If you ain't been rejected, you can't be elected






One of the reasons I am a die-hard James Lee Burke fan, apart from his great writing, is the sentence he includes in his bio in each of his books. It goes like this: “His novel The Lost Get-Back Boogie was rejected 111 times over a period of nine years, and upon publication by Louisiana State University press was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.”

One hundred and eleven rejections on one book.  That may be a record.

It puts things in perspective, doesn’t it?

I see a lot of blogs from day to day from independent authors who have just received a pink slip.  I got one myself a few days ago from Kindle Singles.  Okay, so the title itself probably made the work rejection worthy (God’s Love Sucks:  A Brief Memoir of a Born-Again Vampire).

So what?  I still like what I wrote, and I’m not stopping because somebody in the catacombs of Amazon can’t take a joke.

The late, great Johnny Cochran, when he was leading the defense team in the famous O.J. Simpson murder trial,  coined an expression that became the theme of the case, “If the glove don’t fit, you must acquit.” And that is what happened.

The same goes for the title of this blog: “If you ain’t been rejected, you can’t be elected.”

If I attempted to write a personality profile of the average independent writer, I would include something along these lines:  1. Must deal well with rejection, 2. Must disregard negativity,  3. Must play well with others and  4. Must embrace risk.

Indie writers, I think, are the sorts of people who get fired up when someone tells them they can’t do something.  The impossibility of their pursuit is just another thing, a minor hurdle.

Let’s take them in order.

1. Must deal well with rejection.  I think I have said enough about this already, but here is the tag line: To hell with you if you don’t like what I wrote.

2.  Must disregard negativity.  How many one-star reviews are enough to make an indie stop writing? Any number you suggest is the wrong one.  Bad reviews, and they will come as sure as politicians will run negative campaign ads, are just speed bumps.  Drive around them and race through the parking lot.  For the life of me, I can’t understand why some people get their kicks out of throwing rocks at writers.

3. Must play well with others. This is the essence of social media, the main weapon in the indie arsenal.  When someone gets down, someone else drops her a note and tells her she is not alone.  When one’s best efforts at book promotion bear little or no fruit, a fellow writer says the same thing happened to him.  It’s that old do unto others as you would have them do unto you thing.

4. Must embrace risk.  This is the one that separates the men from the boys. Indie writers know the deck is stacked against them.  They play the game anyway.  They know the chances of one of their books breaking out are slim.  They keep betting what little money they have anyway.  They know they are out-gunned by NY.  They take their battle positions and taunt Santa Ana.  They know people think it’s silly for them to stay up late,or rise early to put a few words on paper, but they call themselves “authors” anyway.

So the next time you receive a rejection letter, throw your shoulders back and say:  “I guess I’m a real writer now.”

And you are.



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  • Stephen, Stephen, Stephen. The “late, great Johnny Cochran?” Okay, Cochran was a great showman, I guess. And he could play on the ignorance of the jury. (Hell, it was Southern California where no one ever wore gloves. How would they know that no glove would “fit” if you tried it on while wearing latex gloves.) The only think that “acquitted” OJ was the lack of prosecution. I had the misfortune of watching a goodly part of that trial, and I had to conclude that I would have had to have voted for acquittal even if I had witnessed the crime and later sat on that jury.

    So, I guess I fail Number 3. No, I don’t play well with others. Never have. That’s why I was “riff’d” from the Army and fired from more jobs than most people ever had in their lives. And, there are authors who don’t like to have me around.

    Well, as we said in Vietnam, “Sorry ’bout that.”

    BTW, Rebels on the Mountain was rejected by 126 others before you ever saw it. Do I get a prize?

  • Stephen, I think you left an OJ burr under Jack’s saddle. Either he’s not a rule follower, especially the golden one, or he likes playing Grizzly. But we all know he’s a teddy bear inside! I think it’s safe to say he doesn’t suffer fools gladly and Rule 4 is his forte. Surely he should get some kind of prize for 126 submissions! Even I, the Queen of Stubborn, would give up way before that!

  • When I think of what actors go through, I think we writers have it easy. At least no one hooks us off the stage, and we get to lick our wounds in private.When people dare to choose to make a living via the Arts, they’re a tough breed. I’ve always enjoyed the company of that sort.

  • Caleb Pirtle

    I guess I have been elected. You need to establish a Hall of Fame for the most rejected authors who eventually found success. It would be a fascinating list to study.

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