I sold my first (and only) picture book manuscript a few years ago. Upon learning the news of the sale, I was, of course, ecstatic.
I was also exhausted, for I braved about a jillion rejections before that long-coveted contract arrived. I soon began to wonder just how dogged I would need to be before I could hope to get a second contract. After all, I’m not as dogged as I used to be; I’m getting to an age where I need to start scheduling naptime.
So late last summer I did a little soul searching and decided that I needed help. I stopped relentlessly sending manuscripts to publishers and started relentlessly sending manuscripts to agents.
I am delighted to report that my efforts were not in vain. I just signed with the wonderful Natalie Lakosil of The Bradford Literary Agency!
I knew right from the start that Natalie would be a great person to have in my corner. Not only has she sold more than her fair share of picture books, but also she has the power to subdue tigers!
Can you believe that? I couldn’t even get my pet rat to stop gnawing the ottoman.
Oh, sure, the spooning tigers thing is cool and all, but can Natalie provide me with some good feedback on the manuscripts I sent her?
I am pleased to report that the answer is a big fat “yes.” I am amazed by how perceptive and insightful her comments are. I am revising and tweaking my stories as we speak.
In other words, my previously scheduled naptime is gonna have to wait.
Is it really a “repost” if said post is from so long ago you haven’t read it before?
Yes. Yes it is.
Sorry about that. On the upside, it will appear new to you, and isn’t that the important thing?
A few years ago, an aspiring writer acquaintance of mine decided to share his feelings with me. Just that afternoon he had received a rejection letter and he was, to put it mildly, miffed. The editors at the publishing house were stupid, he said. And someday he would show them just how stupid they were. He would keep this rejection letter and file it away. Then he would rub that letter in their stupid, stupid faces when he was a big success.
My first thought upon hearing this monologue was, “Should such an angry, spiteful person be writing for children?”
I decided not to share that particular thought, though. Instead, I told him that I, too, keep a careful list of every rejection I ever received – which is true. (What I didn’t tell him was that my list exists for professional reasons rather than personal ones. I use it to avoid accidentally sending an editor a manuscript she has already rejected.)
On another occasion, I listened to another aspiring writer explain her state of mind upon receiving her own rejection letter. Her emotions ran the gamut from self-pity to self-loathing.
My first reaction to her was, “Why is this person writing at all? It’s killing her.” And, yes, I kept this thought to myself, too.
While both of these writers’ reactions were outwardly quite different, they were similar in two significant ways: First, their responses were strongly emotional, which is exhausting. (My philosophy is, if you must to do something to exhaust yourself, at least let it work your core.) Second, both writers found it necessary to understand and articulate the reason why they were rejected.
There can be hundreds of reasons why your story gets rejected, so fretting about why, in my view, is a waste of time. That said, if you must have an explanation to put a painful rejection behind you, my advice is to refrain from blaming either the editor or yourself (which, as I mentioned earlier, will prompt strong emotions, is exhausting, and does not count as exercise). Instead, choose a reason that involves math: The odds are against you.
Never forget that thousands of wannabes are vying for maybe a dozen available slots on a publisher’s list. There’s a reasonable chance that you’ll never get the brass ring, no matter how good you are. It stinks, but it’s true. The best part about using this particular rejection explanation is that it is – at least on some level – always correct.
So now that you have your reason, get back to work. ‘Cause there’s no chance you’ll ever get published if you don’t write and send stuff out. Being dogged is the only way to tilt the odds a bit more in your favor.
For the purpose of this post, I did something I had never done before – counted up all the children’s book rejections on my list. I once heard that Dr. Seuss accumulated as many as 43 rejections before his first book, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, was published. That’s a good number, but I knew I had it beat. I guessed that my rejection total would be around 75.
I wasn’t even close. It was 114.
It gets better. I once received a rejection a day for three consecutive days – an event I found so impressive that I had to mention it on Facebook. “Never before,” I wrote, “have I been so successful at failing.” My friends offered me hearty congratulations on my achievement. A few of them even encouraged me to beat this record. (I did not disappoint; a few months later I got three rejections in two days. So WOO!)
Needless to say, if I got upset every time one of those letters arrived, I would have given up this writing thing a long time ago.
This past September I offically became a Published Author. It is my sincere hope that this fact will help me get my second book accepted a bit faster than the first one. If it doesn’t, however, I won’t fret too much; fretting is exhausting and I really should be working on my abs.