Monday, August 28, 2006

Why You Shouldn't Take That 99th Editor
Rejection As A Sign To Give Up On A Book

Over at The Writing Life, Terry Whalin's latest post, "Knocked Down, Not Out," stopped me at this:

“A rare winner of two Edgar Awards for Best Crime Novel of the Year, James Lee Burke has come a long way since his novel The Lost Get-Back Boogie was rejected 111 times over a period of nine years (and upon publication in 1986 was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize). Crusader’s Cross is the 14th novel in his bestselling Dave Robicheaux series. Burke’s most recent hardcover, Pegasus Descending, is #10 on hour hardcover list. Crusader’s Cross currently has 275,000 copies in print.” Crusader’s Cross was a new entry on the mass market paperback bestseller list at #14.

Let me focus you on the key terms:

First novel rejcted 111 times.

That means he submitted it to 111 editors (perhaps agents are included as well).

Think about it: 111 times. Rejected. Then the 111-times-rejected novel gets nominated for a Pulitzer. The author then wins two Edgars.

Persistence clearly pays off for the talented. (And, I suppose, often for the much less talented.)


John Kuhn said...

I think getting rejections is part of the fun. They don't hurt my feelings anymore. I think it's part of the deal. It's almost like those elementary school days when you gave a girl a note that had a box where she could check "Yes" and another where she could check "No". The reward is definitely worth the risk of (certain) rejection.

Thanks for the 111 stat. That will help me plug along, I think.

Mirtika said...

The first three or so weren't bad. In fact, they made me feel like a semi-pro: Hey, I submitted. And they TURNED ME DOWN! hahaha

But now, they make me a wee sad. Just a wee. Maybe around the 25th I'll get really morbid.


Anonymous said...

Holy cow this guy is resilient. I bet he had someone else doing it for him, someone who didn’t tell him about all the rejections. No writer’s ego is so malleable. Still, an inspiration though.

If you want to have your ego battered around a bit, try subbing to this new publication:

The guy who will critique and reject your piece, probably within a week, is Nick Mamatas, whose credentials you can google. It’s for Clarkesworld Magazine. They claim to pay 10 cents a word. They’re looking for SF, fantasy horror < 4000 words. I tried subbing w/ and wo/ a CV/cover letter (under a pseudonym). He seemed a lot kinder and more open wo/ the CV, just keeping it humble (which I suck at).


Mirtika said...

Chris, did you mention that your Chi Honorable Mention story was going to be published?

I'm so lame at remembering these things?

And yes, he had an agent. Read the article at Terry's blog. A taxi-cab agent.:) But, it's nice to have someone refuse to be worn down on your behalf.


Anonymous said...

Is my Chi story going to be published? I find the whole flogging of shorts totally incomprehensible and confusing. I think they've invited me to sub it in September. Hey! This is September. I'll have to remember.

As a "The Harrow" finalist I've received a contract in which I waive all liability etc. etc. and give up all 1st print rights, potentially for 10 smackeroos (cost 3 to enter). Sweet "win" eh?

I wish I had an agent for thw whole short story thing. I've got an agent's agent, sort of a sub-agent, for the novel. I think that's the way it's going now.

I used to hate writing but loved having written. Now it's almost kind of the opposite.


Mirtika said...

Write a novel, babe. That's where some decent sort of moolah is...maybe. Decent moolah and writing seem not to go together. But let's say, MORE than a couple cups of capuccino's worth or a month's light bill.


Mirtika said...

If next year's bonus from hubby's work goes nicely, I think I might sponsor a contest with some kind of decent moolah. Well, okay, decent as in more than 75 bucks for a 2.5-3K word story.

Let's see how the bonus overlords do next spring.

Mir<--who has sponsored two poetry contests this year, and it was tax-deductible, woohoo.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of which, Mir, how's your novel coming? You owe the world a novel. It will be a literary tragedy if you do not produce it. I say this in all seriousness. Two hours a day... maybe four, the best hours too, not the left overs, that's all I'm asking... okay, begging.

But yeah, it's about time for another novel for me too. I've got the opening quote, hte first sentence, sort of the theme and everything. No all i need are about a zillion good ideas for the middle and end. As soon as I finish this ridiculous software project...


Mirtika said...

Oh, email me the opening. I'm curious!

I am having some serious middle issues. SERIOUS. You know how you get there and realize you may have to reassess you plot. Well...

But you're right. I need to give it minimum four hours a day. I've got a deadline.

I suspect it's gonna suck according to your and mine standards. We're tough.


Anonymous said...

When it comes to novels and even short stories, I think the journey's the thing, the prose, the narrative, all the little (and big) poetic, philosophical and descriptive ideas along the way. Let the story write itself. focus on the present. Make each sentence your first and your last. That's my advice. Don't get all hung up on making it all tie together like a logic puzzle no one is apt to bother solving or disproving anyway. When you're all done, and high on the trip, then you can dink around and do a little retro-fitting. For now, just trust your muses.

I didn't say I had the opening, I said I had the 1st sentence, but only in my head.

The opening quote I'm considereing though (you know, that thing all by itself wight before the 1st page) is this:

"Row, row, row your boat
gently down the stream,
merrily, merrily, merrily,
Life is but a dream."

Needless to say it's kind of VR thing gone wild and futuristic. I hope. My muses may steer me elsewhere once I hand them my keyboard.