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Published June 8, 2016

We will be posting our show about twitter pitching soon, and we will be eventually doing a show about pitching at conferences with actual, live people. Since you’ll be able to listen to a podcast about that, I thought that maybe now would be the time to transition to talking about self-publishing. But first, a word about rejection.

I have been thinking about rejection because a writing student at my college came to visit me last week, and we talked a lot about trying to publish her novel. She wasn’t obsessed with rejection, but it did come up as a painful thing. How can you avoid it? How can you get used to it?

Both self-publishers and authors who try a more traditional route are going to get rejected. Of course, editors, agents, and publishers will reject someone who sends out queries. How can a self-published writer be rejected? The cruelest cut of all, my friends, by readers. I think that in the case of the traditional route, most of the rejection comes at the beginning of things, and in the case of self-pubbing, when you are at the end of the process, after you have created your work and released it into the world, well, that’s when readers might choose to ignore you.

I have no advice to help you avoid rejection. If someone tells you they do, they are not being honest with you. Every writer at every level gets rejected. Yes, they do. If you throw Stephen King or Nora Roberts at me, I’ll say have you talked to them lately? 😀 Everyone is rejected. I know. You’ve written the best book you can and you believe in it. It’s going to get rejected anyway.

Here’s how I think it works. Sometimes, authors have epiphanies that their writing needs work. In that case, rejections are warranted, and off you go to ramp up your game. This is a good idea. Also, sometimes queries need revising. Or you need a more attractive cover for your e-book. Sometimes we can clearly see why we are rejected.

There is a point, though, where you’ve been writing for a while. Let’s say you’re on your seventh novel, and your craft is solid. Or you have created an ebook that glows like an emerald. You are pretty sure that this is an example of your best work, and it is as good as many things that are out there. Or your agent has a book that they are peddling for you, and it’s just not getting any offers (yes, Virginia, this happens a lot. There is no end to the ways they can say no to you in publishing). It is hard to not be disappointed, bitter, angry, frustrated when you know you’ve done a good thing and it’s going nowhere. Now, maybe years later you will cringe and figure it out, but let’s just go with the premise that the world is ignoring your genius. Why? WHY???!!!

A lot of reasons. When you are going a traditional route, no matter how beautiful your prose, no matter how skillful your plotting, no matter how vivid your characters, it has to connect with someone. Think of an agent or an editor as the center of a target. You might get pretty close to the center (and it’s a good sign if people are asking you for partials or fulls), but hitting dead center with one arrow is hard. There is no magical secret to what someone in publishing want, but they know it when they see it. Sometimes, some books aren’t what is being published or aren’t seen as commercial. Sometimes you shoot your arrow at the wrong target. Rejection letters always say things like you want an agent who is passionate about your book, and that’s true. Someone besides you has to care about it, because they too are going to get a lot of no. It’s not comforting to hear this. It feels like publishing is pretty arbitrary. And, hey, yeah. That. You do the best job you can, and then you have to hope for an opening, luck, an acceptance. As we mentioned last time, persistence is key.

BUT let’s pretend that for whatever reason, you’ve decided traditional publishing or even reputable small press publishing isn’t happening for you and you’ve decided to take another approach. You are going to self-publish. If you thought you had to be tenacious before, well, you are on a whole ‘nother level now. Congratulations! You’ve written a book. Now you must print, promote, publish, market and fulfill orders on your book. It is so rare that a book is put into the world and people discover the book on its merits (I’m looking at you, Marko Kloos!). However, most of us have to do a little bit more to let people know about it. Your job is to also be persistent. You need to get the word out about your book and create buzz, but not do so much marketing that people hate your bad internet self.

Laying down some truth. Rejection follows an author like a second shadow. We are all shouting into a void. You are playing a long game. Release the best book you can. Keep doing that. Keep finding opportunities to present yourself as an interesting person. Talk about your book when appropriate, but don’t talk about it so much people aren’t interested in you or the book. Small victories. If your blog has 30 regular readers, build on it, brick by brick. It’s work, a lot of work, both the writing and getting the word out, being the author persona you want to be, all that. It’s a job.

I don’t say that in a denigrating sense. It’s the best job if you want to write. But…but…I hate people you say. Don’t forget to work within your constraints. Even introverts can build writing careers (I’m looking at you, Kia Asamiya!). Do nothing you do not feel comfortable doing. But be creative. You wrote a book, right? You can be creative.

All that said, no matter how brilliant your book, no matter how hard you work, no matter how hard your people try, there it is. Rejection. What can you do? Move forward. Submit and submit and submit. Look at why you’re writing. If you are writing for recognition, remember it’s a long game. Me? I write because I have stories to tell. I’m already winning. I’d like to take you along with me, and that’s where I have to put in my work. I understand that I have to write well and I have to wait until you find my books. I will provide every opportunity for you to do so when you look my way. I will wait patiently, and when I am rejected, I will send that book out again. Or I will send a new book out. Because rejection is a fact of a writer’s life. I will not let it defeat me.

Don’t let it defeat you. Find your reasons to write. Build your patience. Enjoy the journey, not the outcome. And…knock ’em dead by writing the best books you can and being the best new author someone finds.

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