In January, Central Avenue opened up for poetry submissions from unagented writers. I’ve done this in the past and was able to bring in a handful of new-to-me and fantastic writers. So, with the view of making sure Central Avenue continues to publish great books, I did it again. I was completely overwhelmed with the number of emails I got. There were over 125 submissions in about 10 days, and while you might think that this is nothing compared to what big publishers deal with, please remember that this is a pretty small company! For this round, I had the help of two people whose opinions and judgement I trust and together we’ve been able to read and discuss and will make some offers soon.
But, in order to get to this point, I’ve had to send out well over 100 “not-right-now” emails. It’s a horrible exercise. I try to relay to the writer how difficult the decision is, and that for the most part, it’s not them or their work necessarily. I try to soften the blows by offering something I like about their work, but honestly, it doesn’t really matter what form the rejection comes in, it still hurts – a lot.
I know it hurts, because I get it all the time. Central Avenue books are regularly rejected by dramatic rights agents, studios, foreign rights agents, other publishers for translation, and booksellers. I’ve been rejected by authors who leave to go to another publisher, and by reviewers who trash the book. Most of the time, the emails I get from pitches are rejections. Things like: “Sorry, it’s just not for us.” “We’re not interested in these, but please send us future books.” And of course the flat-out: “No.” Even worse are those that just don’t answer – at all.
Inevitably when I get those emails or phone calls, I have a really down day. It’s not that I’ve lost belief in what I do, I just feel like someone doesn’t believe enough in what I do to also invest in it or me. But if I’m honest about it, I get over it relatively quickly. Maybe it’s practice – so many years of rejection has numbed the sting. But I think what has helped is remembering the wins – all those times when a reviewer did like what I published, when an audio publisher bought the rights, when a bookstore bought a boatload of books, when an agent from overseas sought me out, and when my colleagues offer up unsolicited compliments. And it makes me remember that it’s not me and what I do or stand for, it’s just the dynamic of the relationship. Or maybe it’s not the right time. Or maybe it just wasn’t meant to be. I’m a strong believer that what is meant to be, will be. Call me a romantic or whatever, but when something is meant to happen, it will, and it will be easy and fun, and come together quite quickly.
So to all the authors (or anyone, really) out there who are feeling rejected, I hope you remember all the wins you’ve already had. I hope you remember that the opportunity you thought was “the one” really isn’t, and that what you do is important and loved by many people.
Keep doing what you do, and stay true to yourself, living with the knowledge that something great is just around the bend.