I recently read an interview with Kathryn Stockett, author of the New York Times #1 bestselling novel The Help, which is now being made into a film. She said her book was initially rejected by 60 agents and publishers.
4 agents rejected my first book, and I went back to the drawing board to reassess. Maybe they have a good point, I thought. Maybe it really is too hard to sell a childhood memoir right now if you have no “platform”. In other words, if you’re not a celebrity or reality TV star, no one cares what your story is.
60 rejections. Wow. There is something about that kind of persistence that boggles my mind. When I get doors slammed in my face, I take it as a sign that I must be knocking on the wrong doors, or headed down the wrong path, so I retreat. But maybe I’ve got it all wrong?
Jack London received hundreds of rejection letters. In fact, he papered his study with them.
The movie It’s a Wonderful Life was a commercial flop, quickly shelved after it’s original release.
33 publishers rejected Chicken Soup for the Soul (who’s cryin’ now?).
Dr Suess’ first children’s book was rejected 24 times.
And…I love this one. Decca records rejected The Beatles- stating that “guitar music was on the way out”, and the Beatles had no future in show business.
I just finished reading The Help, and loved every page of it. It is a beautifully told story of race relations in Mississippi in the sixties, and the change that was coming. I do believe this book, even though it is fiction, has a lot to teach us, especially in parts of the country where racism is still prevalent. I also believe the movie will help to open hearts and minds.
It left me wondering…what if, after, say…30 rejections, or even 59, Stockett had given up on this beautiful and important story? What if It’s A Wonderful Life got shelved forever? What if the Beatles took Decca records comments to heart, and their music never touched our lives?
I am now working on a second memoir that my agent is interested in and thinks she can sell. But what about my first book? What if I keep sitting on it forever, afraid of what may happen if I release it into the world?
So I ask you , dear readers, in your own experience, when do you try, try again? And when do you try another direction?