Writing Craft

Even the Best Get Rejected

Jim Rubart laughing at Steve Laube’s rejection letter

I’ve written about rejection before and yet it is a topic that continues to fascinate.

Recently Adrienne Crezo did an article on famous authors and their worst rejection letters. I thought you might enjoy reading a couple highlights of that article and some additional stories I have collected over the years.

  1. George Orwell’s Animal Farm was rejected by Alfred Knopf saying it was “impossible to sell animal stories in the U.S.A.”
  2. Stephen King’s Carrie was rejected with the statement that the publisher was “not interested in science fiction which deals with negative utopias.  They do not sell.”
  3. William Golding’s Lord of the Flies was rejected by an agent saying it was “an absurd and uninteresting fantasy which was rubbish and dull.”
  4. Frank L. Baum’s Wizard of Oz was rejected because it was “too radical of a departure from traditional juvenile literature.”
  5. William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream received this rejection, “September 29: The most insipid, ridiculous play that I ever saw in my life.”
  6. Jim Davis, creator of Garfield, was told that his comic would never succeed because of the popularity of Snoopy. “Too many animals, and cats don’t sell.”
  7. Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 received a rejection letter saying “I haven’t really the foggiest idea about what the man is trying to say.”
  8. Rudyard Kipling was told by an editor to stop submitting queries with the words, “I’m sorry, Mr. Kipling, but you just don’t know how to use the English language.”
  9. Ted Dekker’s Heaven’s Wager was rejected by an editor who wrote, in essence, “You are a good writer but you have not created memorable characters like those found in the writings of Orson Scott Card.” That editor was Steve Laube. 😮
  10. James Rubart’s Rooms was turned away at a writers conference by an agent who wrote, “Your protagonist is not very likable. I cheer for his failure because he is so arrogant.” That agent was Steve Laube….

Take heart. Even the best get filleted.

And sometimes the one wielding the knife isn’t always right.

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Lawsuit over Hyperlink?

In Canada a man is suing another person for linking to allegedly damaging web content on a web site (the suit is currently before the Canadian Supreme Court).  A big “thank you” to Mac Slolcum for writing about this issue last week. In his article Mac asks the pertinent question, “Is a link on your web site equivalent to an endorsement of that content?” Think about it for a second. If you click the “Like” button on Facebook aren’t you telling your “friends” that you endorse that product, idea, video, or web site? What about when you re-tweet someone’s comments and then link to their site (like I hope you do with my blog posts!

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All About E

This was the year of the E word. “E-Books.” The topic replaced the other “e” word…the Economy…as the number one topic among authors, editors, publishers and agents. And the news media reported every nuance with breathless excitement. The iPad, the iPhone4,  the Droid, the avalanche of tablets, the Kindle, the Nook, and a deluge of e-reading devices, all commanded our time and attention.

But the story is not over. In fact 2011 promises to continue this conversation as our industry writhes in chronic pain from its various twists and turns.

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E-Book Buyers Buy More Books

New research by the Book Industry Study Group (BISG) has made some interesting discoveries.

E-book consumers say they are buying more books overall, but fewer in print, and are decreasing their total dollars spent More than 40% of e-book readers have reduced the number and dollars spent on hardcovers and paperbacks. Retailers are becoming more important than publishers as a source of information about e-books. General fiction and mysteries are the fastest-growing e-book genres. More respondents received e-readers as gifts than bought them for themselves.
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Ten Commandments for Working with Your Agent

By request, here are my Ten Commandments for working with your agent. Break them at your own peril.

Thou shalt vent only to thine agent and never directly to thy publisher or editor. Thou shalt not get whipped into a frenzy by the rumor mill fomented by internet loops, groups, Facebook, or blogs. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s success. Be content with thine own contract. Thou shalt not get whipped into a frenzy by the rumor mill fomented by internet loops, groups, Facebook, or blogs.
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That Conference Appointment

You snagged one of those valuable 15 minute appointments with an agent or an editor at the writers conference. Now what? What do you say? How do you say it? And what does that scowling person on the other side of the table want? What if you blow it?

Many excellent posts have been written on this topic (see Rachelle Gardner and Kate Schafer Testerman for example) but thought I would add my perspective as well.

What advice would you give to a beginning writer about attending a writers conference and meeting with an editor or an agent?

Go in with realistic expectations.

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Art of War for Writers

Periodically I plan to recommend a title or two for you to read. I’ve always enjoyed this form of “word-of-mouth” marketing, thus I will “pay it forward.” 🙂

Yesterday afternoon I received James Scott Bell’s The Art of War for Writers: fiction writing strategies, tactics, and exercises (published by Writer’s Digest Books). With interest I took the book home and devoured it. Not literally of course, as I’m not sure what the pages would have tasted like with extra cheese. But I could not keep from turning the pages with delight.

James Scott Bell has done an immeasurable service to writers everywhere. This little book is chock full of sage advice. Loosely based on the ancient classic The Art of War he consistently nudges the reader with nuggets of wisdom that are hard to assail.

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The Wave of Digital Creativity in Books

I went to high school in Hawaii (I know.. a rough life) where I learned the joys and perils of body surfing. That experience is a great metaphor for the new “waves” of digital revolution we are seeing in the publishing world.

The key to great body surfing is waiting for the right wave and then time your push just right. The ride is exhilarating (I still remember riding inside the tube of a perfect wave off the beaches of Kauai). BUT if you catch the wrong wave or mistime the push, there is no ride. Or worse, catch a wave that throws you wildly into a bunch of rocks…

But unless you are in the water and making attempt after attempt you will never achieve the perfect ride.

I see this metaphor applied to the new world of digital publishing. It is really fun to play a small part, but even more fun to watch others be extremely creative in their experiments. There are some very bright and exciting people trying new things in merging the traditional book with all things “interactive.”

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ICRS / CBA Bookseller’s Convention

Today is the official opening of the convention in Denver. This year will be my 28th consecutive ICRS (International Christian Retail Show) or CBA as we veterans still call it (Christian Booksellers Association Convention). I absolutely love the experience. I’ve attended as a retailer, as an exhibitor, and now as an “industry professional.” I find it amusing that each name badge is color-coded to help exhibitors know whether the person in their booth is a bookseller (and thereby a potential customer) or a browser, like me. What makes it particularly fun is that the “agent” color is black….the color of an agent’s soul.

PRO: There is nothing like the experience of walking the floor of the world’s largest Christian bookstore. Everything is there, the good, the bad, and the outrageous (like the balloon art crucifix or the painting of a junkie shooting heroin into the arm of Jesus). The spirit is electric. It can be overwhelming, but ultimately it is a picture of God at work. As a writer you can meet key people, network with fellow writers, collect catalogs (those that aren’t digital), and simply increase knowledge of what the industry is all about.

CON: Unrealized expectations. Too many writers think the convention should be all about them. It isn’t. Disappointment is palatable with some folks at the end of the experience. Their publisher didn’t pay enough attention to them; not enough people came to their signing; no editor was available for an appointment…etc. Go to the convention with modest expectations and the chance of disappointment with be minimized.

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