Rejection is a pretty scary thing. Or even if it's not scary, it's damn frustrating. Every single time I send out a query letter to a publisher, literary agent, magazine or potential boyfriend (kidding. I don't send men query letters; I get my assistant to do that for me) that little bubble of hope and optimism and excitement rises to the surface and I think: "Maybe this time...."
And then I receive a rejection and the bubble pops. Even when I know that this is part of the process, whenever I get rejected (or outright ignored), it takes a little bit of the shine off my hope and optimism. So I start reading quotes like these to make me feel better. Well, not better exactly. Just in good company:
- Western author Louis L'Amour was rejected 200 times before Bantam signed him on. He's now their best ever selling author with 330 million sales.
- Mystery writer Agatha Christie received rejections for 5 years before getting a publishing deal. Her books have now sold over $2 billion.
- Chicken Soup for the Soul writers Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen were the recipients of 140 rejections; their series has sold 125 million copies.
- Romance writer Meg Cabot got so many rejections in three years that she could not lift the bag they filled. The Princess Diaries has now sold 15 million copies.
- Audrey Niffenegger received 25 rejections from literary agents for her debut novel The Time Traveler's Wife. It went on to sell 7 million copies.
- Kathryn Stockett got 60 rejections for The Help, which is now a worldwide best seller and a movie that grossed over $169 million.
- Alex Haley was rejected 200 times over 8 years. His novel Roots went on to sell 1.5 million copies in the first seven months and has now sold 8 million.
- Best seller Jack London collected 600 rejections before he sold his first story.
- Thirty publishers rejected Stephen King's debut novel Carrie. It went on to sell 1 million copies in its first year.
- J.K. Rowling's first book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (original British title) was rejected by 12 publishers.
- Gertrude Stein received rejection after rejection for 22 years before finally getting her poems published.
I could go on and on, but the point is the one thing that all successful authors have in common is perseverance. Or maybe it's a taste for masochism. Either way, I was talking with a friend today and he reminded me that if this is part of the process, then have fun with it. Make it a game! Because here’s the thing: if it takes me 200 rejections—or even 25—before signing that contract, then the faster I get through the rejections, the faster I get to the acceptance.
So that's what I'm going to do. This game (brought to you by Hasbro) is called Please Reject Me, and the winner is determined by the most rejections received prior to publication. And no, self-flagellation doesn't count. And yes, I will be the winner since I am the only one playing this game.
Each day for the entire month of October, I will send out one query—to a literary agent, magazine or publisher. I'll include any rejections I receive in the subsequent post. I'll also include the highs and the lows (I'm talking emotions, not weed), the steps I took and the places I queried.
And I have to admit: I'm terrified of being so transparent and open (with the two people who are reading this blog—hi mom! hi me!), because if I keep my goals, my dreams, my attempts, and my failures to myself, nobody will ever know my deepest disappointments and perceived imperfections. I don't know if it was all the acupuncture needles that were stuck into me like I was a 5'9” pincushion yesterday or if I've just turned a corner on my journey, but I don't care if people see me at my worst.
So whether you choose to watch me feed myself to the lions from the spectators’ seats or join me in this game, let’s go out there and get us some rejections!