by H. Linn Murphy
I just got a rejection slip for FIRETHORN, one of my YA books I have out in the "Pubosphere." When I first saw the email, I thought, Outstanding! They finally wrote to tell me they love my book.
But that wasn't the case. For a reason undisclosed, my poor Karry stands in the grove of trees near her house, reading the letter which tells her she is still a partial orphan. I wonder if it's just not well enough written, or if the timing is off. Possibly the planets are out of alignment. Maybe the slush pile lady had low blood sugar that day. For whatever it's worth, I still have someone who wants to look at it, but the poignant sting is still there. I feel like that pimply-faced wall-hugger from my youth who got picked last at the stake dance.
The thing is, there is no hard and fast rule about how to get someone to fall in love with your book, beyond a few helpful hints which I am here re-telling myself:
1. You need an outstanding story and a fresh way of telling it. Why not make Little Red Riding Hood a gun-toting midget? A lycanthrope (or however you spell it since my spell check isn't playing ball)? What if she actually gets eaten by the wolf and in the process gets shot into an alternate universe? The possibilities boggle.
2. Use editors and Beta readers who will be brave enough to tell you if you're making stupid mistakes and where to fix them.
3. Hone your craft to as close to sharp-edged brilliance as you can get it. Don't let yourself settle for dregs. You're better than that and you don't have the time to throw down trash, just as those poor denizens of the slush pile don't have time to read it.
4. Ask a question. It may not be necessary to answer it. Perhaps the reader will need to do that. But to be really good you have to tell the truth of the story. No cheap fakes. The quest for that truth will lead you to a story worth having.
5. Pay attention to the trends but not become a slave to them. I suppose it's like surfing. You need to find a great wave and have the great good luck to stay on your feet as you "shoot the tube", but trying to ride it into the sand will only get you a sand burn. (I am here remembering a whole panel of editors and agents admonishing, "No more dead girls!")
6. Remember that L. Frank Baum got something like 36 rejection slips before he got someone who would publish THE WIZARD OF OZ. I believe it was James Patterson who had slips in the fifties for his first. Suicide or gorging on massive amounts of ice cream aren't options for one or two measly dump papers. They can actually be a badge of honor if you work it right.
7. Chin up. There is always the Self-pub route. You may even like it better than traditional publishing for various reasons including control.
So I'm going to bite the bullet and send my baby out into the glaring light of the cold, hard world once more, like taking my daughter to the airport as she left for college and the Great Beyond. Someone will love a half-wooden girl named Karyatis. It'll be interesting to see who the book marries.