Thursday, May 14, 2009

What I Have in Common with Judy Blume and J.K. Rowling

As a writer, I've been rejected. A lot. The first novel I ever wrote got rejected by so many agents, that I gave up on it, and decided to write another one. That one (what would eventually be The September Sisters) was also rejected by scores of agents over a two year period. And then, when I finally got an offer of representation from my fabulous agent and she started submitting it to editors, we went through over a year of getting rejection after rejection from editors before the book sold.

But what always got me through and still does get me through rejection is this: stories about other writers who didn’t give up, who got rejected over and over again, only to later triumph. My new favorite story is about Kathryn Stockett, the author of the debut book The Help. I bought the book for my mom for her birthday after reading some great reviews, and now that my mom has finished it and continues to rave about it every time I talk to her, I’ve moved it to the very top of my to-read pile. My mom also told me about an article she read about the author, where Stockett mentioned that she stopped counting after 45 rejection letters from agents. 45!! And though I’ve never met the author and haven’t even read the book yet, I felt downright triumphant for her when I saw The Help was number 11 on the NY Times Bestseller list this week!

Here’s another interesting article that I came across this week: "30 Famous Authors Whose Works Were (Repeatedly and Rudely) Rejected." I love the part about J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter only being published because the daughter of Bloomsbury’s CEO begged him to publish the book, how Gone With the Wind was rejected by 38 publishers, and how Judy Blume said she got nothing but rejection for two years! Stories like these always helped me cling to hope: if other authors could be published after being rejected scads of times, then maybe I could too?

A few weeks ago my agent started sending my first novel for adults, THE TRANSFORMATION OF THINGS, out to editors. Actually, I should back up here. It wasn’t exactly my first novel for adults. The first adult novel I wrote was that one I mentioned in the beginning of this post, that got rejected by so many agents that I gave up on it. After that, there was THE SEPTEMBER SISTERS, which was originally intended for adults (until it got rejected by many adult editors), and then after that I wrote another book for adults that, on my agent’s advice, we decided to table for a while because neither one of us could quite figure out a way to get it to work. So here, a few weeks ago, she was actually sending out my fourth attempt at a novel for adults. I braced myself for more rejection, as I felt that unwelcome ball of nerves in my stomach. What if everyone hated the book? What if the fourth time wasn’t a charm?

But then a week and a half after she sent it out, my agent called me. We had an offer! The book sold in days, not months, not years. After my past experience with rejection, it felt impossible to wrap my head around! So here, in my post that is about dealing with rejection, I'm also announcing my insanely good news, that my first adult women's fiction novel, THE TRANSFORMATION OF THINGS, will be out from Avon in late summer/early fall 2010!

But don't think this is totally off topic, because it's not. Remember that part about this being my fourth attempt? That means three other attempts were thwarted based on some level of rejection, which also means, I've dealt with a lot of rejection over the past few years. And I've come to the conclusion that the best way to deal with rejection is this: No matter what, keep going. Keep writing. Keep trying. Get rejected. Then try some more.

And you don't have to take my word for it. Just ask Judy Blume!


Lesley Livingston said...


I am SO happy for you, Jill!

(And for your brilliant, beautiful agent! *grin*)

Jillian Cantor said...

Thanks, Lesley! And couldn't agree more about our agent being beautiful and brilliant :-)

Maureen Lipinski said...

I can't wait to read this book! Selling in days? Go on with your bad self!

And those rejections make the successes just that much sweeter, right?

Lisa Patton said...

See how much hope you're giving to others just jumping into the fire!

Fantastic Novel Girl News, Jill! Way to go.