Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Short-circuiting the Great Chain of Rejection

One of the down-sides of becoming an artisan publisher is that you must forego the luxury of getting rejected by agents and editors.

“A luxury?” you sputter.

Yes. Instead of the gentle buffeting you’ll receive from publishing professionals, who respond with a polite, but vague, “it’s not a good fit for us,” you’ll get slapped around by readers who have no qualms about telling the world they think your book is a piece of crap.

As hard as it may be to believe, rejections from agents and editors offer several layers of comfort:

  • They readily acknowledge their opinions are subjective and that perhaps someone else will like it.
  • There’s always the opportunity to revise: when you submit a manuscript to an agent or editor, you do so knowing they will generally ask for revisions.
  • Agents and editors are always open to future submissions. Even if the piece you’re shopping now isn’t right for them perhaps your next one will be.

Compared to that, readers have no mercy.

  • Most readers believe their opinions are objective, or at least representative: if they didn’t like your book, why would anyone else.
  • Readers expect a finished product. If they don’t like your first version, they’re not going to read your book a second time no matter how much you revise it.
  • Readers hold grudges. If they hate one book, they’ll hate the rest sight-unseen.

If you’ve turned to artisan publishing because you’re tired of rejection you’ve come to the wrong place. Electronic publishing does let you bypass the gatekeepers who in the past might have kept you out of the market altogether. But the price for that access is that you also bypass the safety net those gatekeepers provide. If you’re not careful, you open yourself up to getting rejected for everything from typos and grammar errors to characters and stories that don’t resonate with readers.

Offering your work directly to readers requires more courage and a thicker skin than letting a publisher bring out your book. If you have a publisher and your book fails in the marketplace, you can always take consolation—whether it’s true or not—in blaming them. If you publish your own work, you’ve got no one to blame but yourself.

If you can listen to readers rant that your loathsome book defiled the electrons used to store and transmit it and that the author should be hunted down and forbidden from ever putting pen to paper, and then return to your writing with full confidence and vigor you’ve got what it takes to become an artisan publisher.

Image: Simon Howden /

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