Thursday, 20 August 2009

Do Not Reject if You Hate the Sight of a Grown Man Crying

After weeks of fretting about my covering letter, writing it, re-writing it, having Gary of BubbleCow cast his long-lashed eye over it, the first agent to whom I apply doesn't want that at all. She sets out what she expects in a very precise brief.

Yesterday I sat down and wrote it. It took me a few hours to write the thousand word plus missive, the length it proved to be, and the result was more spontaneous, more engaging, and, I trust, will prove more likely to encourage her to read my submission.

Sending my ms to the first agent has proved an unexpected emotional hurdle. It's not that I fear rejection, I am prepared for that. I know enough from personal experience and have read enough on blogs of authors, agents and publishers that material is often rejected for a wide variety of reasons.

I feel it is the fact, by sending my work off, I will now have to take myself seriously as an author as opposed to a writer, which I have been all my career, and will have to adopt all the responsibilities of being an author, whatever they prove to be.

On the topic of rejection

It would help wannabe writers, or artists of any kind if they understood what they create is an object - a product. When people turn down your request to print, produce or exhibit, they are turning down the object - not you. It is a trick every artist must learn; to separate themselves from what they create.

The most obvious reason why a product is rejected is because it isn't good enough.

You have produced a can of beans that is full of dents. There is no point in getting upset or uppity when your attention is drawn to the defect. It is not a matter of opinion whether or not a can of beans has dents; someone who spends their life studying cans of beans will have a good eye for a dent on a tinned product from fifty yards beyond the biscuit aisle. The answer is to be humble; to listen, learn and invest in a delicate panel beating hammer.

The next reason why the rejection slip may land on your doormat is because, though your can of beans may be perfectly produced and delicious, the market may not yet be ready for beans in oyster and mango sauce.

Alternatively, the person you have requested to represent you may not deal with cans of beans at all, let alone with beans in oyster and mango sauce.

Of course, the opposite can be true; there might be a glut of people producing cans of beans and the market is beginning to suffer flatulence; one more may just get up the nose of the book buying public.

There is a myriad of reasons why an individual may choose not to represent you, some more apparent than others. Rejection does not necessarily mean you have produced a can of worms [you were waiting for that, weren't you?] but if objective criticism is offered consider it as it is meant, not as a personal insult, on the contrary, as a means to improve.

You may wonder at my insolence in writing of such things, being an as yet unpublished wannabe, but I used to lecture occasionally on the subject of Creativity for a couple of years at the London branch of Syracuse University. I attempted in my drole, self-depreciative, always entertaining yet modest style, to teach the students the importance of learning from other people's observations, not to take it personally, and above all to learn how to distance themselves from their work.

[The ultimate rejection letter?]


The very wise, if unfortunately crabbitty, Nichola Morgan explains in great detail why your perfectly formed book may not get the nod from a publisher in her post, 'How to Make a Publisher Say Yes'.


Stuart and Gabrielle said...

If I was a literary agent and I received a dented can of baked beans from you, I would take the lid off, empty them into a saucepan and heat them through thoroughly, then put them on a large slice of buttered toast and eat them ... yum! Sated by this free snack, I'd be in a very good frame of mind to review your book for it's publishing potential. I think you've discovered a very novel (ho ho) way of getting attention.

Kingsdowner said...

I saw Breakfast at Tiffany's yesterday and thought of you.....
with the comment from the writer about his new works: angry, sensitive, intensely felt, and that dirtiest of all dirty words - promising. Or so said The Times Book Review, October 1, 1956

He gets there though!

DOT said...

Ho! Ho! Indeed Mr Witty Stuart - I know how you love extended analogies and this one was written for you.

Where on earth did you dig out that original review, Kingsdowner?

I re-read B@T (cool abbreviation) not so long ago. Not a good idea, makes you want to give up writing before you start.

Nicola Morgan said...

It's the wise and crabbity one here (Nicola Morgan, just in case by any horrible chance there are more than one wise and crabbity people out there). Great post and one that coincidentally mentions me, even if only in a PS thingy.

Beans in oyster and mango sauce is a truly horrible but very apt image - there are probably people out there in the world who might like it, but not enough of them to make it worth marketing and producing, and probably even they might not like enough to fork out dosh for it.

Great post - I must come to your blog more often. Indeed I will, just to warn you.

DOT said...

I write this on bended knee, Nichola. For your comment may The Great Publisher in the Sky make me truly grateful.