All Great Authors are Built on Rejection by Misty Evans
~Please welcome Misty Evans. Aspiring authors should print out this post and keep it on their desk!~Barbara
“Puberty is a phase…fifteen years of rejection is a lifestyle.” – Stanford, Sex and the City
How about five years and sixty-plus rejection letters from agents? Another two years of agent representation and a dozen rejections from top editors? Rejection as a lifestyle…hmmm….
My journey to become a published author had its share of highs (Meg Ruley once requested sample chapters – I nearly hyperventilated) and lows (see above rejection count – I gave up writing for a whole year after one particularly brutal one). What I’ve ciphered from being rejected can be summed up by another quote, this one by Sylvester Stallone:
“I take rejection as someone blowing a bugle in my ear to wake me up and get going, rather than retreat.”
I agree with Sly, although, I itch to fix the grammar in his sentence! I learned rejection means wake up, I’m doing something wrong. It’s time to change my approach, whether it’s writing a query letter or studying a new genre to try my hand at. Some of those above-mentioned rejections were initially acceptance letters or emails. I got my foot in the door. Hooray! A couple of agents even took their precious time and told me what to fix in my manuscript to make it more marketable. Those notes and follow-up conversations were keys to developing my story and giving me a better understanding of the publishing industry.
Of course, “when one door closes another one falls on top of you” or so says Angus Daeyton (comedian). Which is exactly what happened to me at one point when Operation Sheba was making the rounds in NY and caught the attention of an executive editor at a major publishing house. A handful of editors had already rejected Sheba…great voice, good story, lacks market appeal, can’t place it. I had heard those rejections time and time again. Oh, and the best ones were, write something with more of a commercial slant. I want the next Janet Evanovich or Sophia Kinsella! And I would have loved to be the next Jersey Janet or Shopaholic, trust me. If I could have pulled that kind of commercial story from my brain, I certainly would have.
But I digress. Operation Sheba perked Ms. Executive Editor at XYZ publishing house and went to committee. This was IT. My first book was going to sell! A two-book deal had been mentioned and my mind spun with possibilities! I couldn’t sleep or eat and kept my cell phone on 24/7 waiting for the call from my agent.
And that’s when the other door fell on me. Ms. Executive Editor came back and wanted changes. Not simple, easy changes—she wanted a complete overhaul of the story. There was too much action and not enough romance. Too many flashbacks. Too many characters. The checklist was long and made me sick to my stomach. She was changing my characters, my plot…my very voice. But, wait, this was IT, right? This was my big break. I had to go through it, didn’t I?
While I stewed about this dilemma, the editor asked for a synopsis of the second book in my series to take to her committee. That book was already written so I submitted the synopsis and prayed she’d go easier on this book then the first with her suggested revisions.
She hated it. I wrote four more synopses (did I mention I’m a pantster and can’t write a synopsis before I write the entire book?). My brain started smoking as I tried to fit her parameters, and she KO’d all of them. I couldn’t please her, and I was deathly afraid if I tried to bring Operation Sheba up to her checklist’s requirements, I’d fail miserably.
And I wouldn’t like my story any longer. In fact, if I did change the story to fit her and her committee’s vision, I would hate my story. I would hate myself.
What should have been a high point in my career was actually the lowest of lows. I felt like an idiot, damned if I did and damned if I didn’t. My hubby, caring and wonderful man that he is, sent me this quote from the illustrious Bill Cosby: “I don’t know the secret to success, but the key to failure is to try and please everyone.”
I walked away from Ms. Executive Editor both disappointed and relieved. My story went out to a few more editors and while I waited for a bite, or even a nibble, I dabbled in other genres and started writing fresh stories. However, my agent didn’t like any of the new stories and Sheba’s rejections continued to pile up. I stalled out. My self-confidence hit the skids.
So there I was, floundering in rejection quicksand when I remembered reading an Up Close and Personal article in RWR about Samhain Publishing, featuring Christina Brashear. I pulled out my stack of magazines and found the article. Crissy was funny, and at the same time, her business sense was obvious. Then she sealed the deal when asked this question, what is your all-time favorite fiction novel? “To Kill a Mockingbird by Miss Harper Lee,” she answered. I could have hugged her. TKAM is my favorite too. *VBG*
I immediately went to Samhain’s website and enjoyed reading blurbs and excerpts from several of their authors; what’s more, I LOVED their covers. Some of the stories were like mine, a touch unconventional but fit into a cool niche genre. I researched electronic publishing and ebooks and talked my hubby’s ears off about this amazing *new* thing I’d discovered. LOL. Over the next week, I did more research, talked to my agent and considered the pros and cons of a small press.
“Great communicators have an appreciation for positioning. They understand the people they’re trying to reach and what they can and can’t hear. They send their message in through an open door rather than trying to push it through a wall.” – Professor John Kotter
The Samhain Publishing approach made sense to me. I asked my agent to query them. A couple months later, I signed my first contract. Three more have followed. What I’ve found in the past year is they definitely know how to send their message (their books, their authors, their brand) through an open door rather than pushing it through a wall.
I have two editors; one who works with me on my Super Agent series and one who worked with me on my paranormal novella, Witches Anonymous. Both editors are top notch and yet completely down to earth. They bring my stories to a higher level of quality but never change my voice or dampen my spirits. None of their suggestions have ever made me feel the least bit nauseous. In fact, they’ve made me smile, laugh out loud and want to hug them silly. They’ve built my self-confidence as a writer, not torn it down. They’ve never made me feel like they don’t have time for me or that I’m a pain in the backside, even though I am. They’ve encouraged me, made sure I loved my book covers, helped me write my blurbs so they shine and guided me in picking out the very best excerpts from all my stories.
Along with my fabulous editors, I’ve found a supportive group of fellow authors, outstanding cover art designers and a bevy of marketing opportunities and guidance. Crissy and her management group are top-notch. Samhain recently acquired Linden Bay Romance and continues to send their message through more and more open doors as epublishing gains momentum.
Rejection for me has been a blessing in disguise. At this point in my life, this publishing path fits perfectly. I love Samhain, and I still love my stories.
And so, I leave you with one last quote. I’ve tweaked one by famous French writer and physician Louis Ferdinand Celine. “All great authors are built on rejections.”
Misty Evans is an award-winning, multi-published author of CIA thrillers as well as paranormal comedy. The next book in her Super Agent Series, PROOF OF LIFE, will be released October 20th. She bases all her heroes on her hubby, who keeps her coffee cup filled, her chocolates within reach and never fails to make her laugh – even when she gets rejected. Visit Misty and her characters at www.readMistyEvans.com