This is a bunch of crap. I don’t care how many people chant it up and down the internet. This is not true. Submitting to agents and publishers and getting those greatly ‘coveted’ rejection letters will not make you a better writer, it will not buffer you against rejection from readers, nor will it make you lose weight because you’ll be so devastated you won’t be able to eat for a month.
First, why should I go this route first if my goal is to self-publish? Why would I waste that time trying to perfect a query letter when I could be building my author platform or fine tuning my writing skills?
Here’s the truth: if you’ve done your research and already know you want to self-publish, then just do it. Not everyone is made for traditional publishing, and not everyone is made for submitting to the ‘publishing gods’. You don’t need a round of rejection letters to be your ‘ok’ to self-publish. You are an adult. You are capable (or we’re assuming you are :P) of making your own decisions. Don’t let people bull doze you into submitting to an agent or publisher when your heart isn’t in it. Do what you’re passionate about.
But…know why you’re doing it. 😉 And here’s a hint: don’t do it just because someone else said to. Do it because you want to.
Second, rejection from agents and publishers will not prepare you for rejection from readers. Sorry. It just ain’t going to happen. (I used ain’t on purpose. I know, I know. ‘Ain’t’ ain’t a real word.) Anyway, what I’m saying is that nothing will prepare you for seeing your first 1 star scathing review, nor will it prepare you for your first ‘you suck’ email. All you can do is brace yourself because it’s coming. This is why I suggest you avoid looking at your reviews. Seriously, you really don’t want to go there. But yeah, I realize some of you think I’m too stupid to understand that you can look at a 1 star scathing review of your book and be completely objective and honestly say, ‘Well, that was their opinion. They’re right to have it. Now I’m going to put on a party and dance the night away because I’m 100% happy.’
Here’s the truth: you will be down in the dumps. You will not feel good about yourself. Your creativity will likely suffer because of it. Have you ever tried to write something when you felt like total and utter crap? Well, I have and it’s darn near impossible, and even if you do manage to crank out a couple hundred words, you’ll think it’s awful.
So no, rejections from the ‘publishing gods’ will not buffer you from the pain you’ll feel when a reader tells the whole world in a review or you in an email that you ‘blow chunks’ as a writer. The only thing that’s going to buffer you (to some degree) is having received so many of those reviews and emails, you get to the point where your eyes glaze over when you realize it’s ‘one of those’ reviews/emails. Then you’ll automatically stop reading it. Don’t worry. The old ego will kick in eventually and protect you.
I received an email last month along the lines of ‘you suck as a writer’ and literally have no idea what it said to this day because even though I started reading it, a few key words clicked my brain into this ‘autopilot’ option and my eyes saw the words but my conscious mind never did. Looking back on it, that was probably one of the coolest things that’s ever happened to me. I have now found a way to guard myself against rude people! Today the scathing readers. Tomorrow the nasty people in real life! Oh, and if you’re wondering what I did about that email…I said the ‘Thanks for the feedback’ spiel and sent it out. Didn’t mean it, of course, but I was polite anyway, even if the reader couldn’t be.
Third, submitting to the ‘publishing gods’ will not make you a better writer. Sorry, but the feedback you’ll be getting might be helping you in terms of appealing to agents and publishers who will then box you in and make you conform to what they believe the market wants (unless you’re going small pub; in that case, you stand a good chance at creative freedom). But really, those are not your target audience. And it’s your target audience who are going to buy your books.
Here’s the truth: the best way to improve your writing is to work on your next book. What’s that? Did I not suggest countless rewrites of your already finished book to improve? Yep. I did not suggest that. Why not? Well, you’re pretty much already caged into that story. You can polish it up and make it look a little fancier, but unless you scrap the whole thing and start from scratch, you won’t be making as much improvement. This is why I don’t go back to ‘pretty up’ my old books, no matter how many times people tell me to in emails and on the reviews. Sorry. It’s not going to happen. I’m a face forward and keep walking kind of girl. Besides, I tried that a year ago on three books and ended up not making any significant improvements. So I speak from personal experience.
That all being said, if you can find a family member, other writer, a friend, a reader, etc. who isn’t afraid to give you honest feedback on your work, that’s a great way to improve your writing. The best feedback I’ve ever gotten came directly from people who like my work. Why? Because they like my work, I like my work, and they are my target audience (the people I am writing for).
So no, I don’t buy into this notion that you must submit something to an agent, publisher, or whoever else is deemed of ‘godlike’ stature in the publishing world before you self-publish. Granted, I did submit twice to Harlequin and once to a small publisher (both asking me to rewrite to their specifications and submit again), so I don’t know the agony of rejection but their comments for ‘improvement’ didn’t help me. What they wanted was more angst and turmoil between the hero and heroine in my romances (something that is not in my author platform, by the way) and the other wanted more description (so much more of it, in fact, it would have bored me to tears to write it; I’m not big into description and skim those parts in books so why would I write it?). Needless to say, I said, ‘Screw this. I’m doing it my way’ and two years later, I’ve sold 90,000 books (about 30,000 to 40,000 were free on B&N and Sony–that’s another post for another day because I would discourage people from offering all books for free).
So since I didn’t take any of the wise editors’ advice and did it myself and people still bought my books, I see no reason to look to the ‘publishing gods’ to tell me what to do with my work.
Okay. This is long enough. I’m going now. 😀