It's happening again. The day before 2021 and I still get nothing but rejections.
I've been writing and submitting for over 30 years now. My first was in 1979 to Alfred Hitchcock Magazine, and it was all single spaced. I got a better rejection then than I did from that same market just a few years back. Since then, the writing world has changed -- a lot.
I've turned down bad contracts, and put up with bad agents. I've won bad awards. I know there's potential in my work and I love listening to comments and suggestions. One novel I changed a lot after listening to all the advice—get rid of the alien storyline, rework the past life musings, minimize the personal first person chitchat.
One publisher, Divertir, asked me to remove the backstory from the beginning and weave it into the rest of the story. Divertir was the first publisher I chatted with over the phone, and because I couldn't comply with ALL his requests, he no longer considers anything I write. It's shame that I didn't understand that one change I couldn't do at the time, because I've since done that. It was published by a lesser publisher in 2016, whose contract I allow to lapse after the three years were up.
Now as a series with a new title, I can't find another publisher. I have the second in the series being read by Story Plant. I don't know if they're any good either, but he did reject Dinner at Marshall Fields because he thought the lead was too boring. I'm doing another intense edit to fix that. He said he couldn't read the one that had been published but might consider putting it out again if the series itself is good. Still waiting for a response, but I think I can trust him.
The rejection just this morning was on a short story from my Grimm's anthology, where he wanted anthropomorphic animals. Now that I know he doesn't need it to be under 1,000, I could try another one I have.
Do we just sit and wait to be rejected? Of course not. Until I have a contract, I keep circulating. You do yourself an injustice if you just sit around and wait. I know a gal who was also published by ATTMP (my publisher of my other two novels in 2016 and 2017) and she waited for over a year for them to accept her second novel. I told her that's too long to wait, so she contacted them and was told they rejected it six months before. Lesson learned.
I canceled their contracts because they were just that bad. Even if the contract looks good, it doesn't mean they are. But I only reject contracts that look bad, and hope for the best. There has to be some good small presses out there. Right?
Here's the funny thing. The guy at Divertir said that because of my unwillingness to listen to him, he didn't plan to offer comments to authors anymore. At first I felt guilty about that, but you know what? If a publisher doesn't want to listen to an author's reasons why such a thing is as it is, then maybe they should just go with things that feel perfect to them right off, and not bother with anyone else. But yes, I do feel bad. I appreciated his help and told him so. I wish we had been able to communicate. But don't work with someone who talks sideways at you.
I've had publishers who tell me within two days of receiving something that they'll publish it. That's a warning bell, too. ATTMP did that. You need to ask them what they liked about it. You need to ask if they thought the ending was strong enough. You need to wonder what would make them accept it so quickly. Are they that hard up for a book that appears to have proper punctuation?
Rejection hurts. We all know that. And for someone writing as long as I have, it feels like a piece of me goes missing with every one. But if I can continue to learn from them, then maybe someday I'll stop getting so many.
Learn from rejection, from publisher comments, and from your own inner sense of when something needs another edit. Because in this climate of anyone can get anything published, we still need to strive to rise about the hash and spam of so many people thinking they're writers to provide those novels and stories that make reading a worthwhile event.
Learn from comments given. But if a publisher wants you to change everything, is it really the right publisher for you?