agent, author, or publisher, the ability to deal with adversity is a defining characteristic of anyone who is successful in it.
It’s a lot like baseball, where a high level of failure and adversity are part of any successful player or team.
Tonight is the major league baseball All-Star Game in Washington, DC. Some of the best players in the world will be on display. Many of them were told early in their careers they would never amount to anything and they should quit.
Successful baseball hitters succeed 30-40% of the time, which means they fail 60-70% of the time.
Successful baseball teams might lose 40% of their games. The only way to survive a full season of 162 games is by keeping some measure of perspective. They don’t get too confident or too discouraged.
I think it’s why so many people like baseball. It is a metaphor for so much of life in general.
Everyone makes judgments about themselves and others. In fact, at one time or another, everyone makes decisions for other people, and I am not referring to authoritarian situations where we take charge and mandate some sort of behavior as a parent, supervisor, or leader.
At the core of publishing is making decisions for other people:
“The reader will never go for this.”
“They won’t like this cover.”
“They will love this book!”
It’s soft decision-making when we pre-decide how another person will react to something we do or create. We project either our confidence or lack of it onto someone else and in many cases, we are wrong in our assessment of the situation.
Agents make decisions for others when we decide which editors might like a certain proposal and are often surprised by their reactions.
An obvious choice of a proposal to just the right editor at the perfect publisher is met with ambivalence…at best. A quick “no thank you” within hours or days of sending the proposal surprises even the most experienced agent.
“They were supposed to like this!”
On the other hand, an editor included in the mix as an afterthought since it isn’t the type of book they usually acquire, is met with excitement and an offer to publish within a short time.
Part of this process is making a decision for someone else. And sometimes we are wrong.
Some reading this post might be feeling emotionally down as they made a decision for others by deciding not to send out a written project because, “no one will like it anyway.” So, you keep it on your hard drive and there it sits.
Making decisions for others is a safe way to live. It takes some level of risk-tolerance to send something to people you don’t know and accept whatever comes from doing it.
Some obstacles before us can only be defeated by courage, relentless effort, and good old-fashioned toughness.
In a simple level of biblical application, scripture often refers to spiritual growth in tough, less-than-spiritual sounding terms.
Iron sharpening iron.
Fire purifying gold.
Trials building perseverance.
Running in such a way as to win the race.
Still, I don’t recall too many workshops at writer’s conferences titled, “Quit whining and move on.”
Successful authors don’t make decisions for others and choose to overcome the discouragement which invariably comes their way. They press forward with purpose, surrounding themselves with a cloud of witnesses/encouragers who give them the ability to keep going and take whatever arrows happen to fly their direction.
Maybe I’ll cover this in another post, but if you don’t already have a good cloud in your life, get one.
And by the way, the best way to get courage is to give it. When you are part of someone else’ cloud, you have a good start to one of your own.
It’s weird how this works.