How To Become a Published Author: It's Not What You Think
If I can survive five years of rejection, you can too.
Posted July 31, 2016
The Dance of Anger was rejected for five years. I’ll always remember that long stretch of frustration and sorrow, when I sat hunched over a gray typewriter, the speediest technology of the day, with scissors and scotch tape as my cutting-and-pasting editing tools.
I couldn’t walk into a bookstore without getting depressed. There were countless relationship books sitting on the shelves, none about women’s anger, and few based on a solid theory of the process of change. I couldn't make sense of it, because it didn't make sense.
Did I toughen up as the rejections accumulated? No. I wanted to put on armor (or at least a wet suit) to protect myself from the pain of rejection, but I never toughened up.
Did I begin to doubt myself and the book? No, I never doubted myself when it came to this book. I knew there was a serious need for a book on women's anger (and what to do with it), and I knew that my work was of value. But this conviction didn't leave me feeling better. It just left me feeling doomed and mystified.
Some people do seem to let rejection roll off their back. But if you're an authentic , open-hearted person you won’t be immune to the awful feelings that rejection can evoke. This is true whether the rejection relates to love, friendship, or work. I have yet to meet an authentic, open-hearted person who enjoys being rejected. Of course, I have not met everybody.
My book was eventually sold for a modest advance, after having been rejected by almost every publishing house in the country. A young editor named Janet Goldstein (Bless you Janet) decided to acquire it, at the same time she acquired another young and then unknown author named Barbara Kingsolver.
What made me a successful author? Talent and motivation certainly played a big part. But what played a bigger part were these three things: perseverance, stubbornness, and plain old-fashioned good luck.
What did I learn from my experience? I learned that the line between a New York Times bestselling author and someone who never gets published at all is a very thin line, indeed.
Today many writers can bypass the gatekeepers and find a way to get their written work out there, through blogging, self-publishing, and the like. These are good options. The established publishing world, like the rest of life, isn't always fair. In any case, keep on writing.
I've always said that I could wallpaper the biggest room of my house with rejections slips from my first book. That's what makes me a real writer!