Note: None of what follows is intended as a criticism of publishers. These are just my experiences, as well as my views as a result of those experiences. I’ve never wanted to tee off at a publisher or journal because of a rejection – even when rejections were the end of the world for me. I understand and appreciate that’s the business. This is just an account of how things happened and what I felt.
I once got a rejection from a major publisher that opened, “Dear Leo”.
The rest of the rejection was form – a generic knockback to which they simply add your name. It’s simple, expedient, and inoffensive. Well, if they get it right.
I sent Pride to another major publisher; several months later, they rejected it. Okay. Several months later, they emailed me another rejection. Because of the nature of the form rejection, I didn’t even know what they were rejecting. I knew I didn’t have anything with them.
I sent them a response joking I must be doing well if they were rejecting me when I hadn’t submitted anything. They apologized and said the rejection (for Pride) hadn’t been ticked off, hence the second rejection.
Geez, there’s a way to make you feel good about your writing: reject it twice.
A very popular journal once sent me a glowing personalized rejection – only it wasn’t meant to go to me. It was meant for somebody else. They sent me an apology, saying they’d sent that to me by accident.
Later, they sent me a form rejection.
That’s a demoralizing way to be rejected – to show somebody what’s going out to others, and then to hit you up with a form rejection. If I’d made that mistake, I would’ve sent a personalized rejection out to the second person, even if it was all lies.
I’ve got other comical stories of rejection. You have to develop a sense of humour.
Once I’d finished the revision of Just Another Week in Suburbia, I was invited to send it back to Hachette. By this time, the bulk of the group had re-submitted their books to Hachette and been rejected. I fared no better.
I then began doing the rounds, submitting it to other publishers.
One big publisher told me they really enjoyed it, but felt they wouldn’t be able to market it. Another publisher liked it, but had similar feedback, and asked to see anything else I’d written. I sent them “Prudence”. They declined it.
I got similar responses from several other publishers – they liked it, but didn’t feel they could sell it – which frustrated me because I felt both the story and the writing were good. I couldn’t say that about anything I’d written previously. (Some of that old stuff I look at today with embarrassment.)
Pantera Press liked it and decided to take a chance on it, although I’d grown wary about setting it loose into the world. All this talk about it being difficult to market made me question whether it was worth it. This was going to be my publishing debut.
I actually believe every story, no matter how niche, has a market. The question is selling to that market, or capturing a market in a way that will be meaningful. That’s a puzzle in itself. It’s hard enough marketing books to established genres and getting noticed against the competition. But what about something that’s hard to place?
Not that I intended to start a new genre, but Just Another Week in Suburbia sits in this weird but nonexistent classification of bloke-lit – guys dealing with domestic stuff that’s impacting them emotionally. That became evident in some of the feedback and reviews.
Somebody needs to formally anoint this category, because plenty of existing books already speak to this genre. But, for some reason, it’s not recognized, and whenever a book emerges that fits that category, everybody scratches their head and declares it has no classification.
I could name ten existing books that have sold well that could spearhead this category.
Maybe twenty years ago, or even ten years ago, or even five years ago, people didn’t want to read about guys dealing with problems the way women do in chick-lit, but the world’s changed and evolved a fair bit, and it’s an area worth exploring.
Next Week: The Inception of August Falling.