Tag Archives: rejection letters

#MondayBlogs: When Writing is Not All You Do

4 May

Intro:

Back in February of 2013, I wrote a little blog post called Writing Tips: How to Handle Rejection. A huge part of this post was dedicated to John Tompkins. At the time, he wrote a blog called Rejection Love Letters (Or How to Lose Agents and Alienate Publishers). That blog no longer exists, but it was one of my favorites. Why? Because John Tompkins had a fearlessness many crave. He shared his rejection letters from publishers with humor and honesty, and while I think every writer has been rejected, he was open about it, and that is rare. Since then, he has since self-published, and today, he is writing an article for us about another topic many authors can relate to—working and writing, as two separate full-time jobs.

When Writing is Not All You Do

Writing is easy. Getting published is hard. This is especially true for those who work and have families. It’s pretty difficult to advance your writing career when you’re alternating your time between a job, washing dishes after dinner, bathing your child and helping with laundry.

A writer recently posted an item on Salon claiming that authors who do nothing but write, thanks to financial security, shouldn’t be judged because they have the luxury to live all writing all the time.

cover 2One encouraging thing the writer did say, however, is that those who are privileged should disclose that and not pretend that they had to fight through the clutter on Amazon or through the slush pile with a publisher to get noticed. Many of them have connections in the publishing industry and quite simply don’t know what it’s like to struggle. The Salon writer offered two examples of successful writers. One is due to inherit a sizable fortune and has time to do nothing but write. The other is a young woman who was the only child of a couple heavily involved in the New York literary scene. Her being published was foregone the moment she was born.

I’m a married father of one with another one due in June. I also work full time, mostly writing at night while my wife’s asleep or during King of Queens reruns. Have to fit it in somewhere.

I’ve written now, three books (ok two books and one novella) all of which have been rejected (I’ve got more than 100 reject letters). Most of the letters I made fun of by posting to a now defunct blog. Reading the rejections, I noticed that they all pretty much sounded the same. “Sorry, you’re good, but you’re not spectacular.” I gave up with agents and publishers and decided, after having two PhD’s edit my book, to just put it out there.

I posted it to Amazon about a month ago. Hopefully it will make it through all of the clutter but I guess we’ll see. I’m doing my best to market it and I’m also struggling to find reviewers.

I think my problem with the publishing industry is mostly the second example. Too many people who are talented with something valuable to say are ignored by publishers because they didn’t grow up in the Northeast or have connections from graduate school. So they’re ignored. It’s a disservice to readers and the art in general. I said as much in a comment to the Salon story.

It shouldn’t anger me so much to hear authors who start off wealthy and have nothing to do but write. But it does and it is easy to get discouraged.

There are the handful of success stories, notably E.L. James and a series of books you may have heard of, Fifty Shades of Grey. She self-published her novels originally as e-books. You know the rest of the story. One of the tidbits I enjoy about her success is when the director was making the ending to the recently released movie, James ordered him to make the ending she wanted. That’s control that most authors never get because so few have subsidiary rights. (Further ironic because the whole story is about personal control and giving it up.) This all being said, James was a television executive when she was writing Fifty Shades. But unlike other privileged writers, she released her works as any other independent author. Her books actually started out as fan fiction of the Twilight series.

This is about the only thing I think that keeps me going. When I’m sitting in my bed at 12 a.m. trying to hit my daily 1,500-word quota on number four, I can only dream about the day when I can type at a desk during the day. I will probably still have King of Queens on in the background though.

Bio:

John Tompkins is a writer living in Texas. He is a former newspaper reporter specializing in court coverage, education and government. He is now working as a communications coordinator at local college.

Book & Blog

Want to be a guest blogger? I would love to have you on! I am accepting original posts that focus on reading and writing. A picture and a bio are encouraged. You do not have to be published. If you qualify, please email me at shannonathompson@aol.com.

~SAT

#WW Rejected? How to Keep Submitting

15 Apr

Rejected? How to Keep Submitting

Lately, I’ve been trying to help a lot of fellow writers find publishers, literary journals, and websites where they can share their work. The market is HUGE (hence the giant, capital letters), but for many, this is both a positive and a negative description of the industry. With so many options, how does someone know where to submit? And with so many opportunities, why do I keep getting rejected?

rejectThere are so many answers for this, and none of them are accurate. It’s all guesswork. I can’t tell someone why their manuscript was denied by so-and-so, and I can’t explain why someone else’s poetry made it into The Gettysburg Review over someone else. Only the judgers could, for certain, say why, but even then, it often comes down to their mood that day or their theme that month or how well it would fit in with the other work they already accepted. Again, guesswork.

That being said, this is when I see too many writers give up hope. They’ve submitted to 20 or so places and either received rejections or nothing at all, so they stop. Now, I want to take this moment to clarify that I’m talking about submitting to places today. I’m not discussing self-publishing. While I completely support (and often suggest) self-publishing, it isn’t for everyone, and many people do give up when submitting starts to overwhelm them, so this post is more for them – this post is for those writers who have specific journals they want to see their name in, to see a certain label on their work, to be among the voices of their favorite journal. That’s their goal and their decision, and I see nothing wrong with it. So, again, while I support self-publishing, this post is directed at writers who are submitting to places who might feel discouraged by the process. Below, I’m outlining a few steps to keep your pen up and your ink flowing while also submitting and submitting and submitting until that rejection pile becomes an acceptance pile.

Here are ways to keep submitting: (I’m going to use poems for the example)

Keep a Submission Journal

Set a goal for submitting a certain number of times during a specific timeframe. Ex. I will submit three poems to three journals every month. Now, here’s the tricky part – keep track of that goal. Write down what poems, what journals, and what dates you submitted. This will help remind you that you are currently submitting, and even if you get rejected, I guarantee you’ll already feel better because – chances are – you’ll already have other poems circulating for submission. Many journals, for instance, take months to get back to someone, so submitting different poems in different places will prevent you from getting that “I’m never submitting again” feeling because you’ll already have other submissions pending.

Keep Writing

While I believe it’s okay to have a specific poem you definitely want to get published, try submitting other ones too, and definitely keep writing new ones. A story I like to tell everyone involves my poetry publications. When I started submitting them, it was almost always the poems I NEVER thought they’d pick that were chosen in the end. My “best” poems in my mind are not my “best” poems in someone else’s mind. Remember that one reader won’t like everything, so send out more than just one piece of work. Send out a variety. And then write some more. And keep writing.

Keep Reading

One mistake I see many writers make is the lack of reading, especially of the journals and/or publishers they’re submitting to. I, myself, have made that mistake by accidentally submitting a controversial piece to a journal that no longer accepted controversy. Despite the fact that I kept reading the journal, I never noticed the theme change – so it’s important to read the journal and also take notes on the journal’s overall voice and goals. Sometimes writers think they can go around this by just reading the submission guidelines, but it isn’t rare to see “to get a feel for what we accept, read our latest edition….” at the top of submission pages. Even better, many literary journals offer a free copy for you to review, so read, and read a lot. You might even find a new writer you love.

Make a Mentor List

You know you have them. Your favorite novelist. Your favorite poet. A TED speaker. We all look up to someone, and it’s great to figure out where that someone came from. Even better, find someone with similar topics and/or voice, and check out where they came from and how they got their start. That famous writer wasn’t born a famous writer. They had to submit too. And you know what? I bet they even received rejections. But they never gave up, and you shouldn’t either.

Keep on submitting!

~SAT

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