3.12.2012

On Rejection

This is both a personal and professional anecdote today, but it is meant to inspire you to never give up on your dreams and to never let someone else claim your power.

Ever since I was a child I always dreamed of being a writer. It was my first interest. I got sidetracked along the way with dalliances in theatre and film (which were actually quite enjoyable) but ultimately I knew I wanted to write books one day.

So when I decided to get serious about it and took a writing class in my late twenties, I fell in love with writing. It felt natural, it felt fulfilling and it felt like something I was meant to do. The creative process was so magical. I wrote two books (Lessons from Madame Chic and my mystery that will be out later this fall) and it was time to share them with the world. Only thing was, I needed representation. I needed an agent. I needed a publisher.

So I started to submit Lessons from Madame Chic to literary agents. I submitted to a lot of literary agents. Many of them showed interest and even strung me along for quite some time, asking to read the proposal, wanting more chapters, etc. But ultimately they all rejected the book for one reason or another. Most of them said they didn’t think I would have an audience for the book. That it had been done before.

In my heart I knew this wasn’t true, but the rejection still hurt. I heard that this was typical. That in this day it is very hard to get representation unless you are a celebrity or a reality TV star. Each rejection felt like a slight punch in the belly and I went through a momentary dark phase where I thought that perhaps my dreams had come to an end.

Then I realized I was placing my power in the hands of other people.


Why should I let other people determine my fate in becoming a published author? This was my life after all! I decided to take control.

I self published my first book, Lessons from Madame Chic: The Top 20 Things I Learned While Living in Paris, in the fall of 2011. Since being published, the book has been featured on CNN, BBC, 35 newspapers across North America and has received so much support from the readers that identify with it. It has remained on the Amazon bestseller lists in three categories in both America and the UK since its debut and hasn’t budged yet.

The book’s success has taken me by surprise. I think a large part of me believed those agents who rejected me. I wasn’t sure anyone would actually read it! I learned a lot from self publishing and I will definitely do things differently next time. The book is not perfect and the first edition contains errors that got past four of us editors- which in this world of airbrush and polish could be viewed as an interesting study. Alas, these are the perils of writing a book as a sleep deprived mother of a newborn baby! (As a side note, these errors are currently being fixed. The paperback will go off sale shortly to enable this, and then the kindle. And yes, I will hire a professional editor for all future books.)

But most readers are able to look past the imperfections and embrace the true heart of what the book longs to convey- that a life lived passionately is all that matters. That being chic isn’t only about style and the tangible aspects of living, but the intangible as well. That it doesn’t matter what you do, but how you do it.

If you are ever faced with rejection in your life (whether romantic, professional or creative) it’s OK to feel that initial bruise. Go ahead, you can even cry (I did!) But never let anyone else hold the power to your life. If you believe you can do something, then you can do it. And if you have drive, a positive attitude and come from a place of love, you will succeed.

I would love to know… what is your experience with rejection? And how has it shaped you?

**Update: Lessons from Madame Chic has been acquired by Simon & Schuster and will be re-released in the Fall of 2012!

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20 comments:

helen tilston said...

Hello Jennifer

Thank you for sharing your story.

I loved your book and loaned it to my friend, who is returning it to me. She is going to buy her own copy.

Yes, I have had rejection towards me and possibly what can be now determined as jealousy. The art world is very competitive and artists can be mean spirited and greedy. I am very fortunate to belong to a 3 member group, called the Plein Aire Cottage Artists. Both Mary Rose and Violetta are like my sisters and I trust them implicitly. We exhibit together, travel together and have so much fun. Trust is such an important factor.

Wishing you much success in your future books

Helen

LMK said...

I experienced roadblocks placed by others from my parents. Though they meant well, they thought becoming successful in the art world just wasn't something that could happen. I began college with enthusiasm, taking my classes and thriving. However, my parents believed this drive would end, see it their way and go into business. Unfortunately I let this get to me and left after my second year. I flailed & burned out of different careers: insurance, publishing and finally settling on bookkeeping. Then four years ago (at 43) a decision was made for me; I had to be let go in a automotive driven, small family-owned business that was barely keeping afloat with the tough economy. It was very difficult, as I'd been with them for many years and was treated as apart of their family. Well, three months later I was back in college, and earned an Interior Design degree with a 3.75 average. Today I own my business, and make a decent living following my bliss. And my parents, who I love dearly, realize their mistake and are very happy for me. = )

You know I love your book, as it is on subjects dear to my heart. You always have my support.

Bisous!

Jennifer Baldwin said...

I don't necessarily have a story of rejection, but rather of negative feedback in my job as a translator. Most of the work I do gets no response at all, but I know my clients are satisfied because they keep coming back. Yet still, negative feedback stings more badly than it should and resonates in the back of my mind the whole day. Without exception, however, and regardless of whether it was truly justified, it makes me more determined to prove myself and my worth.

Is this really about rejection? Or is it about determination and perseverance? Thank you for your determination in publishing your book. I've loved France for many years, and your book helped me see just what it is that makes the French so very special!

Bon courage pour la suite!

Stephanie said...

I've received some rejection mainly through potential employees and a few other personal ones

Each of them affected me somewhat negatively and also had an impact on my motivation to pursue some entrepreneurial interests for the future.

Thanks for sharing your story :)

xo Stephanie

Nanne said...

I'd also like to thank you for sharing your story, but I'm so happy that you decided to publish your book! I love it, and I'm going to buy the paperback version in addition to the Kindle one, to have in my bag or read in bed:)I can't remember experiencing major rejection, but then I've never been one to take chances, In fact, I think the only thing holding me back is myself, because I'm beeing too careful and too dependent on feeling safe and secure.

Phyllis Bourne said...

Hi Jennifer,

Coming out of lurk to tell you how much I enjoy both your blog and your book. Your advice is invaluable. Every time I'm tempted to pop open a bag of chips and plop down on the couch, I can almost hear your voice in my ear saying, 'snacking isn't chic!'.

Although they hurt at the time, I've found the rejections I've received as a writer were really blessings in disguise. And somehow I've ended up exactly where I'm supposed to be.

On a side note, would love to hear more about your writing schedule.

Anonymous said...

Recently I applied for my dream job and was rejected. The job was a sales position at an internet-based travel company that specialized in vacation rental properties worldwide. All applicants had to find a property not on their site and write a mock sales pitch inviting them to list with the company. I loved my sales pitch! That and my real estate background surely would impress them, right?

At least they notified me! They said (in a nice way) I didn't have the qualifications. Not qualified?! Ouch!

So I plan to take digital marketing classes at a university and update my skills. Sometimes those who reject us can be our best coaches!

Thanks for sharing your experience with us. Best wishes! ~Dee J.

LR @ Magnificent or Egregious said...

I've had some rejections, and it usually comes after a big "high" - winning an award or receiving a great compliment...then something dumb happens. I try to move past it and take the "live and learn" approach. Good for you for self-publishing - you're more of a businesswoman than you think! :) (Lisa V, Ramona S and Bethenny F would be so proud of you). It took guts to do it on your own and I commend you for that!

JaneB said...

Hi Jennifer, actually i want to say congratulations for your rejection - the reason - as a published author, rejections make us stronger, work harder, more resilient in a carrer that is fraught with hard knocks. The important thing is to take that rejection and learn from it.
Glad to hear that you are hiring a professional editor next time, that's really important. Family and friends as editors are TOO kind, don't want to hurt our feelings. You need someone who has no emotional involvment. Best wishes for your future writing career

Jane Beckenham
www.janebeckenham.com

Laura Gail said...

Jenn - I think you have showed great courage in the face of adversity. Your book and blog have been a great success! Your story reminded me a bit of Julia Child. Her cookbook was turned down by Houghton-Mifflin and don't you know they ended up with a lifetime of regret over that decision. Keep writing!!! Blessings, Laura Gail

Anonymous said...

Publishing houses do this on purpose nowadays. There are soooo many manuscripts submitted - and many of the same genre - that those who end up having the fortitude, and money to do so, end up publishing there own. And when/if they become successful the house knows it's proven and will then pick them up as they know they can make some money off of that author and their sales

You rock on the perseverance meter, and deserve all the success that comes your way.

Merveilleux said...

I'm going through this right now.. After taking a few years off to raise my daughter (she's now in preschool) it's become extremely difficult applying to countless jobs to either not hear back or get a "phone interview" and nothing more.. It's really discouraging.. It seems hopeless....

Karena said...

Jennifer this story is so poignant because success does not always come easily, and I think many of us can relate. ( By the way I am getting ready to read your book!)Bravo to your endurance!

Rejection I have experienced, and who has not, really has made me stronger, more positive and ultimately believe in myself!

Please do come over to visit, I have a New Giveaway I think you will love!

Xoxo
Karena
Art by Karena

KBG in DC said...

Your pain comes through so poignantly in this post. Rejection, especially of something you know is a good idea, is so difficult, but you can learn so much from the experience. Perhaps this will teach you how to write a killer book proposal, improve your pitch skills, get you better at networking for the right connections. I'm looking forward to your next book - this time under a publishing imprint. Remember, JK Rowling had the Potter series rejected several times, and F Scott Fitzgerald papered the walls of his office with rejection slips. Stick to your vision; with perserverence you will find a publisher who shares it.

Joanne said...

Hi Jennifer,

I bought the Kindle version of your book on UK Amazon, and I love it!

Well done on your first book, it was a quick and easy read that really inspired me to take action in my life.

Thank you and good luck in the future.

Katy said...

I also really enjoyed your book and found it to be unique among what's out there in that genre.

Some of the worst rejection I have experienced was as a grad student in literature. Eventually, it became clear to me that I wouldn't be hired in the field I wanted to be in, so I cut my losses and changed directions. Now I am a tax accountant, but my real passion is writing, and I don't know how anyone can work full time and also get anywhere with their writing. Having a baby around makes it just that much harder!

How do you go about your work process in a way that allows you to take care of your daily responsibilities without losing steam or inspiration for your writing?

Rebecca said...

Rejection is hard! Thank you for sharing this personal insight.

Reading about you with a toddler, another baby on the way, self publishing a wonderful book, writing your mystery novel, being a wife, doing this blog, etc... I have no excuses for my 1/2 written novel. You are an inspiration and a motivator!

The Daily Connoisseur said...

Hello Everyone- Thank you so much for commenting and sharing your experiences here. I am so inspired reading your stories! And for those of you going through this process right now, like Merveilleux, just remember to hold your intention and not get discouraged. The right thing will come along. We are rooting for you!

I really have enjoyed reading all of your stories. We are a bunch of creative, ambitious women- we keep very good company with each other! :)

To answer some of your questions:

Phyllis Bourne- Before I had my baby I used to write every morning form 8am to 10am without fail. This was very important to me. Now, after having my baby, I only write when she takes a nap or in the evening (depending on which time I am the least exhausted). I know that one day I will be able to return to my regular writing schedule but for now I take moments where I can. The important thing is that I get writing in...

And to answer Katy's question:

"How do you go about your work process in a way that allows you to take care of your daily responsibilities without losing steam or inspiration for your writing?"

This is a challenge I am dealing with now. As I mentioned to Phyllis in the answer above I used to write from 8am to 10am every day. I tend to have the most energy and feel the most creative in the morning so now that I am unable to adhere to this schedule it can be frustrating. I take care of my duties at home but I also make it a priority that I at least get one hour every day to write. And that is what I would suggest to you as someone who works full time, if you can give yourself one hour a day to write that is all you need. I have attended several writer's talks over the years and this is a common piece of advice I've heard. Some writers only take one hour of work in the morning and have the rest of the day off! You can get a lot done in an hour. My other piece of advice would be to write every day and never take a day off. A lot of people make the mistake of writing for 8 hours in a day (for example) then not writing again for 2 weeks. You cannot build momentum this way (from my experience). Good luck with your writing- you can do it!

Thank you again to everyone for your comments. Have a wonderful rest of the week!

Jennifer x

hostess of the humble bungalow said...

You've become a stronger woman because of this experience. Congratulations on all those amazing stats about the book too.

I am excited to hear more about the mystery novel!
I hope you'll let us know when it comes out.

Cindy La Ferle said...

A perfect post, Jennifer -- and it clearly resonates with everyone who writes and wants to get published. As you discovered, self-publishing puts the power back in our hands and the rewards are so gratifying. (I often do talks at writers' conferences on the topic of self-publishing.) I want to share a column I wrote on the topic of rejection. It's included in my book, and excerpted here on my blog: http://www.laferle.com/2009/01/the-r-word/

 
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