Cry No More.

I remember the bad old days when I’d stand on the curb next to the mailbox with that rejection letter in my hand and burst into tears.

For the longest time I saved them in a file, even though not a single rejection letter said more than this– “Your work does not meet our needs at this time.”  Yes, I saved each letter in a file despite the fact not a one told me why the work had been rejected, indicated how I might improve my prose, my structure, my content.  I didn’t even know if my submission had been read.

I saved the rejection letters despite my assumption that my submissions were, in fact, not read, that in reality what happened was this– an administrative assistant or intern opened my envelope and popped the contents, along with the half-page form rejection letter, directly into my SASE and dropped it in the mail chute.

It would take an awful lot of convincing to convince me otherwise.

You might be thinking… oh, the author didn’t do her homework.  She submitted work to the wrong publisher or the wrong literary agent.  Not the case.  Before I made a single submission I did my homework.  I studied publishers who accepted un-agented submissions in my genre.  I studied literary agents who accepted submissions in my genre.  I followed all the guidelines to a tee.  I didn’t skimp on the synopsis.  I personalized each and every letter of introduction.  I never once sent more than was requested.

It didn’t matter.

A year or so before the world changed, and self-publishing became a legitimate option, I decided to burn the rejection file.  Every time I glanced at it, the conscious and subconscious message I recieved was… Failure.  Loser. Big fat ‘L’ on my forehead.  You’ll never be published.  Obviously keeping the file was counterproductive.  It was like cutting off my nose to spite my face.

I pretended I kept the file around so I’d stay humble and keep working.  That was a lie.  I used it as a convenient excuse.  “See?  This is why I can’t get published.  I’m not good enough.”

The first time I told another author what I planned to do she tried to stop me.  She said, “But what about all the good advice they’ve given you?  The critiques?  Re-read the letters, they’ll help you improve.”

What advice?  What critiques?

I went ahead and followed my instincts, burned every single letter.  No regrets, no second guessing.  I got that monkey off my back and I stopped crying.  I also stopped making excuses.

I think I’m a good writer.  So do my readers, most of them, anyway.  I now have one book with Evernight Publishing- Come Back To Me, four books with Siren/Bookstrand- Captured, the winner of the 2011 Bookseller’s Best First Book, Anytime Darlin’, Pushing Her Boundaries and One Four All.

Even better, I have eight self-published novels and novellas on Amazon.  My most recent release, Beauty and the Feast, ranked number one in free books for either two or three days… I can’t remember.  It’s a damn good book.

And the road ahead looks promising.  I have a re-release scheduled for early July – My Everything, the winner of the 2011 Lorie for Romantic Suspense, and coming soon I’ll release my re-written four book science fiction series, Daughters of Persephone.  Not to mention the final book in what I’m now calling the Souls TrilogyStay, the book that will finish what Incorporeal and In the Flesh began.

I have several additional works in progress, including a mystery and a flat out amazing two-book science fiction series.  Best of all, I have a fantastic support system – other authors, editors, artists.  Some of us have combined resources to put out the best product we can for our readers.

A word or two or three about Amazon:

Amazon may be a behemoth, but it’s a behemoth I can use.  It’s easy to upload books, to make changes and corrections if necessary, to adjust pricing, and because of the long arms of Amazon, I sell books– my own books.  Amazon allows me to reach readers and markets I can’t reach otherwise.  The beauty is I have control, control of covers, edits, price, freebies.  I love it.

Anyone ever heard of Durga?  She is a Devi or an Indian goddess who in some incarnations has eighteen arms.  She is the embodiment of the creative feminine force.  She is fearless, patient and never loses her sense of humor.

Who’s crying now?  Not me.  And I have no hard feelings.

Apparently some of us were thinking along the same lines – see this post by Stant Litore, author of The Zombie BibleWhat E-Publishing Means to a Country Boy.


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30 Responses to Cry No More.

  1. Amber Skyze says:

    I can’t wait to read your new books. :) I can understand you burning the rejection letters…they didn’t offer you anything.

    Happy Friday

  2. Casey Wyatt says:

    I love this post Julia! I think it’s awesome that writers have choices. I used to kick myself for taking so long to get serious about writing. For years, I started and stopped. I’m glad I hit the publishing world when I did. I realize now that I would have had a similar rejections folder and the same “I am a loser” thoughts running through my head. I don’t understand it when writers try to take a side – traditional vs. the new world. Money is money and readers are readers. They want to read good stories and they don’t care who publishes them. I do think that if you are going to pub yourself, you need to have the fantastic support system like you have, otherwise, readers will go elsewhere when your next book comes out.

    And I’m super excited to hear about your new book. I can’t wait.

  3. You are a good writer. And, you get better all the time. Good for you: overcoming issues with lazy interns!

  4. Katalina Leon says:

    I do know Durga, ride the tiger baby and burn away all that’s unnecessary and outdated, especially doubt. I think you’re poised for greater success, very soon.
    You’ve got it all.
    XXOO Kat

  5. Penelope says:

    Most important thing is…”following your instincts.” Follow them about your writing, your story, your path. You don’t have to follow all the rules, you don’t have to fit in someone else’s box, you don’t need to define success by anyone else’s parameters. Writers need to learn to trust our own instincts, and not be so quick to self-judge and compare ourselves to everyone else.

    Durga sounds like the perfect inspiration for women writers everywhere!

  6. Julia,
    Right on! I agree with you about Amazon. And about rejections–don’t get me started! I know they don’t read everything. And even that wouldn’t be so bad, but you wait on them, sometimes for several months. So much more sane doing Indie publishing.

    And the circle of friends and community of writers is awesome. I don’t think I could do without it. Everyone sees something different. Having my work in front of so many pairs of eyes (okay, I have a one-eyed friend too to be pc) helps me recognize things I can do to improve my writing.

    I’ve changed covers, pricing, tags and even content in my books. You can’t do that with traditional publishing, even really good small presses.

  7. Barbara says:

    Mmm. Well, I think you’re the pinnacle of awesomeness. You’re writing speaks so much of who YOU are that each time I open one of your books (and even if I am in a YA mood, I still read Come Back to Me once in a while, sweetie), I feel like I’ve touched a part of you that I want to find again in another book.

    Screw the rejection letters, screw the people who turned you down and gave you crapass advice. They weren’t the audience for you in the first place. You’ve found your way and your fans are finding you.

  8. Barbara – this may be the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me. Thank you. You’re not like my husband who finishes one of my books and says… “I don’t get it…” :P But he does like most of them!

  9. Yes Sharon, I agree, it’s very tough to wait – as you are supposed to – when you know your submission isn’t even being read. Very hard.
    We do have so much more freedom now. I’ve changed covers as well. Easy as pie!

  10. Hi Penny. I think we are our toughest critics. Constant rejection doesn’t really help, does it. Not asking. Just a fact.

  11. I know, Kat – isn’t Durga just perfect? She should be our mascot!

  12. Thank you, Steph. I do try to learn from my mistakes!

  13. We do have many options these days, Casey. Small presses can be equally as effective at selling our books as big presses and self-pubbing is exciting! It is a great time to be a writer! I’m glad you were able to skip all those horrible rejection letters!

  14. Thanks, Amber. The rejection letters sorta beat me up. Or down, I guess.

  15. Tom Stronach says:

    Rejection in anything you do, sucks, and the sooner folk do realise it the better. There is nothing wrong with saying no thanks and give constructive advice but they of course will retort, ‘it’s not their job’

    But, you stuck with it and that’s what I’ve come to know you for ‘tenacity’ Oh and a sucker for a helpless souls sums you up I think and wouldn’t have you any other way


  16. Jaye says:

    I had an editor tell me, “I wish I could buy more of the novels that come across my desk, but I can’t. I have to choose. I hate rejection letters.” After that I started looking at rejection letters differently, started comparing them to my own shopping. Do I get the brown shoes or the red shoes? I can only afford one pair. Do I paint the house or get new carpeting? I can only afford to do one big project this year. Am I rejecting the shoes or the paint or the carpet? In a sense, yes, I am. Even if I want everything, I can’t have everything and that’s just the way it is. It took away the sting of feeling like a “loser” writer.

    Ah, but the waiting. I have waited up to a year for a response on a REQUESTED manuscript. The waiting got to me every time. I never got used to it, never was able to console myself with the knowledge that editors and agents are busy people and I should feel grateful for even a few minutes of their precious time. Nuh uh, nope. The waiting part drove me nuts. I can’t stop thinking about how much POWER there is in being the one who controls the schedule and how easily that power is abused. Whether agents and editors actually are on power trips, or if they’re just inefficient or swamped with work, doesn’t matter. I can’t do it anymore. Thank god for indie publishing. By keeping my own schedule, I keep my sanity. That’s good enough for me.

  17. Nina Pierce says:

    There isn’t a better time to be an author. With all the available paths to publication a person who wants to get their stories out to readers can now pick and choose which method works best for them.

    Your productivity always amazes me. I can’t wait for your new books.

  18. Of course, Jaye, I get that. I really do understand. Thousands of submissions, limited personnel with limited time. But, big but, if that’s the case why accept un-agented submissions as if you do plan to read them? Why bother?
    Regarding wait times – I’ve always respected publishers and agents who state their wait times upfront. Even so I figure no news is bad news.
    I agree with you – Indie publishing sure helps keep my brain intact. Staves off zombification.

  19. I can be quite tenacious, Tom, but I also know when to throw in the towel. When to run. This is why I’m a survivor. I no longer waste my energy on a losing proposition.

  20. Thanks Nina and ICAM. It is what? The best of times the worst of times? :P

  21. Margaret Y. says:

    It’s true, what you said. The community of writers is a wonderful thing!

  22. Yes it is, Margaret! Truly!

  23. What a great post. I need to see if I still have my 82 form rejection
    letters from agents, and burn them!!!

    You are awesome!



  24. Sharon – bwaaaa-haaaa! I got you so beat – I think I had close to 300 rejection letters, maybe more! :)

  25. anny cook says:

    With one exception, all my rejection letters said the same thing as yours. The exception? It was four pages long with all my faults listed in excruciating detail. I do mean DETAIL. And the entire letter could have been boiled down to one sentence. This book sucks. Oh, yeah. This was NOT a “revise and resubmit”…

    Fortunately, I have more faith in myself than the average bear…so I kept writing.

    I’m thrilled to death for your success. :-)

  26. Anny, too funny! I’m not laughing at you, I’m laughing with you. Four pages! You’re right, the letter could have said – This book sucks. Done. :P

  27. Diana Stevan says:

    Enjoyed this post as it mirrors my experience. I, too, have a folder crammed with rejection letters. Now that I’m submitting digitally, I save an inbox folder for rejections. I don’t know why either. Maybe I’ll do what you’ve done instead of beating my head against the wall. Out of curiosity, have you hired editors and book cover designers for all your published books? I think the thought of figuring all that on my own is what keeps me writing query letters. I’d rather be writing than getting involved in self-publishing, but time will tell whether I’ll follow suit.

  28. I got rid of my inbox for rejections as well, Diana. Makes me feel so much better about life! Regarding editors, etc. – I used to be an editor so I do edit my own work and then I have a friend or friends proofread for me and point out screw ups. I’m usually a pretty clean writer. I work with a cover designer. I find the image I want and suggest an arrangement and fonts, sizes, etc. She puts together mock ups for me and we work until we get it right – very inexpensive. Another friend helps me with formatting as I am not great at understanding different formats.
    I’m happy with what I’m doing. And thanks!

  29. Sandra Cox says:

    You go, woman:)
    I’m in the front row of your cheering section. Can you see my arms waving?

  30. Hey, Sandra, you’ve been there done that! :P