Back in February, after sending a query to a literary agent, I wrote about celebrating rejection. The agency website says, “If you don’t hear from us in six weeks, assume we’re not interested.” I didn’t hear after six weeks, so I assumed that I had been rejected. After the sixth week passed, I tried to celebrate my rejection.
And then I began working on a query letter for a publisher (my book is the kind of thing that is at the edge of being mass-market enough for one of the commercial publishing houses—there are several different commercial houses that have related books, and the commercial publishers don’t accept unsolicited queries—if I want to publish at a commercial publisher, I need an agent—but it’s also suitable for academic publisher, who do accept queries from authors). I decided to try a query letter (“would you like to see a proposal for a book” rather than “would you like to see a manuscript of a book”), thinking that a shorter, simpler query might get a quicker response. I sent my first (and only) query letter to a publisher on the seventh week after sending my previous proposal, preparing to (try to) celebrate rejection yet again.
Celebrating rejection is not the easiest thing. It’s silly to argue that rejection is all good—the central part of rejection is that someone rejected your request, and presumably you didn’t make a request for something you didn’t either want or need (or both). The possibility of celebrating rejection comes from the complexity of rejection: rejection does force one to consider new opportunities or new avenues of exploration, and those opportunities can be celebrated. It takes effort and focus, but as the saying goes, “if you get lemons, make lemonade.”
This past Monday (eight weeks after sending the proposal), I did, in fact, receive a formal rejection from the agent, which gave me a second opportunity to “celebrate” my rejection. A double helping of rejection to celebrate!
Of course, as I had already sent off a new query letter, my attention and interest were elsewhere, despite the renewed sting of rejection. As it happens, my query letter to the publisher had received a positive response—the acquisitions editor had expressed interest in seeing a proposal and in setting a time to talk with me.
Naturally, I was thrilled that my query had received a positive response. In many ways, celebrating acceptance is much easier than celebrating rejection.
But one does need to be careful what one asks for, because sometimes the request is accepted! Because of the acceptance of the query letter, I spent the last week writing and rewriting a proposal for the publisher. There are elements of book proposals that can be re-used, but different publishers have different interests and different book lists, and that leads to a need for some differences. And once the process of rewriting has started, it can take on its own life, as previous choices come under examination.
Last week, I wrote about compromise and how even when things are going well, you can expect someone to ask you to compromise. And I guess this is in that same vein: things could be going well (by being accepted, for example), and still there is more work to do, there are compromises to make. I’m pretty darn happy that my query letter received a positive response, but life doesn’t end there. Resting on laurels is rarely possible. I have a next step (a proposal), which could lead to rejection, and then, possibly, a next step (manuscript submission), which could lead to rejection. And if that is accepted, then there are the steps of revising, editing, possibly indexing, promoting, etc.
Since this post is about celebrating things, I’ll wrap by noting that we have some choice over where we direct our attention. And especially, that there are always concerns for looking forward to the future: regardless of whether you were accepted or rejected, you can choose where to direct your attention, and looking at the road ahead, seeing difficulties, one can still choose to focus attention on the positive goals, too. It would be nice to have some laurels to rest upon, even if that rest might be uneasy.