Almost every great author has been rejected. James Joyce's Ulysses, voted best novel of the 20th century by The Modern Library, was rejected repeatedly. Jane Austen, too. I've yet to hear a story about any author who achieved success without first receiving rejections.
Fortunately, there are a ton of books with helpful advice for those of us in the throes. One, The Essential Guide To Getting Your Book Published, I recently read had inspiration I wanted to share with you.
It's only one person's opinion – All agents and editors have stories about bestselling books they've turned down. Books they thought were downright terrible, books they thought had no market. Or simply books they didn't feel strongly about. Think about bestselling books that don't appeal to you, and you can't understand why others are reading it—loving it. The point is, there is simply no accounting for taste.
No one wants to give you your first job – Love this example. Everyone wants to give you a job after you're successful. A couple of nutty brothers wrote a script that was made into a movie, and suddenly they had the ear of some Hollywood muckety-mucks, all of whom wanted to know: "Where's your next script?" The brothers had been working on a big, crazy science-fiction idea that they wanted to direct themselves, but the idea was so huge and unusual that no one would give them the money. No one wanted to take the risk. So they wrote a smaller, easier-to-make-movie, much of which takes place in an apartment. Because the budget was so small, adn the movie was so good, it made money. So now those Hollywood muckety-mucks, who wouldn't give the money to make their crazy sci-fi movie before their success were more than happy to give them $70 million. The nutty sci-fi film? A little movie called The Matrix.
No one knows what's going to sell—A study done at Wharton School of Business about predicting success showed overwhelmingly that no amount of number crunching or objective quantifying analysis can predict what will be successful. The best predictor of a book's future success is an agent's or editor's or publisher's gut instinct. Unfortunately, it appears that the guts of those in publishing are particularly unprescient. SO, no matter how many people tell you that your ms has no value, understand that a large percentage of those people have no idea what they are talking about.
Let no nabob shake your faith in your writing ability—Yes, listen intently. Yes, be open to making changes necessary to mold your ms into a lean, mean fighting machine. But don't let the "nattering nabobs of negativity" shake your belief in your own ability to succeed. As Saul Bellow put it, "I've discovered that rejections are not altogether a bad thing. They teach a writer to rely on his own judgment and to say in his heart of hearts, 'To hell with you.'"
It takes only one—Your book can be rejected by hundreds of publishers and/or agents. But what you've got to remember is that all it takes is on e publisher or one agent to make your dream come true. Joe Quirk wrote five novels and collected 375 rejection letters before he got published. Upon finishing his fifth novel, he sent the first chapter to Harper's magazine. He got back a rejection letter. Scribbled across the bottom were the words, "Give it a rest, pal." You'd think at this point he would have done just that. Instead, he soldiered on and a month later found an interested agent. Shortly thereafter, his book was sold. The Ultimate Rush went on to become a national bestseller.
Rejection can help you become a better writer—As Charles Baxter, acclaimed novelist and professor of creative writing, says, "A lack of self-confidence can be turned to your own purposes if it helps you take pains, to take care, to avoid glibness."
I reread this section of The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published regularly to keep my focus clear. Hope it helps all my fellow aspiring writers to keep forging ahead.