Thursday, August 30, 2012

Reject This

by Allison Pang

Well, I feel a bit sheepish with the topic this week and I don't know how to really write it without it coming across as pretentious. The thing is, I've only gotten a handful of rejections.

Less then ten, in fact.

I'm one of those "buck the trend" authors. I published the first thing I ever wrote for the purpose. I got an agent within four months of starting to query. I had a book deal with Pocket two months later.

So, to be honest - all the rejections I've gotten were impersonal, but I didn't query enough to really get every facet of that.

On the other hand, there are days when I wish things hadn't happened quite so easily (yes, yes, I can see the eyerolls now, but bear with me.) For one thing, more rejections would have meant me writing more books. In today's world of self-publishing, having a closet full of trunk books is a boon...or at least an opportunity.

But I don't have any.  And I'm slow. So, that particular venue is closed to me at the moment.

Even more than that, it's experience. Going through the process of writing and being rejected makes you a stronger person. You learn more of the ins and outs of publishing and have more opportunities to create a support network. From a writing perspective, you get more time to develop your voice and your craft.

As easy as my road to publishing was, it's been a trial by fire ever since. (Detailed in previous posts involving the rotating door of editors, publicists and agents that I've had. Also note, I'm not exactly a best seller or any sort of award winner - just because I got my foot in the door easily doesn't mean Lady Success was waiting to kiss my shoes.)

And the thing is, I definitely tried to buck the system by jumping over the slush pile. I'd heard the horror stories, and after the first several rejections I'd gotten from pitching, I decided to become a contest whore. Not because I really gave a shit about winning the contests (Contests are odd beasts - sometimes they can really help, but I've also seen a fair number of writers who win a lot of contests who still aren't published, so YMMV.) No, I entered the contests because in the off-chance I finaled, I'd get it looked at by an agent or an editor and skip the process of having an intern toss my submission straight into the trash.

And it worked. I entered a bunch, finaled in three and won all of them. And was asked for more by one editor and one agent. I also pitched online and got a request from that as well. And in the meantime, I was still querying and got a request for a full from a cold query.

When the editor called to extend me an offer, everything snow-balled from there. Multiple offers of representation and later on another editor who'd seen the work in a contest called my agent to inquire about it. Which set the ball rolling for a real fast time-frame to go out on submission.

(The irony is that the agent I went with was the one I had cold-queried, so maybe the contests weren't as necessary as I thought, though they ended up being the thing that got me sold so who knows?)

The thing about getting published is that everyone's road is different and often luck and timing have so very, very much to do with it. I guess my only real advice on any of it is to do the best you can do with the things you can control...and cross your fingers for the rest.

And keep writing.


  1. It's very true that the long rejection road teaches a great deal - your story is a good example of that!

  2. I sympathize with you comment on slow writing. I've spent a couple years trying all sorts of gimmicks to increase my writing speed. It's taken me a long time to accept I'm a slow writer. [We won't talk about the quality.]

  3. First off... =op

    And now that the gut reaction is over, congratulations on not having to wade through the query swamp for too long. (The skeeters here are tremendous.) I don't know that being in this place makes a stronger person. When faced with rejection after rejection, I figure you can become strong or you can become bitter - or both. Some days I feel like end of the day coffee, so strong and bitter I could peel paint.

    Too true about everyone's journey being unique, though. Right now, I envy you yours, but I'm mid-query process again. Whatever your process to get where you are, you've given me some awesome reading material, though, and that's the real point. Getting the good stuff on the shelves - however it gets there.