February 2nd, 2004

books

It's not you -- it's me...

Stuff on why rejection isn't personal over on Making Light....

"What I find weirdest about their take on rejection is that it’s all completely personal. I don’t just mean the rejection itself, which they’re bound to take personally, being writers and all. They take things personally which have nothing whatsoever to do with them..."

This has always been something that's struck me as well. I've been posting the count of letters I receive each week on this site (since the start of the year) -- mostly because I'm curious about it myself. I've never really kept a count of it before; I just knew that it tended to add up to a lot. I hope it's not being perceived as a lack of sensitivity on my part. A number of the people who comment on Theresa's post mentioned that it helps them to know the reality of it, and I hope that holds true for most writers. I know rejection hurts. I know it's not fair. Goodness -- when I get a manuscript by one of my clients returned (and sometimes with equally unhelpful letters as some of those mentioned on the rejection site) -- there's generally some gnashing of teeth and occasionally cursing. And those are only surrogate children for me; children that I've adopted and feel strongly about, but still. Do I have a moment of self-doubt? Do I wonder if I'm the only one (besides the author) who's going to see the merit of this work? You betcha. And that's after I sold over 50 books last year which I hope would tend to indicate that I occasionally have a clue.

Somebody else mentioned in Theresa's comments that this site wasn't hurting editors (or by extension, agents -- who do a fair amount of the rejecting these days since many of the major publishers indicate they no longer take unagented submissions). I'm not sure I agree entirely. No one has shown up at my house with torches and pitchforks as yet, that's true. However, when I see these postings it makes me feel suddenly like less of an individual myself. And I feel deeply misunderstood. I don't think of myself as the one who prevents the dreams. I think of myself as the one that can assist in making them happen; by making that connection between writer and editor. By seeking out the next uncut gem and getting it to the jeweler, so to speak. And it's hard work. I spend hours and hours on it every week.These people, though -- they view me as the enemy, not as an ally to be engaged. And worse yet, they see me as a part of a conspiracy against their talent. And it hurts somehow. It makes me feel utterly wretched to show up at a writers' conference, for instance, and run into an attendee who gives me such a look of utter loathing -- because of this. And I've never met them. I've probably never even rejected them.

Speaking for myself....I don't keep looking through the submissions that come in because I want to hurt the writers' feelings with a thoughtless rejection. I'm looking because I want to find the next project that rejuvenates me as an agent; the one that makes me think -- "Oh, yeah -- they're still out there." And I want to find the next book that makes me feel like a reader again -- enjoying story for its own sake -- not a drone in the great vast conspiracy of the publishing industry.
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