Wednesday, April 3, 2013

When The Answer Is “Not For Us”

By Margaret Brownley

Rejections! Who wants them? Who needs them?

Years ago, I would have answered a resounding “no one!” But after having published twenty-eight books, I now realize the value of that dreaded “not for us” letter. Some of my rejections even turned out to be blessings.

My first historical novel was rejected seventeen times. On the eighteenth try, it sold and it sold big enough to help launch a new publishing line. That wouldn’t have happened had an editor snapped it up during those early submissions. Nor would it have happened had I not kept sending it out.

That experience taught me that rejections can offer second, third and even umpteen chances to try again and get it right. I’ve also learned not to take rejections personally. Even books that went on to win major literary awards were once rejected, some many times. What would have happened had J.K.Rowling given up after Harry Potter’s twelfth rejection?

Books are rejected for numerous reasons, many of which have nothing to do with quality of writing. Years ago, I attended a conference where one of the speakers introduced herself as “The editor who turned down The Thorn Birds.” I even heard an editor admit to rejecting a manuscript because the protagonist had the same name as her ex. Yep, editors are human, too, and they can make mistakes.

Sometimes a rejection simply means the timing is wrong. The market might not be favorable to your particular genre. Many of my published westerns were rejected years earlier because of the market. I waited and when the market turned in my favor, I pounced and my patience paid off.

Sometimes, you have to man-up and admit that some books don’t deserve to be published, even the ones we love. I wrote four books before selling my first and I will be forever grateful that two of them never saw the light of day. I didn’t realize it at the time, but the sad truth is that those two books weren’t worthy of a reader’s attention. The scary part is that had eBooks been available back then, I might have been tempted to self-publish.

So how do you know if a book is good enough for publication? How do you keep going when all the rejections say stop? Sometimes the hardest part of writing is finding an honest critic.

Don’t trust the family member or even a friend who says your book is wonderful. Instead, enter contests. The judges won’t worry about hurting your feelings. If you scores are consistently low, you have work to do.

I once paid a published author (yes paid!) to read the first three chapters of my book. Pay someone to read your manuscript and you’ll get an honest critique. Her comments were brutal, but I took her notes seriously, did the revisions and the book sold the next time out.

Rejections are never fun, but neither are they the end of a story; sometimes they are only the beginning.
Margaret Brownley is a N.Y. Times bestselling author and Romance Writers of American RITA finalist. She is currently working on her Bridesof Last Chance series. Her latest installment Waiting for Morning,” book released January 2013 and will be followed in the fall 2013 by “Gunpowder Tea.” 
Margaret can be reached through her website: 

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