A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.
Every writer in the world has heard about Harry Potter getting turned down. You’ve probably also read a book that received ZERO rejections, but you definitely haven’t read that unpublished book by that unpublished author who gave up after five.
What am I driving at? There is no correlation between the number of rejections you might receive and the possibility of success or failure.
One rejection is one rejection, nothing more, nothing less and with each one, you must ask yourself the same question: is this bringing me more pain than joy?
More pain? Then stop. Give yourself a break. You don’t have to keep doing this. There are better ways of making a living and you can enjoy writing without having to be published.
More joy? Then keep going. That might mean persevering with this one manuscript, or it might mean rethinking the story. It might also mean accepting that your first manuscript is only that: the first, not the best. Write something else.
Rejection doesn’t stand in the way of writing. It stands in the way of getting published – the two aren’t the same thing.
Not everyone gets a six figure deal, but we’ve all fantasised about it – it’s the equivalent of spending your fictional lottery winnings. Now fantasise about getting a pretty good deal (about 5k) where the film rights remain yet-to-be-optioned and the publisher meeting was you and your agent in a board room with an enthusiastic editor and a plate of biscuits. In reality that’s the jackpot.
Rather than thinking of a book deal as a Golden Ticket to the Chocolate Factory, think of it as having your application for the job of Oompa Loompa accepted and you’re going to work hard in a place you love, where you get to sneak home some free chocolate at the end of your shift. Oompa Loompas don’t get a splashy announcement in the Bookseller, but they have good job satisfaction.
“But they don’t even write their own books!” “The ones that do are crap!” “Why are publishers wasting money on stuff like this?”
Because they sell. And you want publishers to waste money on books that sell, because you want publishers to still exist. Unless you’re a celebrity, you were never competing for that pot of money anyway – and you were unlikely to be competing for those readers. People read books by celebrities not because they want to read the book, but because they want to feel closer to the person who wrote it. (Even if they didn’t write it.)
Some facts about bestseller lists:
It is a publisher’s job to worry about sales, not yours, which is why they have all this information available to them and you don’t. Next time someone asks if your book is selling well, tell them you don’t know and you don’t care. Say it often enough and it’ll feel like it’s true.
Have you ever seen the adaptation of Philip Pullman’s Northern Lights? I rest my case.
On a good day, everyone will like everything you say, your selfie-game is strong and you have the sort of good news that attracts celebratory emojis by the dozen. On a bad day, every man and his dog (sometimes literally) is emerging from an eight-way auction, or announcing a film deal with JJ Abrams on board and your hilarious tweet about your cat only got one like. On top of that, someone’s trashing the book you’re writing that no one’s read, but is conceptually similar to whatever topic is the outrage of the week.
To quote Tom Pollock “Twitter is everyone else’s show reel, whilst your life is the cutting room floor.” When you start confusing the two, then hide your wifi adapter and your phone in the loft. You cannot be trusted to internet and you need a break.
Some lucky authors get proofs. Some lucky authors get a Tube poster. Some lucky authors get sent a personalised unicorn horn on publication day. This is a case of reminding yourself that the best way to sell a book is still word of mouth: proofs can create buzz amongst booksellers and bloggers, but doesn’t always transfer to customers; Tube posters are competing for commuters’ attention with massive adverts for dial-up takeaways and Jack Daniels and films with beautiful actors in. There is no children’s publisher who wouldn’t trade all that for a school-yard buzz dictated by the Zeitgeist – and that can’t be bought. Not even with sacrificial unicorns.
There are only so many books can make it onto Zoella’s Book Club and sure, it’d be nice if it was one of yours, but here’s where working in children’s and YA publishing makes a difference: this is a team effort, guys. We’re not competing with each other, we’re competing with the internet and games and smart phones and streamed programmes and movies and Spotify and… oh yeah, a ridiculous amount of school work. Anything that raises the profile of books among teenagers is A Good Thing.
Goodreads is where authors’ egos go to die. If you can’t stay away from online reviews, give yourself a little window in which to rage, then look up the hilarious one star reviews of your favourite book. Remember: not every book is for every reader and the one reader who really needed your book when everything else in their life felt unbearable might not post a review online, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist.
Everyone loves a bit of external validation, but not everyone gets it. Nominations, longlists, shortlists – are just little steps one takes towards CRUSHING DISAPPOINTMENT. There can only be one winner and that might not be you, even if a little teeny swollen and hopeful part of you thought it might be. Here are the things I’ve used to talk myself out of being an arsehole about not winning things: