The Learning Curve That Never Ends
I was chatting with a friend and she happened to mention a mutual acquaintance of ours, a multi-published author who is widely regarded as an incredible novelist and has several books out. It so happens that this author delivered a manuscript to the publisher, only to have the editor reject it and send the author back to the drawing board. (I think it was for the author’s eighth published book.)
Now I know that sounds like your worst nightmare. To finally be a successful author, have multiple contracts, people loving your books… only to have a manuscript outright rejected by the publisher. It can be devastating, and frustrating, and it can make you question a lot of things.
I’ve personally been involved in several situations where a popular author’s new manuscript isn’t working; rather than “reject the manuscript,” the publisher has extended the release date by six months or more, given the author a complete set of notes detailing why it’s not working, and allowed them to come back later with a rewritten manuscript.
I’m telling you this because I want you to remember a couple of things:
1. Your work is always going to be subject to what others think. On the upside, it means that others may force you to do your best work. This may cause you headaches and set-backs, but it will probably be for the best.
2. It’s not the end of the world. Having a book “sent back to the drawing board” is a possibility, and if it happens to you, I don’t want you to feel ashamed and dejected, believing you’re a failure and you must be the only person to whom this has ever happened. It’s not a failure but rather part of your learning curve; you shouldn’t be ashamed, and many writers have gone through it before you.
Usually if this happens, the publisher is able to adjust their schedule and give you time to fix the book or write a new one. Usually.
There is another kind of situation that doesn’t have such a happy ending, and that’s where the publisher outright rejects your book, saying you didn’t deliver what you said you would, they cancel the contract and ask for their advance back.
Don’t panic when reading this.
It rarely happens, I promise! But I already know you’re going to ask me this in the comments, so I’m going to be honest and tell you: yes, it’s possible. It’s right there in your publishing contract. You’ll read it and try to pretend you didn’t, but yes, the publisher can cancel your book.
I’m not saying these things to discourage you, I promise. I want you to know some of the realities of this business, so you’ll be informed. Again, it rarely happens, so don’t get all paranoid.
Just remember that if you’re dealing with rejection on queries, it’s good practice for later, when more rejection could be coming your way. You’re never too old, or experienced, or too great a writer to avoid rejection!
Darn it, I’m not going to be able to end this post with a happy platitude. Can anyone help me out?
(c) 2010 Rachelle Gardner, Literary Agent