Friday, September 23, 2011

Is Rejection Good for You?

Who doesn't need one of these every now and then?

There's been a lot of chatter lately about the e-Book market being flooded with crappy books from writers who would, under traditional publishing circumstances, not only be rejected by major publishers but also by most discerning agents. In other words, their writing sucks. But being able to publish your own book these days means you don't have to go through the often terrible trials that most editors can put upon a budding author by lambasting said literary neophyte with rejection after rejection.

Like my dad always says, "But that's the job."

I entered into the literary arena as a traditionalist back in the early '90s, having started out at a local newspaper, then working my way up to regional magazines, and eventually national publications. I wrote my first publishable short story in 1991 after four or five years of writing nothing that was publishable. Or, at least, nothing that was ever accepted by a decent literary magazine or journal. Then I went to writing school where I began my first full-length novel that was to become As Catch Can and later, The Innocent. It sold to Delacorte almost immediately upon my graduation and for a time, it looked like rejection, and the ugly horse she road in on, was a thing of the past. Forever.

Then came the dismantling of my publishing house, and "Catch" was largely forgotten about. I published one more novel with the biggies, Godchild, but by then, the Big 6 were already entering into a tailspin of consolidation and house cleaning. Having earned a major six-figure advance I was now out on my ass as they say, and only as good as my next manuscript.

I wrote that manuscript and while my agent loved it, it was rejected by the big six. So I wrote another one. That one got rejected. It wasn't the quality of the writing I was told, it was my having not earned out my advance. But that wasn't my fault I bellowed. No one wanted to hear it. My argument was rejected.

Still I labored on, and wrote yet one more novel. Same story. No one would take me on.

In the meantime, other forms of rejection awaited me. Friends rejected me for being down in the dumps. My max'd out credit cards rejected me. My emptying bank accounts rejected me. A good night's sleep rejected me. Health rejected me. My ability to quit smoking rejected me (I've since been smoke free for 6 years, but bear with me) Even my new lovely wife, who was growing inpatient with my inability to make a living, rejected the crap out of me. So did her family. They wanted me to give up full-time writing and go to work for my dad's business, whom I had worked for in the past while honing my skills. Problem was, if I worked full-time, I couldn't write. And I knew in my heart that the only way to break through the hell-hole of rejection was to write. Not write "on the side" as some of them were saying.

So I persevered, even when my wife divorced me. My life might have entered into a tailspin of rejection and humiliation for a year or so, but always, the writing was my constant. It was the light I could rely upon in the midst of all that darkness.

When Moonlight Falls got accepted by a small press, and did very well I was elated. Later when The Remains was accepted by StoneHouse Ink and produced as an e-Book first, I was entirely skeptical that anything good could come out of it. I had no idea about e-Books and initially rejected the notion that they would replace paper as the dominant manner of reading. But when it eventually hit the Top 100 and then the Top 20, I was hooked.

You would think that I might cut the cord at that point, and kick rejection in the ass and simply self publish from that point forward. But something in my gut told me to continue with the traditional route. The process, while grueling and often times frustrating, still worked for me. Which is why I prefer to continue working with an agent who reads my manuscripts first for their quality and promise. Later on, my publisher will do the very same thing. If they reject it, there's probably a good reason. You know, like it sucks or something (Luckily this hasn't happened yet...I'm on a roll as they say).

Now I'm not only working with StoneHouse Ink, but I'm signing a 7 book deal with Thomas & Mercer, potentially the biggest powerhouse publisher on the block. I have many more novels in me that will have to be read by my agent first and then my editor at T&M. Even though I could simply publish the novels myself, I choose to go this route and risk being rejected yet again.


Because for me...and I speak only for me...risking rejection makes me a better writer. And it's more important for me to have a reader tell me Concrete Pearl or Scream Catcher was "brilliantly written," than to be in the Amazon Top 10. Ok, well, I lie, that rocks too (The Innocent graced the Top 10 for 7 weeks...). But if I'm going to be a writer who not only has staying power, but whose audience continues to grow and expand all over the globe, then every now and then, a little ass kicking might do me some good.



  1. I feel you there! I started submitting stories for publication when I was sixteen, and I know that the rejections I've received have not only made my writing better, but they also gave me a lot more personal fortitude in the face of other kinds of rejection (like when I got turned down from from universities on the same day). Getting rejected also made the acceptances that much sweeter. :D

  2. Bad writing will always be rejected.
    I guess the question to ask yourself before tossing your book into the marketplace without first having it vetted by a trusted source is;
    Do you want to be rejected by agents/editors/publishers or rejected by readers?
    I wonder which is more damaging to the long term career of an author?