I recently got another rejection letter. But there was something different about this one. For you to understand it, I’ll explain how the publishing process works by comparing it to a relationship…
Getting published is like getting married. Before the marriage, you have to start dating and develop a relationship. That’s where finding an agent comes in. You flirt by sending out a “query letter” describing what your book is about. If the agent’s attracted to you, they ask you for your manuscript and that’s the first date. If they like what they read, they say yes, you’re in a relationship, and they find a publisher for you and you get married.
In a nutshell.
The vast majority of my rejections have been at the flirting stage. I haven’t even gotten a first date. But last month an agent finally said, “I like you. I wanna see more of you.” So I sent the manuscript in. But a month later, I got the dreaded response that essentially said, “Sorry. You’re not as good as I thought you were. You looked better on facebook.”
And I was back on my behind wondering what the heck is going on. The definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over again expecting different results. But in publishing you’re supposed to keep sending letters to agents over and over again hoping the next one says yes. So the system is set up to drive you insane.
It forced me to wonder what God is thinking because I know that I know that I know that I was created to write. I know that He’s told me to publish my novels. I know what He’s promised me. And yet the more I do, the less I get. And rejection has been my Bane breathing down my neck, “We both know you’re a failure now. You’ll just have to imagine success.”
But I’ve learned something in writing that’s helping me with this new level of failure.
In any given story, the hero is only as good as his villain. When the villain finds the hero’s weakness, he goes after it relentlessly over and over again. Eventually, one of two things will happen: the hero will either give up or he will level up. There is no in between.
So in Dark Knight Rises, Bane breaks Batman’s back and drops him in a pit. Batman’s failed and has a choice to give up and let Bane win or get back up and fight through the pain. So he digs deep and faces his fear to find strength he’s never used before. And he gets back up, fights his way to health, climbs out of the pit, finds Bane and beats him.
So this rejection forced me to dig deeper. And now I’m going to a writer’s conference in August where dozens of agents and editors will give writers a chance to share their novel ideas face to face. I could go there and finally find an agent who’s interested. Or I could go there and get rejected by all 50 of them there and have wasted $500. I could, like Batman, take this leap of faith to escape this pit, only to end up falling again.
But that’s okay. Because when you’ve been rejected 91 times, you’re no longer afraid of it.