You must keep sending work out; you must never let a manuscript do nothing but eat its head off in a drawer. You send that work out again and again, while you’re working on another one. If you have talent, you will receive some measure of success – but only if you persist.
~ Isaac Asimov
Everywhere you turn, you’ll hear similar advice: send your work out and be persistent. You’ve heard all the stories about how many times some of the best-known writers have been rejected. We all need to face the truth. There will always be rejection out there. Consider the odds: hundreds of thousands of people who want to be writers sending their manuscripts to several hundred reputable publishers around the world—yes, reputable. We all want to be published by the big five or whoever is on top of the publishing heap at the moment. Many times, it’s not even possible to get near one of those publishers because some of them will only deal with agents. So you’re stuck with publishers on the periphery. Again, because of all the people who believe they’re great writers and have just the work that will be the next bestseller, even those publishers are swamped with manuscripts for review. It’s no wonder it takes upwards of three to six months before you even get a response. Publishers also are extremely selective about the genres they publish. They like to maintain their image and tend to look for work that fits what you might call their “product lines”. Some publishers will only pick thrillers, others only science fiction or fantasy, still others only romance. Bigger houses might have several different lines, brands, or labels to suit a variety of genres. I’d like to think, despite their niche, most publishers are always on the lookout for manuscripts that will win prizes or top the bestseller lists—or both. If it’s a bestseller you’re after, you don’t necessarily need to aim for a prestigious literary award. In fact, many bestsellers will never have medals on their covers, but their authors probably don’t care. Bestsellers come and go and most stay on top of the lists until the reading public fancies a new book. Sure, sometimes a lot of marketing hype goes into the resulting sales, but I like to believe you can’t keep a good book down. The authors just have to make sure the books get out there by all means possible. Look at it this way: a rejection letter can be a badge of honor. It means you tried!
While my manuscripts to do not sit in drawers eating their heads off, they might be standing around in neat rows in several file folders in my computer, pretending to be many things besides words. Sometimes they’re soldiers at attention, not unlike the Royal Guards of London, their tall fuzzy hats standing above everything. Other times, they’re fashion models sashaying down digital runways, their loops and tails flouncing and bouncing about with a sassy attitude. There are days they’re tiny tots let loose in a playground, jumping from one play contraption to another like vivacious little monkeys let loose from their cage. And then there are the days they’re rapidly multiplying bacteria building teeming colonies that eventually turn on each other until they all calcify into crumbly chalky patches in my hard drive. I’m convinced they take on a life of their own and rewrite themselves when I’m not looking at them so they seem like complete strangers when I visit them in their virtual abodes. I might take one or more of them and try to whip them into forms palatable to readers besides myself but it’s a losing battle because my words tend to have minds of their own. One day, I will drag them out of their comfortable beds and push them out in the world to find their paths the way grown children should and hope they find their own homes elsewhere. Maybe they’ll bring me back grandchildren.