Can You Eat Rejection Letters?

Can You Eat Rejection Letters?

Because I get the feeling that if I were actively querying agents I’d be reduced to surviving off the returns. Thankfully I have a source of income aside from writing. I’ve played ‘starving artist’ long enough to know that the romance is largely nostalgic. Granted I regularly imagine moving to Paris to live off the paltry offerings of teaching English again. The 11 hour work week sounds enticing; I could really focus on writing. However I do recall it being difficult to focus on anything when your stomach is trying to digest your esophagus. Common sense will strike and save me in the end.

Well… it probably won’t. But I guess I’ve always been a bit masochistic when it comes to financial stability.

The point is that from time to time I like to read up on the literary world I’ve decided to avoid. Whether that was a wise decision or not, time will tell. Janet Reid wrote on her blog about the challenge in waiting to see how your decisions line up with their consequences. Namely in passing up talent. I left a comment that the decision to move to Africa has taken some time to feel assured in. I probably should have said that deciding to go indie will take as long, if not longer.

My buddy Rob just finished his first novel, and it’s usually one of his blog posts that sends me on a long string of tangential research. He’s going the traditional (read: wise) route of querying agents. Usually this means I wind up reading the latest news from the front lines, as seen through the eyes of Jennifer Jackson. I’m an interactive person when it comes to blogs, but with agents I tend to lurk. It’s kind of like trying to fearfully respect celebrities in public places – perhaps I’m a nutcase.

I actually find all of these agent blogs to be really encouraging. For one, reading things from their perspective helps to keep you from demonizing them. There’s this theory among aspiring writers that agents are conspiring to keep us all poor and miserable. Which could be true. I’m not an agent so I can’t deny it (and would you believe me if I did?), but I really doubt it. They’ve gotta make a living as well.

What I find encouraging is that they actually reject things. That may sound perverse, but it’s true. I’m treading water in a sea of indie/self-pub/vanity press authors who are all clamoring for attention. Now, who am I to say my book is awesome (-it is-) without coming across like an ass? But if I’m not gonna do it (I don’t really do it often enough) then who will?

It’s pretty difficult to get your book in front of a large audience. I’ve sold a few hundred copies of my book, sure, and I have even more people that visit my blog every month. But that’s about as far as I’ve been able to get. It’s like there’s an invisible wall that keeps me hemmed in and I can’t figure out how to scale it yet. I think this is where liberal applications of patience are prescribed.

Agents rejecting crappy books (or perhaps just poorly formatted query letters) actually gives me hope. Even if it’s a relatively disassociated kind of hope. Someone out there recognizes good work and is looking for it. The slush pile that is the indie world, on the other hand, leaves me feeling a bit hopeless.

Zoe Winters has proven to be some kind of twisted mentor in all of this, and manages to keep me looking on the bright side more often than not. But I’m tempted to query a couple of agents just to get a few more rejection letters. It’s forming in my mind as a kind of game. I want to craft a good letter, send it out, see if I get any feedback, and rework the letter. I don’t expect it to go anywhere – perhaps because I buy into the conspiracy – but just reading about the 300:1 odds people like Jackson give actually makes me want to give it a shot. I have nothing to lose, save my time, and would actually like to participate in the dance.

I feel like I’m having the same experience with book reviewers. I’ve had a couple of bites, but all is generally silent on that front. Assuming you actually have an audience of some sort I’m willing to give you my book for free. “Free book?” they ask. Yes, free book. “Not good enough. Had you written the subject line of your email in an alliteration, I may have considered it out of curiosity. Too bad.” And I return to my fatuous frowny-face for a forlorn fortnight (ALLITERATE THAT!).

All feigned bitterness aside, it would take a fantastic offer to get me to give up being indie. I’ve actually thought it through, believe it or not. I truly feel like – assuming I can get it to work – it’s the best route I could take. But I could always use a couple of new friends. Even if those friends are just form letters that say “Thank you for your query. No dice. That is all.”

Am I nuts? You tell me.

White Shores on Amazon

If you were hoping for fresh comics, they’re on the way. In the meantime click on one that interests you from the sidebar on the right. Top suggestion: 10 Reasons to Hate Moths

  • Add in a little salt, a dash of pepper, and rejection tastes more like… paper with a bit of salt and pepper on it….  

    Sorry, tried to be encouraging.We miss you here, Jay.

    • Haha, thanks Brand. I miss you guys too. I’m hoping to come back to the States at the beginning of March. Perhaps we should have some games. =)

  • I totally understand where you’re coming from because I take the same sort of perverse encouragement from those stats. I’m not sure whether it’s due to my competitive spirit or because I have confidence in my ability to write well enough that my query won’t get tossed out just because of grammar issues. The challenge with indie publishing is that there are just as many books in that market as traditional, but it serves a much smaller audience. It’s hard to get noticed, especially when everyone is trying to get noticed in all the same ways.

    • I think part of the perverse nature of it for me is the expectation of failure. Somehow that actually encourages me to give it a shot.

      I’m not in the camp of believing that anyone will ever actually pick up my books. Not because I don’t think they’re worth it, but because I just can’t imagine it happening. It’s one of those things that I’ve mentioned before that really used to piss me off. Successful authors would say “I never imagined that I would make it this far.” And I would want to punch them in the eye. OF COURSE YOU COULD IMAGINE IT! We all imagine it, dream of it. But now I understand. You really can’t imagine grasping the success you hope for. It’s something beyond your realm of experience – beyond your capacity to comprehend. If it ever comes for me I hope I appreciate it that much more for all this.

  • Eric Alan Solo

    The movie Hot Rod did not make much money / sell many tickets when it came out on cinema. This is proof that just because something is awesome doesn’t mean it will be popular… at first. Years later almost everyone I know has now seen Hot Rod. 

    • True enough – in all honesty I’m fine waiting. I figure it’ll be years before anyone even hears about my books. But if I keep working on them and improving them and make some great reads I have [some] confidence that they’ll get out there.

  • Joe Tromsness

    … alliteration, haha! But there is magic in sets of three! Two is polarizing and four is overly wordy.

    • See, you can’t please anyone in the end.