Go ahead, tell me I can’t, then get the hell out of my way!

Do you know one of the things a writer really needs if she’s truly being honest about wanting to be a professional and sell her books? It’s not talent, but being able to construct a good storyline is important, and most writing skills can be improved upon.

It’s not being popular and social, and having a huge network of friends to help sell her book.

It’s not having the greatest website with all the right bells and whistles.  It’s not even having the most beautiful book cover or the best editors.

So what is this one thing that a writer needs to be successful? What is this one thing that will make a writer strive for perfection, rather than just accept only adequate?

It’s called rejection, and we need a lot of it.  Didn’t see that coming did ya?

When I first started this journey to become a published author, I was a complete novice and didn’t know anything about this industry. But being a business woman, I felt confident that I could learn what I needed to, and then apply all that wonderful knowledge into my work. I was sure I had the next big, break-out novel, and the agents and publishers would be begging me to sign with them.  Surely they would see the spectacular story I had written and worked so hard on, a product that I was quite proud of.  Ouch! It’s not easy to pat yourself on the back, but someone has to, right?

Doing what any newbie should do, I started attending writing conferences and workshops. A fellow author friend and I attended one at the local college where I signed up for a 10 minute pitch session with one of the agents. He represented historical, romance authors. Sounded like a good fit.

I was prepared, had even created a very nice proposal, and though I was a bit nervous when I sat down across from him, I was a professional.

Unfortunately, he was not. This agent had forgotten what it was like to be just starting out and trying to launch a career in a whole new and scary industry. Not once, but twice, this man threw his hand up into my face like a traffic cop, and told me to stop talking. Seriously! Who does that?

In less than 5 minutes, he had basically taken my naïve enthusiasm and crushed it like a robin’s egg in spring. He bluntly informed me, that had I read his website thoroughly, I would’ve known he doesn’t represent fantasy authors. In those few painful moments, he told me my story didn’t even sound like a novel that adults would like, and that maybe I should reconsider writing it for children. What!? Needless to say, I walked away stripped of my pride and wondered why anyone would put themselves through this. Yes, this agent was a jerk, and I heard that he didn’t get asked back to the conference the following year. Hmm, I wonder why? Maybe I wasn’t the only one that walked out that day feeling like they had been chewed up and spat out like a bad seed.

Even though that was only the first of many rejections, I have to admit, it was the most painful. When you’re still in your infancy stage of learning anything new, the last thing you want is someone to tell you you’re not good enough, you don’t have what it takes, and nobody sees the value in all of your hard work.

I went home that day and told my husband I would never be a published author. I was wasting my time writing and wasting my money going to these conferences. I then went into my office, and everything I had printed that had anything to do with my books got thrown in the trash.  I was done.

But then, after he held me and let me cry pathetically into his shoulder, my very supportive husband looked me in the eye and asked, “Why would you ever give anyone the power to make you feel like this? Nobody has the right to make you feel inadequate. You certainly wouldn’t allow me to get away with that. Why give this jerk that power?”

Though it took a few days to get over licking my wounds and hanging out at my own pity-party, I realized that Tom was right. I had given that agent the power to make me feel like a failure and I had allowed it. But that very painful rejection taught me some very good lessons. One was that I’d better get some thick skin if I was going to play in this game. Another was to make sure I did my research on any potential agent or publisher and submit to only those who would be a good fit.

But the best thing that came from this experience is—I got angry. Not so much at the agent that threw his hand up in my face, (and when I become a mega bestseller author, he’ll be sorry he did!) or even that he told me I that I should rewrite my story for children. No, I was angry at myself, and that had to change.

One of the best quotes I’ve ever read goes like this:  “You’ve worked too hard and you’re too smart to go down stupid!” I wasn’t about to go down stupid, so instead, I went to work. And I’ve worked hard. Since that first incident with that agent, I’ve had multiple other agents also reject me, and it has only made me more determined to succeed at this. I’m now self-publishing my story, and my first book is out now with book two on its heels, due out at the end of 2020.

So, I guess I should say “thanks” to all the agents that have snubbed me and told me I didn’t have what they were looking for, to all the ones who told me I can’t, you’re not good enough, or shoved their hands in my face. Guess what? I’m doing it without you! 

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