As someone with a decade of experience as both an editor and author, I’ve been asked about a thousand times what the “secret” is for getting published. While I don’t believe that there is any real secret, I happened to receive some great advice on the matter when I was just starting out as a writer myself, so I happily pass it along to anyone who asks. The advice comes from my college writing mentor, Kenny Cook (author of The Girl From Charnell, and about a thousand beautiful and heartbreaking short stories) and it basically goes like this: “Write well and collect 100 rejection letters every year.”
Now, it goes without saying that the first half of this advice is by far the more important (and difficult) piece to follow. That being said, “How to write well” is a bit too broad of a topic for a 500 word blog post, so right now I’m going to focus on the second part of the advice: collect 100 rejection letters every year. While not as critical to getting published as, you know, actually writing well, it has nonetheless proved quite valuable to me and to everyone I know who’s tried it.
Here’s the basic idea:
- You make it your goal to receive 100 rejection letters every year.
- You DO NOT set any kind of goal for how many stories (or books, or essays, or whatever you write) will actually get published.
- Every time you get a rejection letter, you check one off of your goal of 100.
- Every time you get something published, you immediately submit something new, so as to ensure that you don’t fall short of your 100 rejections.
This is a brilliant strategy for two reasons. First of all, it forces you to submit your work to lots and lots of potential publishers. One of the most difficult hurdles to overcome as a new writer is getting yourself out of the slush pile, and the best way to overcome that hurdle is to get yourself into as many slush piles as humanly possible. It’s simple math: the more distracted editorial assistants who read your story, the more likely it is that one of them will actually like it.
The second (and arguably more important) reason that this is such a brilliant strategy is that it takes all the pain out of getting rejected. Sure, those first few rejections are going to hurt no matter what, but by number twenty, they will hardly bother you at all. And by number 90
(I swear this is true) you’ll be so focused on reaching your goal that you will actually get excited when you receive a rejection. Why is it so important to take the pain out of rejection? Again, it really comes down to the math: the less discouraged you are by rejections, the more likely you are to continue submitting, and the more you submit, the more you will publish.
So if you happen to be a writer who is just starting to think about getting yourself published, I strongly encourage you to give the 100 Rejections Strategy a shot. While I can’t guarantee any results (after all, you still need to figure out how to write well), I can assure you that you will be no worse off for trying. After all, even if you don’t get a single publication, at least you will have eliminated the possibility that you’re just not trying hard enough.
Title: Jesus Jackson
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
James Ryan Daley is a writer, editor, and digital designer. After earning an MFA in fiction at the Vermont College of Fine Arts in 2004, James has spent most of the years since teaching writing to college students, creating websites about video games, and editing anthologies of fiction and political rhetoric. When he’s not glued to his computer, James can usually be found skiing the slopes of Vermont’s famous mountains or sailing the harbors of Rhode Island. He lives in Newport, RI with his wife and two daughters.
Book trailer: http://youtu.be/iD3nMqCzjxo