During the month of May, I started submitting my memoir manuscript to the first ten publishers on my list. At first glance, it looked that they all asked for the same information: an excerpt of the manuscript, a synopsis, contents in case of non-fiction, an author bio; however, looking more closely, the submission guidelines all differed. It might only be a small thing, such as the document format or the number of pages or chapters they want to read, but it is the small things that make all the difference and each submission process a new work of labour. I calculated that it took me about 45 minutes of preparation for each submission before I hit the ‘Send’ button.
The first two rejections came from smaller publishing houses and were quite interesting, as they landed in my inbox between one hour and four hours after I had sent the requested material. One said that the topics of my memoir were not broad enough for them, the other explained that they found my manuscript interesting. However it did not fit in their program for this year. The quick response time makes me wonder if they even took the time to read through all the documents they had asked for.
In most cases, where the publisher asked for email submissions, I instantly received the confirmation message – asking me to be patient.
Patience seems to be the word of the day, week, month, or even year. “You have to be patient” is easier said than done. Especially for me. Patience is a trait of character that I find very hard to deal with. If I have set my mind on a task, I am so enthusiastic about it that I can forget to look right or left. I persist – sometimes treading on other people’s feet along the way – until I have reached my goal.
Patience means “to accept or tolerate delay, problems, or suffering without becoming annoyed or anxious.” Or: “the bearing of provocation, annoyance, misfortune, or pain, without complaint, loss of temper, irritation, or the like. The ability or willingness to suppress restlessness or annoyance when confronted with delay.”
With every rejection you learn something new, you collect a piece of information that will be helpful some time in the future.
In other words, letting go of negative thoughts, the wave of (writers) doubts, or grudges against the publisher. Letting go of everything that holds us back from moving forward. This reminded me of Stuart Knight’s book The Madness of my Mind, which is a collection of newsletters he distributed to his community over ten years. I have it on my bedside table and read one newsletter at a time when I feel I need some inspiration. Interestingly, I opened the book at the page with the message ‘Letting Go’ at the same time I received the first rejections.
Now I am waiting. Waiting for a reply, even if it is a ‘No’. I have to admit I was flabbergasted when the first rejection landed in my inbox – only four hours after I had submitted my work. But if I have learned one thing over the past twelve months, pitching articles to magazines, than it is this: with every rejection you learn something new, you collect a piece of information that will be helpful some time in the future.
The word patience is derived from the Latin word ‘patientia’ meaning endurance, submission; quality of suffering. Does this automatically imply that writers and authors are suffering when waiting for responses from publishers or agents? It is a question of choice. We choose how we react to rejections; we choose if we want to suffer or not. We can’t change what life throws at us, what we can change is our reaction to provocation, annoyance, misfortune, or pain.
This leads me to the next question: What can we do to bridge the waiting time without suffering? My recipe is practising yoga and meditation and working on something else; writing for my blog, pitching new house stories to magazines, starting to work on a new book project. Although I realise that this is easier said than done, and on some days the ominous writer’s doubt seems to grow into the shape of a giant, I keep focussing on my writing practise and all the other stuff I am juggling every day: household, children, school commitments, and working on a new online course to offer the content of my book Downsize with Style to a worldwide audience. After all, we writers are logophiles and should not let publisher rejections stultify our enthusiasm. What do you think?