Tip #1 in the 52 Ways Not to Get Published series
When expounding the trials and tribulations of breaking into the publishing industry, people like to use JK Rowling as an example of tenacity. Apparently, her agent sent Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone to 12 publishing houses. It was rejected by each prior to being picked up by Bloomsbury.
I’m sure people like to share this statistic in the hopes that it will be encouraging to the new writer. But let’s face it, I’m no JK Rowling. I have no delusions that anything I write will become the cultural icon that Harry Potter became. If even Ms. Rowling struggled (although I’m betting that most published writers would not see a dozen rejections as much of a struggle,) what hope is there for me?
I think there is this fallacious theory floating around out there that if you have your writing rejected enough times, you eventually become immune to the rejection. Really? Rejection hurts. I don’t care how many times you experience it. You might learn to take it less personally, but that doesn’t lessen the sting.
The only foolproof way to avoid that sting is to avoid the chance of being rejected. As long as I have not submitted my work for publication (or to solicit an agent, or for critique, or to writing competitions…) I can be secure in my fantasy that if I were ever to allow the world to see my creation, it would be an overnight hit. If nothing has shattered my fantasy, I have in my hands a best seller, a story that will be quoted and alluded to for centuries to come. I can be the unrecognized author of a modern day Beowulf.
Yet as soon as I put myself out there and face the risks of rejection, reality will strike. I will be just like hundreds of thousands of aspiring writers–slightly better than some, but far worse than many. The chance that I, amongst all those novelists, will catch the eye of an overwhelmed editor, is somewhere in the vicinity of nil. Why chance it?
So, dear reader, I implore you, follow this foolproof method. If you never read another of my postings, you will be safe with this one. Never will you have to endure the pain of failure if you keep that manuscript tucked away in a dark closet or password protected on your home computer. In fact, the safest thing would be never to take that brilliant story idea and write it down. But then, what’s the fun in that?
(For more detail on the story of JK Rowling’s experience in the publishing industry, read The JK Rowling Story from the June 16, 2003 edition of The Scotsman.)