Saturday, January 4, 2014

Weathering Rejection, A Humbling Admission and Going It On My Own

I haven't blogged in awhile. Didn't do a "2013" reflection blog like I'd planned. Mostly because of the holidays, and the fact that I've been working pretty heavily on THE JABBERWOK. But also, the truth of the matter is...

I just didn't feel like it.

I thought I'd learned to weather rejection. Thought I'd built up a thick skin. And really, when it comes to being rejected by faceless editors whom I don't know, I think I have built up a decently thick skin. I'm actually pretty eager to get THE JABBERWOK done so I can really focus on short fiction. My simple goal for 2014 is to collect a virtual folder of rejection slips from pro pay venues. See, I can't control what gets accepted and what doesn't. What I CAN control is what I write, how well I write, and where I'm brave enough to send those words.

Hence the above message I ironically found on a Taco Bell hot sauce package just before Christmas. "If you never do, you'll never know." Pretty good life advice in general, but especially in regards to writing fiction. Do I have what it takes to ascend a rung on the publishing ladder? Can I write short fiction with the big boys? I'll never know unless I try doing it.

However, this rejection stung a little bit more than others, for this simple reason: it came from an editor I'd met, face to face. Someone I knew. And I'd been introduced to this editor by a fellow writer as someone who wrote "good stuff."

Now, to be clear: this wasn't a solicited gig that was then rejected. This publishing house has open admissions, and I submitted, just like any other "joe." I wasn't promised anything more than any other writer who would submit work to this publisher. But I made a key, crucial mistake: I think that, subconsciously, I convinced myself I had a greater chance because I'd met this editor several times, developing a friendly acquaintance with them. So when the rejection came (not from this editor but from the chief editor), I took it more personally than I normally would've.

Which, of course, once more highlights why the publishing industry - in the horror genre, anyway - can be kind of...weird, sometimes. Because at the bottom of it is an industry. A business. And in the process of conducting business, you meet people and become friendly with them, maybe even becoming actual friends in the process...

But in the end decisions to publish are, in effect, business decisions, regardless of friendships or friendly acquaintances. And I know that on a rational level. But on a subconscious level...

Of course, worth considering is that the rejection email came from the head of the publishing house. For all I know, said editor may've even recommended the novella to the head honcho (just like I did with several novellas during my run at Cemetery Dance), and then the head honcho passed on it (which I'm sure probably happened to several of the novellas I passed up the chain at Cemetery Dance).

And yes, the irony of the same thing happening to me that probably happened to others - through me - is not missed.

Regardless, I took it harder because subconsciously I forgot that business decisions are made in all walks of life regardless of friendships. And these decisions in the publishing industry are very often simply determined by the particular taste of particular editors. There are several novellas I passed on at CD that will probably find homes elsewhere and do very well. In fact, I know for sure several have. And, to be honest, I did pass on novellas written by people I'd met before. So, once again: gotta admire and appreciate irony in all its glory.

And in retrospect: my novella was essentially a speculative "coming of age." This publisher has already released several "coming of age" novellas this year. So maybe one more was too much. Who knows?

In any case, it took several days for me to fight back because of this. I simply took it too personally because I allowed myself, subconsciously, to think that I'd been given an "in" when really I'd been offered the same chance as anyone else. I struggled with it for several days, until I finally accepted it for what it was: another learning experience. Because guess what?

I have another novella being considered by a friend. A friend this time, and not just an acquaintance. Now, this friend has offered me a lot more feedback concerning said novella, and I think they definitely want to see it published, so if the decision comes back "no" I'll know it came from higher up, and not them.  But the thing is, if I'm going to survive in the business and try to ascend the ladder I need to take these setbacks in stride, keep my head, act professional and keep working. As a fellow writer PM'd me on Facebook a few days after the rejection, I need to always focus on the work itself, and let everything else go.

Of course, in several emails with another writer friend, self-publishing the novella came up. However, I'm not ready for that, yet. I want to consider self-publishing as just another viable avenue, not an "escape route" for me to avoid the sting of rejection. Plus, THE JABBERWOK is going to be my first experiment in self-publishing. This novella is being combed over by beta-readers, I'm going to make adjustments and send it back out into the world.

Also, I've got to remember to be thankful for all I've achieved. This year saw my first pro short story sale to a STELLAR collection, and also the release of my short fiction collection that has been reviewed well, has sold well, and people seem to really like. For the first time...I think I actually have readers.

And hence this other picture. About six years ago, I routinely wrote at Barnes and Noble on Saturdays, and would lunch at the Taco Bell next door. I would scarf down tacos and likewise devour horror fiction, both short and novel length, hoping that someday I'd make some sort of headway, have some sort of career. 

Well, I have made headway. A lot. I'm still a relative nobody, but compared to six years ago? I've come light years. Who knows what the next six years will hold? Can't argue with a Taco Bell hot sauce package: "if I never do, I'll never know."