Monday, August 28, 2006

Literary Agony and the Business of Rejection

Dear Dead Beat,

I'm in literary agony. I've submitted my manuscript (partial) to several publishers in January and the rejection letters are trickling in. Two pubs requested a full and one sent it back this spring. The other still has it. I rocket between obsessing about the book, to feeling utterly bereft, to imagining a positive outcome that fuels me for a while. I've started writing a new book and I write for a paper so my obsessing hasn't stopped me writing--but what to do? Now I know why so many writers drink. --

Dear Agonised,

You've come to the right place. Uncle Dead Beat has much empathy. This submission business is just one of the many chores of being a writer. The trick is to become detached about it all. Make it the business it is. Do your research well and identify suitable publishers for your work. Much work gets rejected since it is being sent somewhere unsuitable. This can be slow work but do it well. Send out a sample and query letter as you did to a sizeable number of publishers. When the rejections come back, and as you know they surely will, (this is mainly due to the huge quantity of work they are receiving and the few books they can actually publish) simply tick them off your list and find replacement publishers to send your samples to. One in/one out. And keep at it. Don't think about it. It's not personal. It's the reality of the publishing business.

Besides you have done well. Two publishers requested your full manuscript, meaning you have a good sample work and most probably a good query letter. Even if the full manuscript gets rejected, you are further along the line than most. Well done.

If you do all of this and the work is good enough, sooner or later it will find a home.

Rejection is part of the business, and really it is the wrong word. It is far to negative. Your work may be unsutiable for many reasons which have nothing to do with the quality of it.

But on the subject of quality Dead Beat warns all writers out there to be sure their work is really at the stage to be submitted. Again a big proportion of work gets sent back because it is not really at a publishable state. This does not mean that it is not good. It just means it is being sent out too early - when the work is still an early draft. Sometimes as writers we find it hard to notice this, since we are so close to our work we can't see the wood for the trees. So seek advice on your manuscript from someone you can trust who is skilled to give this advice. Rule of thumb if you haven't rewritten your work substantially from the first draft you are most probably nowhere near ready.

So my agonised friend try to see the submissions part of writing as a business with little emotional investment, other than boxes to tick off. Dead Beat has been through his share of this and is still going through the process. The publishing world is vicarious. Even the best of writers can not depend that each book they write will easily find a publisher.

As for writers and drinking I think we need to discuss that over a pint some time, preferably of the black and white sort.

1 comment:

Writer, Rejected said...

"But on the subject of quality Dead Beat warns all writers out there to be sure their work is really at the stage to be submitted."

Important words of advice, also very hard to discern. Don't you think? I always think I'm ready to be published, only to find out it's not the case. Anyway, also good advice is to consort with other writers. Check out the rejections piling up at

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