Writers and Their Rejections

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Most of the writers I’ve known over the decades had one goal in mind – publication. They reached for the gold standard of traditional publishing. Most of them never got there. It usually had little to do with their talent.

Many of these writers deserved better. They should have been published. Their work was excellent, polished and moving. But, somewhere along the line, they gave up. They reached an impenetrable bulwark that sidetracked their work and talent. It was the wall of rejection and, for some very talented writers, it was too much to overcome.

Rejection is a tough issue for anyone. In the world of writing, it’s inevitable. For those writers who set the gold standard of publication for themselves, it sometimes became the breaking point. Understandable, right?. However, for those writers who eventually made it through the desert of rejection, there was a potent reward waiting.

The question is one of perspective, self-confidence and experience. It all boils down to how you value rejection. Here’s one way to look at the issue.

Agent rejection. Agents live on the work and talent of writers. That’s the nature of their business. Good agents are looking for long-term relationships with their writers. There’s a reason for this. Once that first book has been published, the chances of future publishing opportunities increase exponentially. Beyond that, getting published opens up doors of opportunity in related areas. Good agents understand this kind of critical mass. It’s why the best of them thrive on long-term relationships.

The bad news is that top notch agents are rare. Most are only interested in signing a writer whose work can be quickly published. For these agents, it’s a numbers game. So, you’re just a number if you sign up.

Now, ask yourself this: Do you really care about being rejected by an agent who doesn’t care about you? The answer should be obvious. Their rejection is, after all, just the opinion of an individual who has no vested interest in your writing career. That kind of rejection is a blessing.

Take a look at Online Publishing and E-Hyphens and E-Agents for a bit more.

Disney Rejection Letter, 1938 (detail)

Publisher rejection. Rejection by other than a recognized publishing house is just as meaningless as rejection by the disinterested agent. Online publishers are everywhere. If the house is not established, not recognized by readers and writers, their rejection means nothing. It’s just another opinion from yet another person who has little or no interest in your writing career.

Even rejection from a major publishing house means little. There are countless examples of publishers rejecting famous authors. The publishing industry is littered with this wreckage and misdirection. If you spend some time reading about the careers of famous authors you’ll quickly see the kinds of monumental mistakes often made by major publishing houses. These stories are legendary and common.

Rejection by critics. OK, you’re published. Here come the critics, frothing and foaming at the mouth. Maybe you get panned. Is that rejection? Of course not. It’s nothing more than an opinion, typically written to please the critic’s readers. It’s wise to remember that critics are not writers. Many are frustrated, unsuccessful writers. They are hawking opinions designed to please their own readers. That’s their job. They are nothing more than opinion sellers, and you know the old warning about opinions, right?

To see the critic review game at its most ugly, take a peek at Paid Reviews Rock Your Pocket.

Rejection by readers. Yep, this is the one that really matters, if publication is your primary goal. It must be measured in only one way – book sales. The “review comments” below each book title mean little. They may make you feel good, angry, frustrated, whatever. But, in the final analysis, these comments are frosting, bitter or sweet. What counts is whether or not your book is selling. At the end of the day, it’s the reader that counts, and his or her opinion is expressed in terms of books sold.

There is only one exception to the rejection game – you. Yep, you count. Your opinions matter. The reason you write is important. Your goals are important. If you’re a writer, there’s a good reason, and it’s always personal, always important.

Forget rejection. Don’t obsess about opinions. Devalue the importance of acceptance. Find out why you write, what it means to you, where it fits in the symphony of your life. Rejection will always be at your doorstep. Just step over it and move ahead. It’s not always the best writer who reaches the finish line. It’s often the most tenacious.

Finally, here are a few articles that may be helpful. Keep in mind that publishers, agents and critics would have no purpose without writers.

The Undiscovered Writer

The Established Writer

Writer vs Author

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Pickpockets Love Their Writers

English: Dominique Pickpocket

The Internet is awash with flim-flam, scams and pickpockets targeting a new generation of writers. Unless you’re a seasoned scribe, tethered by the martial art of protecting your assets, it’s best to keep your purse or wallet under lock and key. The predators are out there and they’re just waiting to lighten your monetary load.

Here are a few of the most notorious pickpockets who specialize in writers:

The agency fee scam. This one has been around for quite a while and it’s simplicity itself – a literary agency that charges “reading fees.” The gimmick is straightforward enough. You send your masterpiece to the agent and he or she will read it for a fee and send it back to you, usually with some inane one-liner that proves to be meaningless. In fact, your work may have never been read at all. Wow. These bottom-feeder “agents” are the worst. No reputable agent would ever charge a reading fee, or any other up-front fee. That’s not how the game works. Established and trustworthy agents operate on a commission. That commision is based on book contracts and, in some cases, personal service contracts. No other fees are charged. None. Not even postage. If you come across an agent that charges a fee of any kind, especially a reading fee, run away immediately. Before you contact an agent for any reason, do a background check. This is when the Internet can be your friend. Writers rate agents and they often do it in public. Learn from the experiences of others and never, never pay a fee to any agent. Never. A good agent will want to establish a personal relationship with you, to help your career. That’s how good agents succeed. They do not make it on one-time fees.

Be your own publisher. Check this one out on Google and you’ll find an amazing number of hits. There’s usually a charge for some “how to” book or an online class attached to the offer. These gimmicks proclaim how easy it is to become a publisher and keep all your profits, as well as make some money on other writers. Well, in some ways it is easy – too easy, which is why there are so many flaky online publishers swimming around the Internet. However, there is nothing easy or simple about publishing, if you choose to do it with even a little integrity. Seasoned writers know this and they avoid flaky publishers like the plague. Don’t be picked clean with this scam. You don’t want to be a publisher. You want to be a writer who values your own publisher. Keep the relationship the way it was designed to operate in the first place.

How to become a great writer. Nope, this just doesn’t work for anyone. These scams usually involve classes, workshops, books, whatever – all of which are purchased with the promise of making you the best writer of the century. Just think about it for a moment. Who are these people? If they know so much about writing, why aren’t all the major publishing houses crawling all over them? What gives them some special knowledge, so special that you have to pay for it? Forget about it. If you want to take some writing or literature classes, stick to your local community college or university. Even then, these classes will never teach you how to become a great writer. They may improve your skills in certain areas, which can be helpful, but that’s all. Becoming a great writer is a matter of hard work, practice, reading, writing and learning the trade your own way. If you really need a guru, dig up a writer who has already made his or her bones in the business. Perhaps you’ll get lucky. Lots of established writers are willing to lend a hand to a new generation when they can.

Paid critiques. This one is becoming ubiquitous. You pay an individual to critique your work, someone who often refers to himself or herself as a “coach.” OK, the idea seems worthy. But, give it some thought. It’s like the writing guru I just discussed. Who are these people? Are they established, well published authors with some solid credentials? No? Well, then why pay someone whose lineage is questionable to critique your work? What’s their opinion worth? If you want this kind of critique, the best place to go is to your audience, to a select group of readers whose opinion you trust and whose feedback you value. Why go to some self-appointed “coach” for what amounts to nothing more than a paid opinion? Really? Pass on it, always.

Online anything. OK, that’s a bit broad, I admit. However, why would you pay anyone to mess with your work when that “anyone” is unknown, faceless, unproven, and disinterested in your growth as a writer? That’s like letting your beloved Fido run free on the highway. It just makes no sense. It does, however, lighten your cash load, if that’s your goal. Your writing career will not flourish on promises, only on accomplishments. You are in charge of that end of the business and it all comes down to commitment and hard work.

The bottom line is that your writing, and your career as a writer, needs the personal touch. Your personal masterpiece must not fall into the hands of predators in the hope that it will somehow become the world’s masterpiece. Your growth as a writer is a long-term proposition. It is not something that can be purchased, bargained, or remade instantly by any alleged guru. However, it can grow naturally and become more vibrant over time. The ways to make this happen are all personal, all free, and all your own to enjoy.

When it comes time to have your pocket picked, legitimate agents and publishers will do the job and do it right. That’s the way of the seasoned writer. You should settle for nothing less and pay for nothing more.

Here are a few articles that may be of some help:

Paid Reviews Rock Your Pocket

Online Publishing

E-Hyphens and E-Agents

Writers Workshop: The Introduction

Dr. Hook, Sometimes You Win

This article is primarily directed to  nonfiction writers, although it also applies to some fiction works. I’m thinking here of that strange invention often called “fact-based fiction,” a hybrid combination of genres. In either case, the Introduction (call it “Prologue” perhaps) is critical to the construction of your entire story line. Without a captivating Introduction, you will lose your readers quickly and, sadly, sometimes forever.

The most important element of the Introduction is “the hook.” Its purpose is to grab the reader’s attention so firmly that he or she must move on to the meat of your story. Without the hook, your reader can easily succumb to that blank stare, yawn state that all writers hate to see. You must set the hook quickly and firmly to keep your readers as happy and interested as possible.

Creating the hook has a few elements that are critical to success.

First, the Introduction must leave your reader with questions, unresolved issues that absolutely must be answered. At the end of the Introduction, your reader must be a little dissatisfied with what he or she has learned. Now, this is a tight line to walk. You can’t really pose these questions directly. Rather, you must use enough subtly and tact to let these questions arise naturally in the reader’s mind, to come about of themselves. This kind of reader participation (interaction) is what moves them to want more. Each writer will probably approach this element in a different way, according to his or her own style. This is a good thing because style counts. Style is what readers appreciate most, sometimes more than the story line. But, the bottom line is that you must offer a mild itch that only you can scratch throughout the remainder of your work.

One of the ways of achieving “the hook” is to interject a bit of speculation into the Introduction. In other words, pose a “what if” element or two in your presentation but simply don’t bother to answer the speculation. These kinds of “what if” elements need to be sufficiently broad to accommodate the majority of readers but they must also be credible in the context of your entire work. Readers like speculation, so long as it sticks to the reasonable side of your genre. There is one exception here that must be acknowledged. If you are writing in the humor genre, let your speculation go as wild as you feel. Crazy speculation is regularly appreciated by readers who thrive on humor.

The second element of a good Introduction is to keep it short. Most readers want to get to the meat of your words. They will tolerate a bit of an introduction because they want to get a feel for what is to come. However, they don’t want an epistle at this point in their reading experience. They want a taste, not the entire meal. That comes later.

The third element of the Introduction should be a “tight summary.” Give your reader a quick, powerful overview of where you are heading. You want to put your reader on the same path as your story line but you always want to keep them moving ahead. Show them the head of the trail but don’t go so far as that first big turn. Give them a step or two along your story line and let them know, indirectly, that they are in for a fascinating journey. My preference is to never allow an Introduction to go on for more than two finished pages. Personally, I try to keep it as close to a single page as possible.

The final element is to keep your “I” in your back pocket and far away from your Introduction. Unless you are writing in the first person, the use of “I” in your Introduction can be a real turn-off for many readers. At the opening of your work, at the Introduction, your reader does not yet know where he or she is going. You are the guide at this point. Like any good guide, you need to focus on the journey that lies ahead and on those who will walk with you. So, keep those personal views and opinions in your back pocket. There will be time enough later for this kind of writing.

If you try to stick to these few hints you will find that your Introductions become more fluid, more interesting and more meaningful to your readers. From your point of view as a writer, that first step into your word journey must be fascinating and compelling. If it’s not, the rest of your words may lie sleeping on the page.

Writers Workshop: Paid Reviews Rock Your Pocket

sharkI was reading another writer’s blog a few days ago and discovered a sad but common story. This writer had finally finished her first novel and decided on the services of an online publisher. It seemed to me that she had done some solid research and found a suitable fit. So far, so good.

When the novel was ready for distribution, using the services of the online publisher, she decided to purchase a special marketing package that included the offer of reviews from three widely-recognized review sites. If you heard the names, you would likely recognize them. This part of the package cost $1500. It guaranteed the three reviews, and the reviews would be independent and allegedly widely-read. So far, so good, if she could expect a reasonable return on her investment. Of course, that would directly translate into book sales, or so the offer implied.

The writer waited about six months for the final review, the last of the three. The review was basically a summary of the story line with a sentence or two at the end of the review that was rather indifferent and not informative. Most of the review had been tactfully lifted from the back cover of her novel. Needless to say, the writer was very disappointed. She was light $1500 and quickly learned that the reviews did nothing for book sales. In the meantime, her book was available at the usual places online, sites where reader reviews were known to flow freely.

Online publishing is a tuna vs shark world of intrigue and opportunity. It can work well or it can be a pit of expensive and hard lessons for the unwary writer. In this case, the writer fell victim to a rule that seasoned writers know well. The maximum cost of any review should never be more than a review copy of your book.

One more time, all together: Never pay for a review if the cost of the review is greater than a review copy of your book.

There are countless ways to get your book reviewed, including all those free comments found everywhere on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and their kin. There are also review sites, review blogs, magazines, newspapers, and periodicals. The list is endless. Wherever you find a book review is an opportunity for a review of your own book. All you have to do is query the reviewer and find out if he or she is willing to look at your work. Easy enough. Just be sure that the reviewer is not a one-on entity, a flash or hack reviewer, or someone who just writes reviews to fill up word count. Reviewing is an art and an occupation, so look for those who do it seriously and continuously. If you catch their eye with a good, short query, they may just want to review your latest masterpiece. That’s what they do.

Please, never pay for a review! There is absolutely no reason to do so. It won’t help your sales, and it likely won’t be read by enough people to be of any practical use when weighed against the money you spent. Pay only with a review copy of your book, and then only to those reviewers who are established and recognized.