Monday, February 7, 2011

Self-Rejection by Non-Submission

by Raelene Gorlinsky

I am frequently amazed by how many writers will write and write...and never submit their work to be considered for publication. Why pour all that effort and commitment into a product that you then hide away? Talking to such writers, I've come up with some of the reasons. Do you see yourself in any of these?

1. Fear of rejection/failure
"If I submit, I may be rejected." Well, yes, acceptances are rare, rejections frequent. But if you don't submit, you are just rejecting yourself. You'll never get feedback, never find out what publishing professionals (editors, agents) think of your work, never get the chance to incorporate that advice into improving your work.

2. Lack of knowledge on how to take the next step
You've labored over that story for months or years. You've self-edited, you've had others critique and proofread it, you've polished and polished. But then you don't know what to do next! How and where do you submit your story, what are the requirements, the process?
Okay, here's where you have to accept that writing for publication is a profession, not a hobby. Join a professional writing organization! Study the profession, subscribe to the appropriate magazines, e-newsletters. Join writer groups, in person and online. Attend workshops. All the information you need is out there--go find it.

3. Love to write, hate the "business" end of things

Researching agents and publishers. Writing query letters, preparing and sending submissions, then keeping track of them all. If you do get a wonderful acceptance, then it's analyzing the offer, wading through the contract language. Then deadlines and other commitments on the way to seeing that story actually be published. Does all that make you scream "But I just want to WRITE!"? Time to ask yourself the question again--is writing a hobby you enjoy for itself alone, or is it a profession involving publication?

4. Love to write, hate to market yourself

This is a business, remember? It does no good to produce a product if you don't get out there and sell it. Nowadays, all publishers expect the author to handle much of the promotion of their book and their author name. Even the large NY publishers expend minimal promotional dollars on most of their authors; only a small percentage of the very top sellers get heavy marketing support. So as an author (or aspiring author), you do have to put effort into things like a website, blog, e-newsletter, presence on the social networks. Belong to writing groups that offer you networking and cross-promotional opportunities, take workshops on self-promotion and book marketing that are offered by author organizations. If your book is contracted by a publisher, you will indeed need a plan for how you will promote the book. Your potential income from a book is dependent on how much you put into publicizing your book and your author name.

5. Priorities and commitment: Love to write, less interest in being published

This is for the writers who are willing to honestly admit that what they enjoy is the process of writing, and admiring their finished product themselves--but they don't necessary need or want to or can commit the effort to getting published. Writing as a hobby is perfectly valid, don't feel guilty about it. But don't pretend to yourself or others that you are striving for professional publication if you are not.

I have to admit that I fall into the "why I haven't submitted" group for this reason. I write children's picture books. I love doing it, I love sharing them with my friends, my crit group, my family. (Nothing will erase the memory of my father's joy when, for his 80th birthday, I gave him a story based on his tradition of making special pancakes for my sisters and me when we were children.) Sure, I would love to see my stories professionally illustrated and published, I'd even like to make money from them. BUT--I have an incredibly busy and stressful life, many things I'd like to do but can't get to. So the huge amount of time needed to do all the steps of submitting my stories to children's publishers just hasn't made it high enough on my personal priority list. Maybe someday, but meanwhile I can enjoy the writing itself.

What's your reason for not submitting your story?


Gillian Archer said...

The reason I give myself is that the story isn't done yet. I pick and pick and pick. Or I get half way through self-editing and I get this niggling that the story should actually go this way and end up re-writing the last half of the book. But then of course I have to go back and edit again and 'round and 'round we go.

But I know at the heart of it, it's prolly #1.

Aun-Juli said...

I think it's partially number one, and also not believing I have enough writing experience. In my head, I'm supposed to write a certain amount, edit a certain amount, and make sure that I know I've punched my work into submission enough before I send it out. I think these are valid things to worry about, but my fear is that I won't know when I'm ready? That I'll keep writing for years and years and not start that query?

I'm hoping that when the time comes I'll know. Or someone will shake me to death and say, "Just do it already!"

Maybe by then, I'll fall into another category. Haha!

ClothDragon said...

Not done. I recognize issues, but I haven't quite figured out how to fix them. I realize I should write book 2 all the way to the end instead of continuing to circle the first three chapters and that getting to the/an end will teach me something, but I keep circling.

I'll get there eventually.

Josin L. McQuein said...

Don't forget fear of success. It sounds strange, but it's something that hits certain people when the end of their book is in sight. They slow down, they pick the MS apart, they turn into perfectionists, because in their head, it's going to get published and that makes things terrifying.

Cori said...

I have three agents and an editor who've requested to see my first novel. I haven't sent it because at some point, I lost confidence in the manuscript and I don't want them to think that's the best I can do.

Also, I'm terrified of writing a synopsis, though one agent was so excited about the concept she said I could send MS without it so it would get to her first.

Maybe it's fear or failure. Maybe it's fear of success. But when all is said and done, it's still fear.

I've completed my third novel now and have a request for a full. I'm more confident about my writing and plan to send it...just as soon as I finish that synopsis. O_o

Karla Doyle said...

I fall into the first category. I start a new project with every confidence that 'this' will be the one I submit, but by the end, the good feeling's gone and self doubt prevails. It's a vicious cycle--one I'd like to kick to the curb.

Anonymous said...


Oops, sorry.

Wrong post.

*sneaks quietly out the door*

Charlotte said...

I haven't submitted yet because I am spending as much time researching the whole submission process as I spent on writing the actual book!

But it's also, as for Gillian, because I keep changing things in the story. I add a bit more description here, clean up a sentence there. I am pleased that I didn't submit it when it was first finished because it was, I realize now, far from really being finished. But at some point I will have to say, "Enough!" and send it off!

Madelle Morgan said...

Malcom Gladwell said that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become good at something. I hope people who have their early ms rejected don't get discouraged and stop writing or stop submitting. They'll get there evenually with practice!

anny cook said...

It takes a tremendous amount of courage to submit your work. I'm convinced the older the writer, the more courage required.

When I submitted my first (and only) book, I was naively hoping for some feedback that would help me improve my writing.

Imagine my intense shock when I was offered a contract instead. At fifty-seven I became a published writer.

Two thoughts. It's never too late. And writers aren't always the best judges of their own work.