Friday, May 20, 2011

Two Thoughts about Rejection

Two smart people have written recently about rejection.

First, marketing guru Seth Godin addresses the standard rejection advice, "don't take it personally." He says that it's not about you. It's personal to the "other guy." That person is rejecting you because that person has wants, needs, interests, whatever that you don't meet. The disconnect doesn't mean you don't provide value.

Which is true. Except that it's easy for writers to cop the "I'm a misunderstood genius" defense. Which Godin also addresses by saying, "Do your work, the best way you know how." That, to me, says "Keep learning," because it's always possible to add to what you know.

And then there's Daniel Menaker, writing in the Huffington Post about the ways in which his memoir met rejection before its ultimate acceptance. If you are as unfamiliar with him as I was, this bio is enlightening: he has written fiction, worked at The New Yorker with really good writers, and worked at HarperCollins to publish important stories (Sister Helen Prejean!). He has moved; he has shaken.

An impressive pedigree, yet many editors rejected his memoir, even with its juicy insider info about The New Yorker.

Is his lack of immediate success reassuring to the rest of us? Sure.

However, he is also just plain wrong about something. He is very happy to have had his manuscript accepted by "a great publisher and editor," because if it had not been, he'd have had to deign to approach a publisher in [gasp] New Jersey, or even [double gasp] Winnipeg.

Where, presumably, great publishers and editors don't exist.

Which is patently untrue, as those of us who are seacoast-deprived well know. (I can't speak to the publishing scene in Weehawken, of course.)

Here's the membership list from the Association of Manitoba Book Publishers. See? there are options. Manitoba is smack dab in the middle of the continent; central location has its benefits. Sure, Turnstone isn't HarperCollins, but a big fish like Menaker in a smaller pond might well have received the special treatment he apparently didn't get from his New York buddiess.

Just sayin'. Not that I'm taking Menaker's rejection of publishing in "flyover country" personally, of course. Because as Seth Godin says, it's him, not us.

And my quibble with Menaker doesn't really dilute his point: publishing isn't easy.

Writing isn't, either. But it's what's important.