Friday, 10 June 2011

Remember, Rejection Isn't Personal

A letter arrives from someone in Nigeria. They're supposed to inherit billions of dollars, but can't access it until they put in a couple of thousand pounds into an account. Sadly they haven't got the money but if you put the money up front, you can have half of the billions. What do you do?

You're walking down the street when a man sitting on the pavement asks if you can spare some change. What do you do?

The Nigerian letter you probably don't even read, and the man in the street - well, you might give them a bit of change, you might make eye contact but shake your head, you might just hurry by. It depends on your mood and the circumstances, but generally we don't give serious sums of money to complete strangers simply for the asking.

When you're sending out your novel you're asking a complete stranger to give you lots of money.

Yes, really.

It costs money to publish a book. The editor, copy editor, proof reader, typesetter all need paying as do sales and marketing, publicity and other back up staff such as receptionists and PAs as well as the cover designer. If it's being printed, there are also paper and printing costs, plus the printing staff salaries. And that's before your advance gets considered.

Even if you're sending to an agent, you're asking them to commit to your project, a commitment that will take up time and energy and take away from other guaranteed paid work, on the hope that there may be a return.

The reality is, when you send your novel out you're asking a complete stranger to give you money. Their Inboxes and mailboxes are full of the equivalent of letters from Nigerians, the begging hands are out wherever they go. They can't give to everyone, in fact, they can't give to most people. It's not personal, just as when you walk past a Big Issue salesman in the street it's not a rejection of that particular person.

The amazing thing is that every day in publishing people are being given serious sums of money by complete strangers - a writing friend emailed me yesterday with news that she's just landed a deal with a publisher for her memoir. It could be you tomorrow. But if it's not, don't take it to heart. It really isn't personal.


Diane Fordham said...

I really enjoyed your post Sarah. Thank you. I found it very clever and it has left me in a much better mood about rejection. Thanks again :-)

Debs Carr said...

I'd never thought about rejection in this way. Thank you.

Pauline Barclay said...

What a lovely way of putting it and you are so right, but we all take rejection as personal. I guess it makes us get up and fight jsut that bit harder to achieve our goals.

By the way, there is a little something for you on my Blog, hope you will collect it. Your Blogs make me smile, I hope this will make you smile.

Sarah Duncan said...

Glad you're all liking it, it came out of a conversation with friends about the Big Issue salespeople, and someone said, But I always make eye contact, and I thought, that's like a good rejection letter. Friendly - but no money!

Pauline, I'm off to look at the little something!

Alison Morton said...

Seeing the other side of the counter is always refreshing - thank you, Sarah.

I think we writers concentrate so much on writing and crafting our books that we forget what we are asking agents and publishers to do.