100 Rejections

I forget sometimes that no one believed the famous people, either.  How many “no’s” does it take before you relent?

I wrote a piece of music for orchestra in 2007 and it won the college composition contest.  [ladies, and gentlemen, that’s what those bios mean when they say “award-winning composer” 😉 ]  I then sent it to about 30 mail-in contests for young composers.  30.  It never got selected, so I stopped.

I’m told that Dr. Seuss’s first book They Say That it Happened on Mulberry Street was rejected by 3,000 publishers before he published it himself.  Wikipedia says 27.  Hmm. That muddles this post.

My point is that I think I gave up too soon.  Surely somebody else would find the work strong enough.  Art is subjective, after all.  And, there are more ways past the gatekeepers than the front door.

I think this is particularly true if you’re doing something new.  If it’s really fresh and inventive, something that requires a new set of expectations for the audience, I think it may be best to NOT use the front door.  I’m also told that the Harry Potter series was rejected a bunch of times because the convention of the book industry was that kids didn’t read long books like that. And I bet they were right.  Kids DIDN’T USED TO READ like that. I expect the book industry to know a lot more than me about who reads what kinds of books. BUT THINGS CHANGE.

If you’re working in a new genre, you need to understand that there may not be an infrastructure in place for your work.  There probably wasn’t a book agent for “epic books for 12 year olds” at the time. I bet there are a thousand now. There probably was some confusion as to where to place the book in the stacks. Now there’s a YA-Fantasy WALL.  (if your bookstore is still open).

If you’re the explorer, one of the privileges is that you get to make the maps.  The risk, of course, is that you may never return.  But the ones who do get stuff named after them.  Lewis & Clark, anyone?  The reason you  go is not fame and fortune, that would make you a opportunistic privateer. I hope the reason you go is because you refuse to be the kind of person who stares an opportunity for an expedition and refuses.    I hope you get to the ledge, realizing it will take a lot from you and you go anyway.

I think my new number is 100.  If I pitch a project to 100 potential backers and land zero.  It’s time to let it rest.