03 April 2006

Rejection ain't forever.

These days I get surprised at how mad writers get about rejections. Have you seen rejectioncollection.com? These writers vent, sometimes in the purplest prose, about how much editors hate them. They read way too much into form rejections. Others kind of go off the deep end, and I'd tiptoe around these if I were you.

Don't get me wrong, I too get upset about rejections, though not as upset as I used to get. (Once I made a mix tape of "Tunes to Kick Ass By.") But now that I look back at the story I'd been sending out, it's probably just as well it had been rejected. That puppy would have embarrassed me in the long run.

The truth is, a lot of stories that writers are sending out are simply not ready for publication. The more I write and the more I learn, the more I see that this is so. Of course, if you've been working on a story for the last five years, and pouring your heart out into it, you're going to see your kid as some really good stuff. You're deeply engaged by the story you're telling. And right now you're at the top of your form. How could this story not be ready to be published?

It takes at least ten years of study and writing to create a story worth publishing. There are so many intricacies that you must learn in order to write a novel that is worth the reading. Character, voice, plot, and theme are only the tip of the iceberg. You must also learn pacing, how to use cumulative effects, how to bring the character into the realm of the extraordinary, how to be absolutely fluent in your language at all times. And there's much more to be learned beyond all this. Five years ain't going to hack it.

Listen, guys, we are all going to get rejected. Even Jane Yolen, one of the goddesses of children's publishing, still gets rejected. Those writers who get accepted right off the bat are rare. Yet so many people think it's the norm to break out of the gate and immediately become a superstar.

Ty Cobb's batting average, .366, was the highest of the game. That meant he hit the ball 3.6 times out of every 10. Not even four times out of ten! Not even half!

So if you're really good, then you're going to get something about three and a half times for every ten tries. If you're a beginner, your average is going to go down somewhat.

Let's use another example, this time from direct marketing sales.

"Overall, a good return on mass mailings to new prospects runs .1 percent to 5 percent. A 2 to 3 percent response is excellent. Anything near 5 percent is spectacular. When it comes to mailings to loyal customers, however — say, your top 10 percent of big spenders — you should expect returns closer to 30 percent and up. Successful mailings depend on clearly defined targets and goals." From Joanna Krotz's article here.

And that's just straight odds. But you see when you target your list and you've been around a while and you have a good product, er, story to deliver, your chances go up.

Rejection's just part of the game. Don't take it too personally. Just keep stepping up to the plate.

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