I would be rather happy right now to get a rejection letter. It would at least be a start, because I have never plucked up the courage to go down the publishing road. What inspired you to get published?
The answer to this question is long and requires backstory.
My earliest publications required no courage at all. The first one came when I was nine because my mum sent a poem of mine to the local newspaper. I have mentioned elsewhere that this kind of horrified me because kids at school teased me for many weeks afterwards demanding that I show them how to fly. The poem was called “I can fly”.
But I also loved seeing my name in print and the approbation I got from the teachers. As a kid I was more often in trouble than not so it was a refreshing change.
After that I was published in school magazines and lots of other youth publications. My parents or a teacher would send my stuff in. Or I would be asked for something cause I now had a reputation as the kid who wrote. The pinnacle of my juvenile career was having a poem in a great big hardcover book called Our World by the kids of Australia, which was published for the International Year of the Child.
As you can see when I was first being published I never had to pluck up any courage except to deal with teasing from my peers.1 Thus the transition to me actually sending my own stuff out did not seem like a big deal. I also fully expected to be published. Because that’s what had happened up till then.
From the time I first submitted to an adult market until 2001 I did not have a single story accepted. Every rejection was a crushing—and in the beginning totally unexpected—blow. I was too stupid to realise that some of those rejections were quite encouraging and asked to see more work. All I could see was that my work was being rejected and they clearly thought I sucked too.
That’s when I learned to dread sending stuff out. Indeed, for large chunks of time—years even—I didn’t. The only people reading my writing were family and friends and no one was reading my attempts at writing novels until I got talking with a relative stranger many many many years after I first started writing novels.
So I kept writing, but only rarely sent my stuff out. Sometimes a friend would push me into. Sometimes I’d come across a new magazine that I thought was cool and that would fit my stories.
Every single time I sent a story out would require a ridiculous amount of courage. And the whole time that story was out there I’d be thinking about it and worrying about it and waiting for the rejection and finding it really hard to write something new. Or, you know, sleep.
To be honest I’m still a bit like that and I still get rejected. How to Ditch Your Fairy was sent to many publishing houses. Only two of them made an offer, which means all the others rejected it, which is obviously MUCH better than none of them wanting it, but there’s still a sting. And to this day no publisher in Spain or any other Spanish-speaking country has wanted any of my books, which breaks my heart because it’s the only language other than English that I can read.2 Not to mention Lichtenstein. I don’t know what it is with Lichtenstein hating me so much, but I’ve noticed, guys, and it hurts.
Rejection is a huge part of this business whether you’re published or not. I know some people say that if you’re neurotic about rejection you shouldn’t try to get published. But I can’t think of a single writer I know who isn’t neurotic about it. Obviously, some more than others, but we all feel the sting of rejection. We all fear it.
It’s just the way things are.
I hope that answers your question, Lotti.
Update: I have shifted the FAQ stuff to its own post as it was getting lost here.