So I got a rejection letter from a publishing house for my manuscript that I shared with them. The editor who had reviewed my manuscript was convinced that it was a good read and that I should try to get a traditional publishing house to read it. I had never thought of it; I had planned to self-publish just like the thousands of authors out in the digital realm. My heart fluttered and I was swept away on a wave of euphoria when my editor had said that he felt the book was good enough for the traditional publishers. I was ecstatic, I began to dream, to hope, I allowed myself that tiny smidgen of a spark to turn into a roaring dragon flame of imagination and hope as I saw “#1 Best Seller” on my book. It was not the wealth, not the fanfare but rather the validation that my book was worth it, that what I had written mattered to someone. I imagined it all.
I did not expect to get approval on my first attempt but as I lay in my bed, feeling somewhat disappointed at the wording in the email, my mind spun the email back and forth multiple times. Before I knew it, it was 5 am and I been up since 2 am thinking about the rejection email. Having my writing criticized was a bitter pill for me to swallow and I didn’t understand why I felt this way.
I realized how much I wanted my book to be liked, to be accepted. I had told myself multiple times as I sat on my couch typing away that this book was for me and that I didn’t care about sales and figures and publishers.
“What happened to the man who could withstand rejections?” I wondered to myself. I have read many a story, books on entrepreneurs, authors who have felt the sting of multiple rejections from JK Rowling (50 times) to lesser known authors who went for years without a sign of encouragement. I thought I was tough, resilient, able to withstand rejection, jump over hurdles. I didn’t understand why I felt so touched by the feedback. As if a raw nerve had been exposed to methylated spirits, it hurt and I didn’t understand why.
I was asked by a colleague at work “What is success for you, you as the person, for your soul?” as she tried to understand why I was in a demure mood during meetings that preceded my night awake. This was the day after I had received the rejection email as I was still trying to digest what the publishers meant during the day at work.
“It is because you had hope, hope is the greatest killer“ she said after I had explained. True. For a while, I had dreams of grandeur as I mentioned earlier. I had allowed myself to imagine a world in which I walked along Paul Theroux, Bill Bryson, and other literary giants across the floors of prose, poetry, and great travel writing.
Maybe it is because I had not felt rejection so personal in such a long time. I had gotten too comfortable in my bubble of good feedback and smiles at work, receiving scathing feedback was a harsh pill for me to swallow. Needless to say, who am I to complain and feel so disheartened at the first try when others in all spheres of life have been rejected multiple times before their ideas, books were eventually accepted and saw fruition. Granted the feedback is useful, I find it enlightening to realise how much I wanted for this to book to be a success in terms of book sales. One author said, it is not the sales which should be the end goal but rather enjoying the process of uncovering one’s soul and writing.
There has to be more it than just book sales, success cannot just be measured in terms of book sales? As much as I would like to have a large number of sales, I saw an image of a child playing a musical instrument and the only audience was a cat. The words, “The size of your audience does not matter, keep doing your best.” The image hit home.
Even though the book is done, I am plagued by shadows of doubt whichever way I turn as I try to not equate myself to those before me. The fear of rejection and failure is strong and can be overwhelmingly scary at times as I send out the book to publishers. A close friend, nearly slapped me when I shared with her my doubts and how I was not sure that I should publish the manuscript anymore. As she put it, “This is you, it will always be out there in the universe, so give it the best shot, the best chance. The size of the audience does not matter, what matters is that you gave it your all and that someone out there will appreciate it. It will make a difference to at least one person and that matters.”
As JK Rowling says “I had nothing to lose and sometimes that makes you brave enough to try” and so I shall continue to try and hopefully make a difference to at least one person when I publish my book ……… Through a Black Iris