Having your novel rejected by publishers is hard, especially when you are first starting out. You’ve poured your heart and soul into your book but it hurts when rejection follows rejection. You take it personally, although it isn’t—it all comes down to finance and whether a publisher is willing to take a gamble. So I can well understand why many writers today go down the self-published route, some not even bothering with even trying for a publisher, feeling it better to keep hold of the reins and control of their work, and of course, to keep all the profit their book may earn.
In today’s world of the ease and acceptance of self-publishing, it is also becoming more apparent publishers are unwilling to sign up a new author, instead preferring their writers to have proven themselves by having churned out and self-published at least five novels, regardless of actual sales attained by each. They prefer too for their authors to already have a large following on social media so that any new book the publisher releases will have a ready audience.
But I wonder how many of these self-published authors still want to find that elusive publishing deal? Become a “proper” contracted author along with the kudos that comes with it? Okay, so we all know even if you are lucky to find a publisher willing to pay you for your work, that tantalizing dream of earning mega bucks will probably never come true. But are authors being truly honest with themselves when they say they don’t that, it isn’t why they write, they have published and that’s all that matters?
Take me, for example. I’ve been writing for many years. I have several novels completed, others nearly so and several more started ready for when I have time to finish them. I’ve been short-listed for a major national writers’ award with one of my novels leading to a top London agent liking my book so much she signed me up. We agreed on a publishing name, talked about the cover…and there the fairytale ended. No one took it up. In the end I self-published through my own publishing business. The novel was well-received, sold a fair few copies and all the reviews were good ones. (Every Step of the Way available through Amazon).
The story with my second novel hasn’t even reached that far. I’ve lost count of the number of rejections I have received. All the publishers I’ve submitted it to like the story and my writing style, they say, and are intrigued by the plot and characters. Yet not one, so far, has contracted it. A major publishing house thought my book was worthy of publication but not enough to take a gamble on me as a new writer. Oh, they did offer me a contract—a partnership contract to publish if I paid them £2,500.00. Yeah, right. If you like my story that much but are not prepared to take a gamble on me, why should I take a gamble on you doing everything you say you would do in the contract. And I would certainly have to make a lot of sales to even break even. I don’t think so. It enough to make this writer want to self-publish again.
Only there’s a little bookworm wriggling inside me telling me not to give up. I shall continue trying, and keep sending it out to publishers and agents. I have nothing to lose. And whilst I wait for the responses, I am concentrating on my other novels and completing those already started. So, a big sorry to all my fans and followers who were looking forward to reading the book soon. I know you’ve waited a long time. But it is coming, in one form or another and I hope it will be worth the wait.
Meanwhile, I take heart from the authors listed below who fought hard to be recognized and accepted by a publisher. I won’t mention JK Rowling as we all know her story by now, but the rest are perhaps less well-known. They didn’t give up either. Neither shall I.
John Creasey MBE: In 1986, he held the record for the most rejections, at a staggering 743 No Thank You’s before hitting the jackpot. His first books, westerns and thrillers, earned him another staggering figure: £10 each!
Fay Weldon: For 20 years everything she sent out was rejected until a publisher accepted her work.
Agatha Christie: Her first who-done-it, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, was rejected five times, but undaunted, she continued to write crime stories, and her play The Mousetrap still holds the record for the longest continuous stage-run in the world.
Alan Sillitoe: His novel Saturday Night and Sunday Morning was likewise rejected five times. Prior to writing this, he had churned out seven novels. He never gave up either.
Alistair McLean: His short stories never got anywhere until the day he won a short story competition and was asked by the publisher to write a novel. His first book, HMS Ulysses, became a hit, earning him £50,000.
Zane Grey: It took him six years of writing stories before finally being accepted. He went on to become the king of cowboy and western books.
Baroness Orcy: The Scarlet Pimpernel was rejected by 12 publishers.
Alex Haley: Before Roots hit the No.1 spot, Alex had received hundreds of rejections.
Beatrix Potter: The Tale of Peter Rabbit received six rejection letters before success came knocking out of the carrot patch.
George Orwell: Animal Farm amassed 23 rejections before the gates opened to success.
RD Blackmore: He never gave trying despite Lorna Doone being rejected by 18 publishers.
Frank Herbert: He received 13 rejections before Dune was accepted.
Thor Heyerdahl: Despite the story of his epic adventure on the high seas, his book Kon-Tiki was rejected 18 times before being published.
Oh Kit … you are truly BEAUTIFUL … an artist at heart. Thanks for being such a lovely inspiration. 🙂
Being a beginner its very difficult to market your books and get to a wide reading community even after you finally publish your book spenting quiet a lot of money ..
Indeed. Even if you find a publisher, you still have to promote your books. It’s the way of the world nowadays.
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Your frustrations echo my own, Kit, with my first novel, Meeting Lydia. It was a broken wrist and the fear that life was too short to wait that sent me down the self-publishing route. And seven years on I have four novels out there, a string of good reviews, a small but loyal following of enthusiastic readers – but seemingly not enough to attract interest from a publishing company. And the costs are mounting up such that I am having to think carefully about whether to continue, or whether to try again to find a publisher. I didn’t have the staying power of the examples you quote. Fay Weldon is one of my favourite authors and I didn’t know she had been rejected so many times. There are so many books out there that it is ever more difficult to find enough readers without the help of a marketing budget that only a publishing house can offer – and perhaps only the big ones at that. I’ve heard it said that only when the staying-power of most of the self-published is exhausted, maybe there will be more of a chance for those that hang in there. In the meantime, thank you for writing a piece that shows we are not alone.
Do try for a publisher, Linda. You’re books are brilliant, and with publishers more willing to take on an established author with several novels behind you, you certainly stand a better chance than me. I shall keep on searching as I now have the “will not be defeated” attitude. Time will tell. x
It’s not easy, dealing with rejections. Thank you for reminding us all that this is a very subjective business we’re in. I had not thought about agents and editors wanting us to prove ourselves through self-publishing, but that makes sense these days.
It’s the frustration that’s the worse part, Laurie. I also think it’s because my novel’s a little bit controversial in its subject matter why publishers are reluctant to take it. It doesn’t fall easily into any one genre. But I refuse to go down quietly. 🙂