A Short Stack of Rejection Letters
For the last three years I’ve been working on a book. The topic is niche, but when it’s done it will meet a need. There’s not a way to know precisely how many hours or how much money I’ve directed toward the project, but I’d guess around six-hundred hours and two-thousand dollars.
Last week I received my seventh rejection email from a Christian publisher. Sometimes these messages landed gently in my inbox like autumn leaves; you see them coming. Other times they hit my laptop with a thud like glass marbles dropped from a skyscraper.
At least the rejection letters have always been kind. They don’t say “nana-nana-boo-boo” or “don’t quit your day job,” the rejection typically being sandwiched by affirmation. That’s nice of them. Let me just show you one of them.
Good morning. I hope you're having a good week.
I wanted to get back in touch about your book proposal. Thanks again for sending this one our way. I appreciate the book's intent and goal.
We've decided not to offer on this book at this time. I would encourage you to keep shopping it around, or potentially to self-publish. I think this book could be a great resource, but doesn't really fit with our strategy as a trade publisher. I pray you'll have a chance to publish with someone who will be a better fit.
In Stephen King’s popular book On Writing, he tells of keeping every early rejection letter he received and how he hung each to his wall with a metal spike. This, by the way, was the day when authors and publishers printed book proposals and rejection letters and mailed them to each other. The one book contract I have, I had to print myself and scan it back in after I signed it. There’s something anticlimactic about that. Anyway, for Stephen King the rejection letters were fuel. He was a man in prison doing pull-ups motivated by the judge who locked him up.
That’s not necessarily why I’m sharing mine. This blog post isn’t my metal spike. Rejection letters are not my badge of honor, the proof I have skin in the game. I longed for each no to be a yes.
So why share it?
My friend Bryan pointed out to me that social media is often little more than an unbroken, personal highlight reel. And this is why I share. I share my seventh rejection as an act of war against the status quo, my version of a Pinterest-fail, if you will. Real life has more grit, more flaws, more disappointments than our filtered Instagram photos betray. And it’s this version of us—the whole version, the real version, the limping along version, the only version of us there is—that God so loves, giving his Son that we might have life. If this “rejection blog post” is a metal spike, it’s not for hanging my rejection letters but to be wielded as an implement to mortify my vanity.
One more thing to mention. The most recent rejection letter was the final publisher I was waiting to hear from before I made the decision to self-publish the book, making it the proverbial nail in the coffin. So, eventually when I do self-publish, Lord willing, it will fly off the launchpad with a chip on its shoulder, a book no publisher wanted.
And when that day comes, that day when I post a picture on Facebook with a link to Amazon, a post you might wrongly internalize as me saying “Hey, buy this book I wrote; look how awesome it is to be me!” and my apparent success thuds on your heart like a marble because on that day you didn’t publish a book too or eat a fancy steak or add definition to your biceps or get a job promotion, then you will know there is more to the story than our social media glory.