Because rejections slips are on my mind, I googled “rejection slips”. Yeah, I know, goofy.
They’re agony for a lot of writers, especially ones who write mostly for the love of their stories and characters and are not looking at writing with an eye to business.
First off, I want this really clear: I consider that sort of writing a totally valid form of art. I eyeroll people who are “writing a book” because they usually say it to try to impress. I can tell the difference between that and, “I’ve got this story I’m writing that I love.” There is a big difference.
But, back to rejection slips.
Why, why, why, is this a huge deal to the person who wants to go pro?
If you wanna go pro, you’re basically saying, “I’m an entrepreneur and my product is my words.”
If you’re going to be in sales, which as a writer who wants to be paid, by God you are, you need to learn some facts about selling:
- Sales is a numbers game. Yes, yes, yes, you have to be an artist to write good fiction. But when the book is done as best as it can be without the editor’s input, you have to take off your artist hat, and put on your salesman’s hat.
- A direct mailout that advertises a niche service that gets four “yeses” to ninety-six “nos” is a good, solid performer. The numbers are a bit better for fiction, but keep in mind most first books, even the classics and the best sellers, get a lot of “no”s before we get to a “yes”.
- Even if you are a writing a mainstream novel, you are writing to a niche market. 25% of respondents to a 2005 Gallup poll did not read any books in the previous year. Another 50% read less than five. (Makes me feel like a bloody freak. I’ve read more than five books in the past month not counting audiobooks). Then keep in mind that a large percentage of those books are the big name best sellers (Harry Potter series, Oprah’s book club…) The market is adequate, but hardly enormous.
- A good salesman doesn’t take a “no” personally. Writing is a business as much as is selling brushes. Oh sure, people in the front lines of the publishing industry (editors, agents, etc.) get into it because they love books1, but they have to get paid enough to eat somehow!
- If you really do want to be a professional writer, accept the business part of it and learn to sell. There are thousands of books out there about it. Selling isn’t about Leisure Suit Larry nor is it about some guy who wears an Armani suit with a perfect haircut and is slicker than snot on a doorknob. Learning to sell well is about being interested in people. If you’re writing fiction, chances are good you’ve got this down pat. So expand on it.
I’ve read a lot of sites about rejection and dealing with it in the past few months, and I’ve found the ones not aimed at the artiste a lot more useful than the ones aimed specifically at the writer. Don’t paper your damn bath with your rejection slips. If you must keep them for tracking purposes, be business-like about it and file the things. Someone selling telephone systems doesn’t keep a memento of every “no” he gets like a serial killer keeping a tooth from each of his victims. Don’t you do it! Be a pro.
1They don’t get into it for the money! Median annual earnings for salaried editors were $43,890 in May 2004. Okay money, but no-one’s going to encourage their child to marry an editor for the financial security