Rejection hurts

Rejection is a terrible thing. Nobody wants or likes it. It feels awful, and it’s very easy for the self-esteem to take a battering because of it. Yet authors put themselves out there repeatedly, knowing that rejection is inevitable. It's rare that a first time author has a manuscript accepted and published on their first submission.

Every author needs to find a way to make rejection an accepted part of their journey to publication, without allowing it to impact on their sense of self. I wonder how many manuscripts we would never have seen had their authors not been able to move beyond the initial sting of rejection.

Creativity is inherently personal, irrespective of the medium. Visual artists, musicians, composers, creative writers, sculptors, singers, poets, etc, all draw upon the very essence of their being to interpret the world around them. They use all their senses to embed an essential part of themselves into their work for the pleasure of others. Of course it’s personal.

And when that letter comes saying: ‘sorry, your work doesn’t suit us because…,’ it is difficult not to feel affronted and affected.

Stephen King in his book On Writing talks about the thirty rejection letters he received for his first novel Carrie, and how he kept a ‘rejection board’ near his desk where he hung his collection of rejection slips.

There’s a lot to be said for this approach to writing (once you move past the urge to shred your manuscript or slap the rejecting publisher). It’s about building resilience. Each one of those slips means you are serious about being published, and with each slip you draw one step closer. The slips mean you have entered the industry and you will be marked and scarred like authors before you and authors yet to come.

The trick is not to allow the marks and scars to overwhelm you. Writing is a very subjective thing. What is appealing or ‘suitable for our list’ will vary greatly from one publisher to another, one reader to another.

How do you change the name of your baby?

I have a dilemma. Two and a half years after writing it, one year after naming it, six months after releasing it as an eBook and a few months before it comes out in paperback, the name of my book has become problematic.

As every author needs to do these days, I activated a variety of social media platforms to promote it. And there’s where the problems began. Fake Profile had two alternative names prior to having the final title conferred some time after manuscript completion. The current title was selected after consultation with the target demographic who unanimously decided that a book named Fake Profile would be one they’d be most likely to pull off the (actual and virtual) shelf. It’s what authors and publishers think about when assigning titles. The aim is for it grab enough attention from potential readers that they will read the blurb, if not the book.

The problem is, to make sure that the target demographic knows that the book exists the author (among others) has to promote it. And to promote your work effectively you need to target your demographic and penetrate with publicity, the areas in which they hang out. For a young adult (YA) audience, that is online—in the depths of social media.

Like many authors, a website and blog was the first thing I thought about setting up. I spent months creating an elaborate website using WordPress, but when I tried to claim the domain name for the book title, I discovered that it had already been claimed. Not by someone who wanted to use it, mind you; FakeProfile is one of the hundreds of names that had been purchased by an unknown party for selling to the highest bidder at an outrageous price.

Disappointing? Yes. A game changer? No. At least I didn’t think so at that point, so I moved on. The next necessary avenue to engage with the YA readership was Facebook, so I went ahead and set up a Facebook fan page. I already had an Author page, but I thought it might be better for YAs to interact directly with the book fan page, rather than go through the author site. Good idea, right? Apparently not.

It started well. I’d tweet links to the page and post updates on my other Facebook pages to link back to the book page. I began collecting ‘likes’ and fans, many from the students I interact with in the schools visit. Then once I hit the thousand fans mark, a strange thing began to happen. People seemed to confuse the Fake Profile BOOK page with a forum to report the incidence of fake profiles being created in other people’s names. It was strange. The ‘About’ section on the page clearly stated that the fan page was for a book entitled Fake Profile.

At first I responded to each person privately. I gently told them that the site was not a forum for action regarding fake profiles and suggested that they use Facebook’s own reporting procedures. I even stated it as an update on the page. It made no difference. When I wrote the book, I didn’t realise just how prevalent the issue was. But pretty soon, the regularity with which people began posting complaints about fake profiles became alarming. I couldn’t keep up.

This is problematic because if people are mistaking the fan page for a complaints forum, they are not engaging with the book. The same thing happens on Twitter. Whenever I tweet about Fake Profile, I usually get responses about personal Facebook engagement.

Promoting a book without using the title is counterproductive, but promoting a book while justifying or clarifying the title is just as pointless. When I ran the poll that decided the name, those voting knew it was for the title of a book. There was no confusion. I could not predict what would happen when the book was finally published.

So, where do I go from here? The preliminary publicity is well underway, the flyers are printed, the cover professionally designed, the articles written, emails sent. But a YA book without a website or Facebook fanpage is going nowhere fast... ugh. Perhaps a I need to write a non-fiction how-to-spot-a-fake-profile guide for parents instead...