Make no mistake, I’m writing this post as much for me as for you.
I got about six rejection letters this week from various publishers for my new book proposal. And yes, I know all the stories about authors who got rejected 20, 50, a hundred times. The fact is, this is now happening to ME, and it hurts. Anyone with any semblance of an ego gets told “no” to a project, and feels that sting of “but…why?”
So after the initial gut punch, here’s what I’m sitting down and going through to process what’s not quite right about this proposal, in hopes that it’ll help YOU figure out how to muddle through when you’re getting more no than yes.
Remember, this isn’t personal.
The publishers aren’t rejecting ME. They have a job to do; publishing books is a business. They have to look at the premise, whether it’ll sell to the audience they know is out there, and whether it’s a good risk for them to put their name on.
It’s tempting to think of the “no” as commentary on my worth as a human and as a writer. But that’s not the case. These people don’t know me personally. They’re looking at the viability of a book as a business vehicle, whereas I have a lot of “me” tied up in the book. My ego is attached to it, because I created it. To them, it’s a math equation.
I have to remember to take “me” out of it.
Regret doesn’t fix the problem.
One of the hardest points of feedback on a couple of the rejection letters was that my platform didn’t feel big enough for someone with my experience in the social media space.
Oof. I’ve written about why I stepped away for a while, but I’m definitely paying for that to some degree. And that hurts. So many things I wish I had done differently, and so much advice I wish I had NOT listened to. Alas.
I can’t go backwards. All I can do is take stock of the assets I have today, and work with what I’ve got now. That means, in my specific example, I have to emphasize with publishers that a) I’ve built a platform before and I can do it again (and already am working on it), and b) I have a powerful network of connections that support me and this project, and they do have bigger platforms than I do. This is where I can afford to name drop a bit with the friends who have told me it’s ok to leverage their names. There are also plenty of successful authors with platforms that look and feel very much like mine (unless they have huge things going on behind the scenes I can’t see, which is always possible).
I have to believe that someone will see the potential in what I bring to the table, and hear me when I say what I know I’m capable of building between now and when a book would be published.
So when you’re feeling like someone is telling you that what you have isn’t enough, you have to find ways to make what you do have exponentially more valuable.
Take the feedback that’s specific and actionable, and ACT.
One of the more helpful conversations I had was with a publisher that really liked the concept, but was having trouble getting the rest of her editorial team on board with it. She gave me some very specific input about focusing the concept and narrowing the audience (yes, narrowing) in order to make it more tangible and actionable to those people.
It was really good input. And it’s something I know I can fix.
If I’m really, brutally, totally honest with myself, I probably know that this first pass at the proposal wasn’t the money shot. I’ve struggled with the through-line for this book even though I KNOW it’s in there. It’s kept me up at night even after the proposal was shopping.
This might be the kick in the pants I needed to go back to the drawing board and write the thing in a much more disciplined, focused way. A lot of the right pieces are there, but it hasn’t landed with that big CLICK in my own head yet, and if it doesn’t do that, why would it do that for an editor or a reader?
So, I have a good idea now of what needs to change, and I have to have the confidence in my writing and my brain enough to let them do the work to fix it.
The key is to not try to boil the ocean. Not to panic and tear up all the work I’ve done. It’s to take the foundation of what I have, and focus on what I know can make it better. Something I can DO, so I don’t just sit and think and stew.
I admit that I really hate the motivational guru crap of “just keep going” sometimes. Because I get crabby and feel that good ol’ imposter syndrome creeping in, telling me maybe I should just give up, maybe this book is just no good, maybe I’m not really a writer, maybe…
If you’re anything like me, your mind starts to play pretty brutal tricks on you when you get rejected. Some people get mad and just push forward. I’m not one of those people.
For me, perseverance doesn’t look like the dude who couldn’t lift the weight the first time and then the second time lifts the weight and a car in the other hand.
Sometimes for me, it’s just about having the courage to try again tomorrow. Just to show up, and put my fingers on the keyboard, and write again when words feel like my enemy.
So here I am today, writing again. Picking apart my proposal. Thinking about how I can authentically grow my online presence again in a way that feels true to me. Accepting the things I cannot change. Changing the things I can.
And giving myself the grace to say “You’ll be okay, take one more swing.”