I recently counted up the number of rejections I received on one novel. It’s called THE SOUL ACCORD, and it’s an action-packed, Young Adult supernatural thriller with a killer twist and guess what? It’s been rejected 37 times.
Thirty. Seven. Rejections. And that was only from the most recent round of queries.
I had shopped the novel around a few years ago, added a good 60-some rejections to the ol’ collection, and shelved it for two years after receiving my infamous THISCLOSE rejection.
Whelp, with a new determination, I rewrote the sucker. We’re talking a 70% overhaul. Key scene shakeups, the removal of whole plot elements and the addition of others, all while changing main character names and the story title. And what do I have to show for all my hard work?
Thirty. Seven. More. Rejections.
There have been some partial manuscript requests sprinkled here and there, sure. But ultimately, 37 “NO THANK YOU’S”. Altogether, that’s close to 100 rejections, and that’s just on one novel. I’ve also shopped around no less than three others, each of those collecting 15-20ish rejections before I put them on the backburner for a future time. So you’re talking, ballpark, 150 rejections. You know how much 150 rejections is?
A buttload. That’s how much.
The question becomes, when is the proverbial breaking point at which one accepts defeat? Is it when you hit the 150th rejection? Or the 200th? Is it only when you’ve queried every single literary agent that ever agented? Is it simply when you get tired of looking at the story? Or, do you just never quit? Do you keep revising your query letter and your manuscript endlessly until someone finally says “Yes”, dammit? But what if the premise is the issue and not how it’s written? What if it’s just the idea that will never be marketable in agent land? Is it time to think about self-publication just to let your work see the light of day?
I’m fairly certain these are the thoughts that go through every novelist’s mind while seeking traditional publication.
Here’s my two cents.
First of all, self-publication does not equal failure, just in case anyone thinks I was implying that. For starters, you spare yourself the sheer unabated misery of getting slapped in the face with 150 rejections. Self-pub can be a great thing, especially if you’re able to properly market and advertise your novel. But unfortunately, not everyone has the means and savvy to make themselves stand out from the sea of other self-publishers on Kindle, which is why traditional publication is often seen as that metaphorical light beam sent down from heaven. Only, that beam of light is directed at that statue in the beginning of Indiana Jones. You know, the one that sets off the giant boulder booby trap?
For me personally, I feel like I’ll know when I’m ready to throw in the traditional publication towel, and today ain’t it. I’ve still got fight left in me, and a whole array of novel ideas swimming around in my head that I intend to pitch to every agent who’ll hear it. I’m going to pitch until my pitching muscle is torn beyond repair. I’m going to pitch until someone chains me to the dugout. Because remember, all it takes is one “Yes” to get that foot in the door.
And you know what, 2017 feels like the year of YES.
Keep those dreams alive, folks!
Until next time,