I hate that phrase. "Don't take it personally." Can't you just hear it echo in your head? Usually in a voice that is part admonition, part incredulity. The tone asks, "Are you really going to take this personally? Seriously?"
The problem is, the only time you hear that phrase is when you ARE taking it personally. So now they're telling you, "Don't do what you're already doing."
I've heard that phrase a lot in the world of publishing. Actually, I'm not in the world of publishing (one of the reasons people keep saying that phrase to me!), but I'm trying to get into the world of publishing. See, I have this great novel that I've written. It's exciting. It's well-written (if I do say so myself). It's kind of Indiana-Jones-meets-Jason-Bourne. Not that I have an inflated sense of my own abilities. This book is a hit waiting to happen. It's a best-seller, easy. At least, people that know me and love me will buy it. Or read it if I give them a free copy. Or at least skim it if they get it as a Christmas gift. Or ...
But the world of Christian fiction is a small one. There's only so many publishing companies. They're only printing so many books per year. Agents can only represent so many people. They tell us that there's all sorts of reasons for turning things down: already printing or representing something similar; not taking on that genre right now; doesn't fit the direction we're going in, etc. And in conferences and how-to books we're always instructed not to take it personally. Rejection is a part of the business.
That is true. Did you know that the Left Behind series was rejected over forty times before Tyndale picked it up? And now look at it. I bet all those other publishers are kicking themselves now. (Just as they will be someday when my book hits the marketplace with a splash!)
But even knowing that, it's hard not to take it personally. There's a part of me in that book. It's a story that came out of my own little head. I poured myself into it. And so when I'm--I mean, it's rejected, it feels personal.
I'm certainly getting experience in rejection. In the past six weeks I've been rejected by three editors and an agent. So far it's not getting easier. The rejections have ranged from "not a good fit at this time" to "I can't have any more series right now, I need a stand-alone book". My most recent one said that I have an intriguing idea, but after looking at the concept, my writing style and industry demand, they have to turn me down. Another told me I have a good story and they wish they could add me, but there is a limited appeal in Christian fiction for plots set overseas as opposed to novels that take place in the U.S.
I'm working hard at not taking it personally. Each time I get a rejection I consider giving up writing since obviously I do not have a knack for it. But I think I might as well give up breathing. So I'll keep plugging away at it, trying to make connections, writing more stories, honing my craft. And someday I WILL get a positive response. Someday I WILL sign a contract.
And someday, some of you just might get a copy of What Time I Am Afraid under your Christmas tree. The book may be a gift, but the personal autograph inside will cost you dearly. : )