The Writing Game: An essay by Amber Combs
Anyone who has ever tried to get anything published knows that rejection is just part of the process, and a rather large part; however, all potential authors should know that to get somewhere in the literary world, you have to push forward and not let the rejection slips dissuade you from following your chosen path in spite of how they might pile up. If those refusals do manage to get you down, though, then just think about all the authors who didn’t give up.
We all know J.K. Rowling of Harry Potter fame. Her books and the subsequent films have made her, to date, the richest author in the world. But what you might not know about is the difficulty Rowling had getting the first Harry Potter, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (known as Sorcerer’s Stone here in the United States), published. Rowling submitted her work to twelve publishing houses, including Harper Collins and Penguin, before she finally managed to strike a deal with Bloomsbury. Her success was largely due to a little girl named Alice Newton, the daughter of a Bloomsbury chairman who demanded to read the next chapter of the book immediately after finishing the first. After a first printing that turned out only 1,000 copies, Rowling was encouraged to get a day job to supplement what the publishers warned would be very little money. As of April 2012, J.K. Rowling is valued at a net worth of approximately one billion dollars.
Judy Blume also found herself facing poor prospects in publishing her novels. For two years, Blume received nothing but rejections whenever she submitted her work to publishers. Highlights for Children, a famous children’s magazine, sent her a form letter stating that her writing “[did] not win in competition with others.” Blume refused to give up:
“ I would go to sleep at night feeling that I’d never be published. But I’d wake up in the morning convinced I would be. Each time I sent a story or book off to a publisher I would sit down and begin something new. “
Still, nine probably seems like a very small number to a lot of prospective authors who have been writing for more than two years with no success in the publishing arena. Perhaps a more encouraging story is one about a certain man who received more than 800 rejections before he sold a single piece of writing. This man was a close friend of J.R.R. Tolkien of Lord of the Rings fame and Nevill Coghill, known for his modern English translation of Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. He taught at the prestigious Oxford and Cambridge colleges in England and was an exceptionally prolific writer of both academic and popular novels. Most people know this man for his creation of the popular fantasy world of Narnia. That’s right; this man, this champion of rejection, was C.S. Lewis.
Writing is a hard game in which to make any progress. Talent isn’t the only thing required. As Judy Blume once said, it takes hard work and determination to make progress, and sometimes it can take years to receive one kind word about your writing. Still, don’t let that dissuade any of you potential authors out there. You never know how far you can get until you try! For an extra helping hand, stop by the library and check out one of our books on publishing!