What do we think about writing, publishing and every other aspect of our craft? Do we envision that at some point we won’t be staring at the keyboard wondering what the hell to write next? Do we imagine that once we finish the, “Great American Novel,” that editors and agents will be breaking down our door to get at it? The reality of getting published takes balls the size of Texas. The author of the 2009 bestseller, The Help, Kathryn Stockett, retells her journey to publication for More magazine:
“It took me a year and a half to write my earliest version of The Help. I’d told most of my friends and family what I was working on. Why not? We are compelled to talk about our passions. When I’d polished my story, I announced it was done and mailed it to a literary agent.
Six weeks later, I received a rejection letter from the agent, stating, “Story did not sustain my interest.” I was thrilled! I called my friends and told them I’d gotten my first rejection! Right away, I went back to editing. I was sure I could make the story tenser, more riveting, better.
A few months later, I sent it to a few more agents. And received a few more rejections. Well, more like 15. I was a little less giddy this time, but I kept my chin up. “Maybe the next book will be the one,” a friend said. Next book? I wasn’t about to move on to the next one just because of a few stupid letters. I wanted to write this book.
A year and a half later, I opened my 40th rejection: “There is no market for this kind of tiring writing.” That one finally made me cry. “You have so much resolve, Kathryn,” a friend said to me. “How do you keep yourself from feeling like this has been just a huge waste of your time?”
That was a hard weekend. I spent it in pajamas, slothing around that racetrack of self-pity—you know the one, from sofa to chair to bed to refrigerator, starting over again on the sofa. But I couldn’t let go of The Help. Call it tenacity, call it resolve or call it what my husband calls it: stubbornness.
After rejection number 40, I started lying to my friends about what I did on the weekends. They were amazed by how many times a person could repaint her apartment. The truth was, I was embarrassed for my friends and family to know I was still working on the same story, the one nobody apparently wanted to read.”
Now you don’t have to like Stockett’s work. You do not have to even like Stockett. But you have to admire her balls. You will need a similar pair to get you through the BS that people are going to throw at you enroute to publishing your book. Don’t get me wrong, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with self publishing. Too many people do it, tho and some to avoid having anyone critique their work. But even if you self publish at some point you will have to deal with a thorough critique of your work. Are you ready? Writing the book is just the beginning. Re-writing your book is where the real work begins.