I’ve been collecting disappointment again.
I know I’ve written stuff about his before, but having had a few bits of success you think that it might keep going. When you hit the bumps again it is a real pain.
I read with delight therefore the bit about JK Rowling getting rejected again for her first ‘serious, adult’ novel by the same publishers who rejected Harry Potter. They didn’t know it was her of course and I’m not Rowling, but it was a little something to hug to myself along with the latest collection of ‘Not quite what we’re looking for, but do keep trying and we hope you have success elsewhere’ emails/letters. I did get one from a US magazine which, while not different in the ‘right’ way was refreshing in its tone. ‘This didn’t work for me.’ This at least made me go and have another look at the story from a critical point of view. (I still like it but at least it made me go through the process.)
I have always liked these stories of fallibility in the gatekeepers of publishing. When I was more uncritical I used to be something of a collector of what I suspect are often apocryphal stories of agents, publishers, directors, producers etc being sent manuscripts of fantastically successful books/films and rejecting them out of hand. I still have a clipping from the Daily Telegraph from years and years ago, probably 1980s, retailing a story of someone who sent out the original script for ‘Everyone goes to Rick’s’ with a couple of name changes. They received a massive number of rejections for the script which had eventually, some years earlier, made it to the screen under the revised name of Casablanca.
I have no idea of how true this story is of course. And before anyone thinks that a reputable newspaper wouldn’t make anything like this up, let me tell you I have at least five versions of the story of Action Man/GI Joe/Generic army figure’s rifle. His weapon was deemed to fall under the aegis of the anti-terrorism laws after the Twin Towers attacks and was impounded at airport security as not being suitable for transport in the plane. These stories were reported as happening at different airports for the most part – although Heathrow figures in two and occurred in flights both ways across the Atlantic. In two cases they appeared with obviously staged photographs and one person was obviously very unlucky as exactly the same thing happened to them again over a year after the first occasion! I remain uncertain whether the whole thing was made up (my best guess) or whether it happened once and everyone amended it for their own nefarious purposes on a slow news day.
Although I like the laughter at the failure to spot gold dust more than the urban myth of the impounded toy rifle I am not sure it soothes my nerves any better. It must be incredibly difficult to know what will sell and what won’t. Having attempted to read a couple of books this year and abandoned them as unreadable I am even less happy about why some of my work doesn’t get the nod. I read some material and think ‘this got published and mine didn’t! How bad is my stuff?’
Am I an undiscovered genius? Or completely wasting my time?
I don’t need an answer by the way!
So although it was superficially less comforting than the placatory rejections the ‘this didn’t work for me’ email was at least something I could get my hands on and check. It made me go and look as dispassionately and clinically as I could at what I had written. So well done for being honest at least, even if my stuff is better than Casablanca!
You wouldn’t want too many bits of refreshing honesty though.