Rejection

Rejection and Listening to the Right Voice

I love hearing about surprise best-sellers. Those books that no one thought would sell, that the pros in publishing turned down, and that then went on to become bestsellers. Even classics.

Anyone who has been in publishing for a considerable time has his or her story. The book we turned down. The one that went on to take the best-seller list by storm. Some surprise hits were published to fill an obvious need, but weren’t expected to do much (see #1 below). Others gathered an impressive pile of rejections from the pros, the folks who “know the market.” And indeed, these folks do know the market. But what they/we can’t do is predict it. Readers always have, and always will, surprise us.

  1. Guess what title was the best-selling book of 2012 in the oh-so-secular country of Norway? The Bible. A new Norwegian translation, to be exact. How’s that for a surprise hit?
  1. Everyone who’s read Chicken Soup for the Soul, raise your hand. That book was rejected 150 times. But authors Canfield and Hansen didn’t quit—and the book has now sold over 125 million copies. (That’s a LOT of hands!)
  1. Surprises are happening right now. The Rabbit Who Wants to Fall Asleep—an indie Children’s picture book by Carl-Johan Forssén Ehrlin, which promises it can send any child off to sweet slumber, sold 800 copies the week of August 16, 2015. The week of August 23, 2015? It sold 29K print copies! According to Publisher’s Weekly, it’s “rumored that world English rights to the book…were acquired by Random House for seven figures.”
  1. Twenty-Six publishers told Madeline L’Engle A Wrinkle in Time was a loser. When she finally found a publisher, her book was honored with the 1963 Newbery Medal and now boasts over 8 million sales worldwide. (I love this book and it’s sequels. Seems to me the real losers were those 26 publishers…)
  1. The biggest surprise so far of 2015, though, has been Clever Polly and the Stupid Wolf by Catherine Storr. This children’s book was written…wait for it…in the 1950s! Puffin Books rereleased it at the beginning of July, and the book has not only topped the children’s best-seller list, but it has outsold popular adult titles, including The Girl On The Train, the acclaimed thriller by Paula Hawkins.
  1. Back in 1996, not even author Dava Sobel expected her book, Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time, to accomplish much in sales. After all, it was a book about…well, longitude. But when it released in 1996, it took off, hitting The New York Times best-seller list, and staying there for at least 6 months. (Just goes to show you that if you find a great story and tell it well, readers will respond.)
  1. Last but not least, the international publishing world is enamored of a Dutch novel, The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83 ¼ Years Old, which has stayed on the Dutch bestseller lists since it released last summer. The topic, that the way we treat the elderly speaks volumes about what we value as a society, has captured headlines—and readers–for a year. As has the fact that no one knows who really wrote it. The only author listed is the titular Hendrik.

So there you have it. Books that were rejected went on to succeed. In big ways. Titles no one expected to do much…did. MUCH. In the situations where books were rejected, the authors had a choice: listen to the naysayers and give up or keep trying. Many of those listed above heard the voice of rejection over and over and over–and didn’t listen. They held onto their passion and belief in what they were doing.

May we all listen to the One Voice that gave us this task of writing, of using words to share His truths. May we seek His direction, and if He says keep going, may we ever be obedient. No matter how many rejections we receive. And if He whispers a passion deep into our hearts, may we do all we can to fulfill his call, no matter what others say. Keep your hand to the plow, folks, until the Master sets you free.

 

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Rejection Hurts Us, Too

My office receives many submissions every week and we must send out many rejections right away. Those aren’t so painful. Rejected manuscripts include: 1.) Game plans on how to pick up more and hotter women. 2.) Horror novels. 3.) Stream of consciousness meanderings. Others are near misses. The near misses …

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To Those Who Went Before Us…Thanks A Lot

Any author who experiences disappointment is bound to ask the question, “What am I doing wrong?” Using Rick Warren’s first line of The Purpose Driven Life, “It’s not about you,” might just be one explanation of why it is so hard to get published and succeed at it. Whether you …

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A Picky Reader

Having a book rejected by an agent or editor is puzzling, especially when the agent or editor have stated they are seeking just what we’re offering. Almost every day, my office must decline books that should be a fit. Usually the reasons are concrete (too long, too short, writing doesn’t …

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3 Reasons Why Rejection is Good

I’ll be the first to admit that rejection doesn’t feel good, so how can it be good? Well, a rejection: …allows you to close the door and move on to the next opportunity. …shows that the other person doesn’t share your enthusiasm enough to be your partner. Learning this allows …

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Rejection: A Fact of the Writing Life

Rejection is a fact of life. Especially the writing life. As one crusty publishing veteran said: “Welcome to the industry that will break your heart.” Makes you feel all warm and fuzzy, doesn’t it? But let me put a little perspective on it. I admire writers. You put your souls …

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And Another Thing, Your Baby is Ugly

Have you noticed how much of public and private discourse so quickly moves from a simple disagreement to a personal attack?

I was attending a sporting event not long ago and the people sitting around me in the stands seamlessly moved from displeasure how their team was performing to calling the players, coaches and referees all sorts of names that had nothing to do with how they performed. 

Of course, anonymity (and sometimes adult beverages) is the key to bravery in personal attacks, so I doubt many would be so brave to confront someone in-person.

Anyone who has a message board or comment section to their blog knows the pain of responses that get personal and move from, “I disagree” to “You are an idiot and I hate you” within a few words.  In most social media interaction, we often need to remind people to keep it civil, because they simply can’t control themselves.

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Five Myths About an Agent’s Rejection

1.) The agent hates me. Unless you approached her and said something along the lines of, “You and your kids are ugly and you have lousy taste in manuscripts,” a rejection shouldn’t be personal.

But if you are worried that you unintentionally offended an agent or other publishing professional, take action. Email to let him know you have been worried about why you may have been the cause of offense, followed by an apology. Chances are good the other person had no idea he should have been offended, and has been enjoying the beach, not thinking a thing about the “incident” that has you worried. Or, if he really was offended, he should accept your apology. Then you can make a fresh start.

2.) The agent was making up an excuse to reject me.  Except when writing blog posts, we don’t have time to wax long and poetic. But if an agent says anything beyond a catchphrase such as, “This work is not a good fit for me,” then I would consider the advice. Those phrases might include allusions to the quality of writing, slim market for your type of work, or other hints as to why your work was rejected. This hint could help you learn what might work better for you in the future.

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Handling Disappointment

by Steve Laube

I do not like to experience disappointment. I do not like rejection, even when it isn’t my personal project being turned down. I do not like to be the bearer of bad news.

And yet I do experience disappointment, rejection, and the telling of bad news…every week. That is the nature of the arts.

The arts (meaning music, writing, dance, and painting) is comprised of thousands of hours of practice; long days of solitude; truckloads of self-doubt; in a world where everyone is a critic.

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