After popping open my mailbox this morning, I discovered a business-sized envelope from a literary journal I’d submitted to a few months ago. Based on the weight, I knew the response right off: form rejection.
The form in this case consisted of a small scrap of paper, which had no handwriting, just the name of the journal and a polite “thanks, but no thanks” message. Woo. Hoo. (Twitter folks might call this #submissionfail.)
New writers, on the other hand, often send a handful of submissions and gather these rejections like messages from on high. They fear the editing gods have looked upon their writing and moaned a collective “meh.” Discouraged, some writers give up entirely.
But did they surrender too soon? Perhaps, though not everyone’s destined for J.K. Rowling writing stardom. And even the best unproven writers only succeed in publishing one out of 100 submissions they send. So it’s understandable (even practical) that a number give up the dream and move onto less demanding work like actor, doctor, lawyer, or Senator.
Yet why do so many writers, in the face of daunting odds, persist? They keep writing and submitting, writing and querying, writing and, well, more writing. Thousands of words, story after story, all without the assurance that someone, anyone would ever want to read their work.
Here’s the secret these writers know: To paraphrase Nietzsche, the editing Gods are dead. There’s no great and booming voice resounding from the sky. No divine hand to usher the chosen writers to land of milk and honey or shove the unwashed masses aside.
Many ink and paper journals, the traditional literary tastemakers, folded long ago or share equal footing with quality electronic journals. Even the models for publishing books has shifted, leaving gaps for novels to find smaller niche markets. Or unusual voices to emerge as bestsellers.
Ultimately, the writer needs to plug into the literary community to find the resources that await. Plan to market the book and talk up the newly published story. Ask friends to blog about your work, call the local paper, and do anything they can to help. Moreover, continue writing, because in a society fractured by distractions readers will only give their precious time to a voice that’s worth being discovered.