Develop a Thick Skin Featured

  • 15 January 2020 |
  • Written by  Helen M. Pugsley
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            And now for the touchy subject of rejection. It’s going to come before fame and fortune. It’s going to come with fame and fortune. There will be people who absolutely, do not, no matter what you do, will not like your work. That’s okay. Keep going.

            If you choose to traditionally publish you will have to work through an entire tracking sheet of queries. (I recommend The Writers Market for a nice tracker graph.) If you choose to traditionally publish you will get rejected a lot. You will get rejected so many times you will make “JK Rowling got rejected seven times before she found a publisher for Harry Potter!” look like a joke. It’s good and it’s normal. I’ve heard of groups of published authors coming together, sipping coffee, and comparing rejection numbers like badges of honor. “18? Go home, kid. Try 35!” War and Chess got 25 in the five years I worked on it, and Tales from the Gishlan Wood is at about 15 right now. According to the anonymous void that is the internet, the internet says you should query about 80-100 publishing houses and agents before you give up.

            If you choose to self-publish, and thus sign yourself up to do your own marketing, there will be rejection too. Only, after the book is published! Book stores will tell you they don’t want to carry your book, libraries might choose not to carry your book if you’re not a local author, some of your friends won’t like your book, not everyone you know will read it, and not everyone who reads it will like it. (Traditionally published authors face these trials too.)

            What I’m getting at is that you need to develop a thick skin. You can’t just curl up in a ball and cry every time someone tells you they don’t like it. I mean, it makes Christmas awkward but Aunt Franny always spoke her mind anyway. What did you expect? Jokes aside, are you really going to have a horrid day every time an email rolls in that reads “Thank you for your submission but this isn’t what we’re looking for.”? I’ve heard of people scream crying and moping over each one. Even as a 14 year old girl I was like “Ya’ll need to calm down.”

            The only thing worse than a crybaby is the writer who explodes with anger. Sometimes, if I actually finish a book I though was “Meh” I go check the author’s Twitter page to see if they’ll come after me if I say their book was “Meh” on Goodreads. I once saw an author whose work I love but every time she got into an argument with someone she’d screenshot their Facebook profile, post their full name, the name of their hometown, and the slight, then tweet it so that maybe her loyal followers would harass the unlucky soul. “John Doe of Yoder Wyoming, you have stolen my tarts!” I unfollowed her. Another author made headlines a few years ago when he tracked down someone who gave him a poor review and smashed a wine bottle against her head. She was a teenager working in a grocery store. All’s I’m saying is don’t be that guy.

            It’s easier said than done but you need to develop a skin so thick that someone can just stand there and tell you all the things they didn’t like about your book while you sit there and don’t even blink. That’s the goal, anyway. You need to realize that rejection will happen. You’ll get your ego hurt. But how you respond to rejection is what defines you.

            It’s worth it though. It’s all worth it when someone comes up to you on one of your not so bright and shiny days and says “Omigosh, I read your book in one night! I couldn’t put it down!” and then goes on, and on, and on, for half an hour about how much they loved your book. Or even the “Your poetry is so raw and beautiful.” Comment on Wattpad. It becomes worth it when you hold a copy of your book for the first time, or your very first book signing when you introduce your book to the world, or when your close friends start giving each other copies of your book for Christmas and then they send you pictures of how happy receiving a copy made them, or a stranger within your target audience comes up to you and says “I really enjoyed this.” It becomes worth it. You just need to know there’s two sides to every coin, and prepare yourself for both. There’s nothing wrong with drawing the shades and hiding from the world once in a while, though.

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Do you have a burning question for Helen? Feel free to email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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