Rejection Game

what i do The smartmouth genie story (with extra added Ontario Cowboy Stripper) proceeds apace. Cormorant Run is due to start stacking up a body count today, or I’m going to get cross with it. Not that this particular story cares, I suppose. That’s part of its charm. What dubious charm this story possesses. It’s eating my head and it has to get out, but I’m not sure I particularly like anyone in it.

It’s a bright morning; before I run today, though, I have coffee to finish and administrivia to wade through. That will put me in a mood to swear and sweat, I suspect. The huge glaring yellow thing in the sky is out to get me; I am a creature of cloud cover and most productive when it rains.

Rattlesnake Wind got a rejection yesterday. An editor loved it but couldn’t interest a committee in it, which is very usual for my books. (I never do well in committee.) It has a teenage protagonist, so of course people want to pigeonhole it in YA. The trouble is, it’s also brutally honest and more than a little sad, so YA publishers don’t see it as a “safe bet.” I am of two minds about this. On one hand, my agent tells me I have good prospects and a dedicated fanbase in YA; on the other, dealing with the pushback from publishers on anything they think an Easily Offended Bible Belt Housewife might possibly take an exception to is tiring. I almost want to tell my agent to submit it to litfic imprints, but since my name is openly female and I’m a genre author, I don’t think there will be much interest.

Sure, there’s a sting in being told “not good enough”, but it’s a familiar one, and caused me only about a half-hour of irritation. I did have a moment of thinking “well, let’s put a male pseudonym on this and see if it sells, JUST AS AN EXPERIMENT,” but I don’t have the time or energy to deal with the various ramifications of that strategy.

There are still other publishers to approach, but most of them are YA, so I don’t know. The chances aren’t good, and I’m not sure my heart could take self-pubbing this particular book. It was painful to write, like lancing a very deep boil. There was a certain relief to it, but I wouldn’t willingly revisit the place where it came from now that I’ve said goodbye.

This is part of the publishing business: dealing with the rejections and understanding that even things you pour your heart into aren’t necessarily going to interest the bean-counters or the marketing committees. It’s okay to finish a book and know it won’t find a home easily or at all. At least it wasn’t on spec, it was something I had to write for my own sanity. So it’s not like I was cheated out of that (unpaid) working time. It can safely go in a drawer for a while.

After 50ish books dragged through the publication process, rejection is still the name of the game. (And people wonder why authors stereotypically drink.) And while self-publishing is more available than it’s ever been, there are still instances where and reasons why it’s not the best fit for a particular book. The people who urge it as a panacea are not, I suspect, being quite honest in such urging, but that’s (say it with me) another blog post.

Miss B has found out that a little bit of my ankle is bare because of the gap between my exercise gear and my socks, and she is nosing that one part hopefully. It’s time to get out the door.

Over and out.

  • Skyla Dawn Cameron

    I legit almost said to you last night “Stick the name L.S. Crow on it and sell it as literary”. WE HAVE THE SAME BRAIN.

    Although I am already composing a fan cover for it in my head, I would not urge you to self-pub this one. I strongly believe there’s the right publisher for it, someone who wants dark, horror-adjacent, sad-but-hopeful and real. They’d just better give it the really good cover coming together in my head.

  • Regarding your doing best when it’s cloudy and raining: There was a guy named Donald E. Westlake who was a successful writer of comic caper novels (maybe you’ve seen Redford in the movie version of THE HOT ROCK). Many of these books feature a comically inept thief called Dortmunder. But Westlake also wrote some grim, realistic crime novels about a professional thief named Parker, under the pseudonym of Richard Stark. Westlake once told an interviewer, “I write about Dortmunder when the sun is shining, but Parker shows up when it’s rains.”

  • Wolf Lahti

    “This manuscript of yours that has just come back from another editor is a precious package. Don’t consider it rejected. Consider that you’ve addressed it ‘to the editor who can appreciate my work’ and it has simply come back stamped ‘Not at this address’. Just keep looking for the right address.”
    ―Barbara Kingsolver

  • martianmooncrab

    you know I will still buy three copies when it comes out…

  • I write better gore when it’s raining, I think. Certainly I write better alley fights then.

  • That’s beautiful. Kingsolver is a marvelous human being.

  • I am sort of amused that we have the same brain. If we’re not twins separated at birth we must have been twins in another life.

    I don’t think I’d ever self-pub this one. It’s just…too personal, I think. I wouldn’t be able to give it the critical editing distance it needs.