Two weeks ago, my agent told me that an acquisitions editor for a major Christian publisher had decided to take one of my manuscripts to pub board. WOO-HOO!!!!! After fourteen days on pins and needles, I got the word that they’d decided not to accept it. Boo-hoo!
Rejections are part of the process for every writer who wants to get commercially published. Louis L’Amour received 350 rejections before he made his first sale. James Joyce’s first book of short stories was rejected by 22 publishers. C. S. Lewis wrote over 800 things before he made his first sale. Gone with the Wind was rejected by more than 20 publishers. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle was turned down 29 times.
John Grisham was rejected by about 15 publishers and the same number of literary agents. When he finally found an agent willing to shop the book around, it took the agent a full year to secure a publisher. The initial press run was 5,000. And Grisham bought 1,000 of those himself.
I don’t know a single successful author who does not have a folder full of rejection letters. So I guess I’m in good company. Fortunately, I’ve been in this business long enough to know how to handle these disappointments.
Here are the keys to avoiding rejection as much as possible:
1. Show your manuscript to readers in your target audience. Solicit their honest feedback on the content. Make revisions based on their comments. If you get positive responses, ask permission to use their statements as endorsements in your book proposal.
2. Buy, read, and study as many books as you can find about writing, particularly the type of writing you’re doing. Also study books on writing query letters and book proposals.
3. Proofread your manuscript carefully, looking up in Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary any words you aren’t absolutely certain are spelled correctly. And brush up on your grammar skills.
4. Send your manuscript to a professional editor. (If you’re not sure how to find a good one, e-mail me!) Make every correction the editor marks, and take very seriously all suggestions and recommendations for improvement.
5. Study the market. What else is out there similar to what you’re writing? How does your book fill a needed niche? Make note of your findings in your book proposal.
6. Attend writers’ conferences. This is one of the best venues for new writers to market their manuscripts. Find a conference where staff includes editors from publishing houses that accept the type of book you’ve written. Pitch your idea. If an editor asks you to send a proposal, you can send it as “requested material,” which will put you above the unsolicited “slush pile.”
7. If you plan to write more than one book, seek an agent.
8. If you have a way to sell lots of copies yourself, consider subsidy publishing.
Now, I’ve taken all of those steps. But I still get rejections. So I’ve learned to be persistent. I don’t give up. See, I believe God has called me to write, and that He will prepare the path to publication. I just have to follow that road one “yellow brick” at a time. God knows who He wants to reach and speak to with the words He has called me to write. He also knows how long it takes to get a manuscript accepted and then published and then made available to the general public. And His plan is far better than anything I could come up with (or even imagine).
The same is true for you. God called you to write at the exact right time for His plan and purpose. Trust Him, and trust your calling. Missionaries don’t quit when the going gets tough. Neither should you.