Wednesday, January 05, 2011

The Thickest Skin?

There are two things that are essential to achieve success as an author:

1)  write a stonking good book
2)  submit, submit and submit again.  And again if necessary.  And ...

The thing is, if number 1 is in place, you owe it to yourself not to give up too easily if the rejection letters flood in, no matter how much it hurts each time one thuds onto your doormat.  You have to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and pitch to the next person on your list.  (After maybe eating several bars of chocolate and/or punching a pillow and/or downing a few gins.)

But how many rejections would it take before you gave up on a particular book?
10?  20?  50?

Until recently, I was telling authors whose books I was convinced were publishable not to give up until they had received 60 rejections. 

But have you heard about Jason Wallace?  He has just been named the winner of the Costa Children's Book Award for his book set in Zimbabwe, Out of Shadows.  

The judges said:

'For us, this extraordinary debut novel was a unanimous winner. This compelling portrayal of a nation in crisis gripped us from start to finish and has stayed with us since  ...  A stunning debut novel without a false note.  Accomplished and powerful, it changes the way you think.
 But - and here's the rub -

- Jason was turned down by 100 (yes, you read that right, one zero zero) agents and publishers before being picked up by Andersen Press.

He is quoted in today's Independent as saying,

'I think I may have had a few low points when trying to get the book noticed, but in truth I don't think I would ever have given in.'

A few low points? A few low points???  How many people would hang on for that long, keeping the faith, rejection after rejection?  Well, Jason did and just look at what happened to him ...

So what are you waiting for?  Armour plate your heart and get that MS out there.

(NB: If the rejection slips do begin to pile up, you will probably need an objective assessment before you can be completely certain that the 'stonking' aspect is fully in place.)


Rebecca Bradley said...

100 rejections!!! Now that is determination. I'm really not sure I would have the stomach for that many, but time will tell. Good for him though!

Queenie said...

I will keep going until I have been through all the agents and all the publishers who handle the kind of book I've written. Sadly, in my case, to the best of my knowledge that's only 20 agents and 10 publishers. If there were 100 I wouldn't stop until I'd reached 100. And what are you doing blogging, missus? Shouldn't you be cooking - or could this possibly have come to us via the magic of scheduled posting? ;-) Hope everything's going smoothly xxx

Sue Guiney said...

Gotta love these stories.

Sandie said...

The issue for me is recognising the point at which thick skin turns out to be an inability to see the book needs work.

I couldn't submit 100 times on the basis of my own faith - I'd have questioned my judgement versus theirs WAY before that point.

Hats off to those who can, and it's great to see this sort of success story - warms the cockles - but the cynic in me balances it against the thousands of other unpublished writers who, like Wallace, persist valiantly in submitting... but are doing so with books that are actually being rejected for solid (and probably fixable!) reasons.

Debi said...

Rebecca - welcome. And good luck with your submissions. May they never reach treble figures!
Queenie - finished for the day. In more ways than 3 ... And I know you have the guts - and the good-enough book.
Sue - great, huh?
Sandie - 100% right - hence my final sentence re needing an objective assessment if the rejections do pile up.

Liane Spicer said...

Wow. I needed this bit of inspiration today. Thanks.

Unknown said...

Love stories like these!
I think I'd be hard pressed to find 100 places to sub to in the first instance. I now feel really bad as I usually give up after about six rejections... Oops.

Debi said...

Liane and Nicky - there's definitely a lesson in this, eh? Keep the faith!

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bryo said...

Hi Debi followed the link from the wordcloud. glad i did. A very interesting story about Jason