Glorifying 47 rejections and why it is all right

Here is a New York Times article that encourages you to go on writing no matter how many times you face rejection from traditional publishers. Then it gives you an example of a writer whose novel was rejected 47 times and once it was published, it was included in the “Booker Long List”.

Donal Ryan, a civil servant from Limerick, Ireland, wrote two novels. He sent them to agents and publishers and got back 47 rejections over three years. Finally an intern at Lilliput Press in Dublin fished “The Thing About December” out of the slush pile. Around the same time, an editor at Doubleday Ireland took interest in “The Spinning Heart.” Suddenly Mr. Ryan had a two-book deal, and from there his fortunes only improved. The Booker Foundation announced last week that “The Spinning Heart” had made the cut for the Man Booker Prize long list.

I totally agree and disagree with the underlying premise of the article: Yes, you should go on writing no matter how many rejections you face and if you want to succeed as a writer, there is no alternative to relentless striving. Nobody doubts that.

But then it says that you totally have to depend upon the whims of the publishing houses. It doesn’t just say that, it actually romanticizes this state of affairs:

These stories hearten struggling writers and everyone else who struggles too. They allow us to believe that our luck could change at any moment; that if we persevere beyond the point of reason and perhaps good taste, we may finally succeed.

The article also shows its bias towards self-publishing:

These stories, finally, tell us that a healthy book industry is a diverse one, in which it’s possible for a talented author to knock on several doors before resorting to self-publishing. The more gatekeepers, the better the odds for the next Donal Ryan.

Self-publishing, whether you go for the conventional, hardcover or paperback, or digital publishing, empowers the writers. Publishing no longer lurks in the realms of vicissitudes. If you have a ready novel or a ready book, you can get published within a couple of weeks or months, and if you want to publish your book digitally, you can publish it within hours. What is wrong in that? Who cares if most of it is below par? Besides, who decides what is below par?

As publishing becomes more and more accessible and, more importantly, affordable, writers of all hues and flavors are going to publish themselves without much hindrance. The same thing happened when the printing press was invented and improvised. Suddenly printing and reading became affordable. Great classics were published, and so was lots of pornography.

What about rejections? Don’t they make you strive harder? They do, but they can also kill your spirit. And if they say that you probably don’t have a writing spirit if it can be killed by rejections, this is all rubbish. If there is some tool available that can help you save time so that you can fully focus on your craft, what’s wrong in that? Why do you have to make it a matter of blood and sweat in order to be a writing genius? Less than 1% of the books being written all over the world actually get to be published. Isn’t it a great waste of talent and hard work?

On the other hand, if you can self publish, even if your book doesn’t do well, at least you know that people didn’t like it because maybe, you didn’t put much effort. Without being published, how can you ever find that out?