Fiction Writing and Other Oddities

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


One of the toughest things writers have to face is fairly constant rejections. It can be devastating. Particularly after you've spent years working on a manuscript and have gotten through a couple of turnstiles. You're so close, but… And then, if you do manage to get published, that's not the end of it, either. I'm not talking about additional rejections from agents, publishers and editors. No, sir. I'm talking about the most devastating rejection of all, reader rejection. Yeah. Talk about messing with your mind. You got an agent to who liked the manuscript, an editor who liked it enough to buy it, and you got that sucker published only to get the ultimate slap in the face.

Well, buck up. What's the worst that can happen? So they don't buy your book. That's about it. No one is going to arrest you (unless you wrote something you shouldn't ought to have written) and generally speaking, no one is going to point with horror at you when you walk down the street. Granted, I don't know what you look like, so I supposed it is within the realm of possibility that they actually will scream and run away when they see you coming, but it won't be because you wrote a flop. And maybe it wasn't a flop. Who really knows? If no one bought it then no one knows what's in your book to judge whether it's a flop, so you do have that going for you. Okay, maybe that doesn't really help.

Right. It doesn't help. If you write a book, it gets published, and no one subsequently buys it, well, that is a rough one. Basically, your choice is to waste your time on promotion or get back to the job of writing. I'm not saying promoting your book is bad—you have to do that to some degree. You've seen all the blogs, websites, articles, and advice about promoting yourself. Yes, you have to do it. But if it's not working or if you're spending all your time on promotion you need to take a step back. You need to get back to work.

Sometimes, you are better off getting other books published then spending 80% of your time trying to promote a book that is just not selling. Yes, it is heartbreaking. Yes, it makes you feel like you are a complete failure and don't know what the heck you are doing. And it makes you ask yourself what you were thinking to believe you could write a book. All those terrible things and all those vicious voices in your head will ring loud and victorious. Your supportive spouse may even say, "Honey, maybe it's for the best. Just let it go and forget about it. I hate to see you suffer like this."

Eat chocolate. Watch mindless television.

Then go back and write some more. Because it's the only real choice you have.

Strangely enough, if you can write another book, and then another book, and somehow manage to get those published (despite your first-book-flop) you may find that elusive audience. You may find readers who do connect with your stories. And each book will be better than the last. And your audience will build. It may build slowly, but in fact, producing more saleable manuscripts and getting them out there is the best promotional move you can make. Don't throw money, time and sweat into past endeavors. Decide on a limit and then resolutely move on, even if it does hurt.

In the end, you'll have a backlist of books readers can choose from. And sometimes, having that list of publications gives you the credibility readers are looking for in order to make that first purchase and take a chance on an unknown author.

Writers write. Make your writing come first and all the other related tasks come second or even third. And strangely enough, you may find that writing is one of the best ways to cure the rejection blues.

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