My poor, poor YA project. It’s been rejected again. The letter has the by now usually complementary note about my writing skills, followed by the sad conclusion that even so, it’s not for this particular editor. I have no idea when it will be that we will have exhausted all the viable avenues for publication, after which the project will be consigned to The Back Drawer, the place to which commercially unviable products go to live their half-completed, literary zombie lives. But I suspect if I were this project, I’d start being slightly nervous. Although, of course, who knows. It’s only been rejected three times. In the world of publishing, you don’t really start worrying about rejection until you get into the double digits. We’ll see.
I’m asked from time to time how I feel about rejection, and I have to say at this point it doesn’t seem to bother me in the slightest. Rejections happen and they happen for reasons that aren’t always transparent to the author. In her now-famous Slushkiller entry, Teresa Nielsen Hayden lists 13 basic reasons why works get rejected, almost none of which will be immediately obvious to the author, because the author is personally delusional about the quality of the work and/or not privy to the workings of the publishing house in question. So I tend not to worry about the “why” of the rejection so long as it doesn’t actively involve the writing stinking up the joint. Bad writing is my problem, to be fixed if I can; otherwise, I have little control over the rejection. So why waste time thinking about it.
Also, from the practical point of view, I don’t have to think about it — I have an agent, who earns his 15% dealing with my rejections so I don’t have to. This leaves me free to worry about thinking about other projects to toss out there, to be accepted or rejected as they may. It’s a nice division of labor, and I’m happy to slice off the above-quoted percentage so I don’t have to worry about crap like that. It does also help that I have a reasonably full writing agenda; if I weren’t otherwise gainfully engaged and able to pay my mortgage, I might obsess about rejection more. But I am and I can, so I don’t.
In any event, the YA is off again, to be rejected once more — or accepted; you never know until you try. Maybe that’s the best way to look at literary rejection: Simply another opportunity to get accepted elsewhere.