Jefferson Press, $16.95, ISBN 978-0-977808-64-9
Rejection, Romance and Royalties is a collection of essays by Laura Resnick about writing. In a way, she’s the perfect person to give such advice, given that Ms Resnick has been writing and getting published for fifteen years now and counting. She’s not exactly in the league of Nora Roberts or Stephen King when it comes to her sales figures, so she most likely is very familiar with the joys and pains of writing for the midlist. I have enjoyed this author’s essays and articles when she had them on her website a while back, so I pick up this book hoping to be entertained and educated about some of the things that take place behind the scenes in the publishing business. This book does all that and perhaps a little bit more.
I’m not working on getting myself published but I think this book has plenty of sensible advice coated with a fun dose of humor for other authors. The first thing the reader is told when opening this book is to never give up. Even bestselling authors who have won many awards have their book proposals rejected by publishing houses, so any lesser authors should not give up just because they are rejected or dropped by a publishing house once or twice. Rejection happens even to more established authors, Ms Resnick says, so it’s important to keep trying despite constant setbacks. Kevin J Anderson, mind you, has rejection letters that amount to triple digits and he’s a bestselling author. The author uses many examples from her impressive network of author best friends as well as instances in her own career to demonstrate the various points she is making in this book, so it is not as if she is just talking out of her rear end.
An author (or aspiring author) who spends her time grumbling or complaining more often than writing will go nowhere, she says, and I think that makes perfect sense. Ms Resnick also points out that getting published is not a matter of luck as much as it is hard work. An bestselling debut author is more often than not someone who finally found success after receiving numerous rejections from other publishing houses. It’s not luck, Ms Resnick would insist, it’s just the author’s persistence and hard work finally paying off.
She also discusses some of the worst copyeditors that she and her friends have come across during the course of their career and how these authors deal with such wretched critters. My favorite is the copyeditor who changed the author’s perfectly reasonable sentence of “she wanted more than sex from him” to “she wanted more than the feelings of the experience of sex from him”, but the copyeditor who got into a copy edit war with Patricia Rice over a book before getting admitted into a psychiatric ward comes close in second place. Heh, and to think I have never really thought about the existence of copyeditors from hell until I read about it here.
Many of these essays are more useful to the author than a reader, as they deal with topics like how to create a perfect environment for writing, for example. Not that I find them boring. For example, it never occurs to me that an author would face uncomfortable questions from the IRS due to a cock-up in the accounting department of the publishing house, so it’s quite illuminating to read about such an instance in this book. It also never occurs to me that, indeed, as the author points out, there are many people who would not hesitate to give advice to an author when they themselves have zero experience in working in or knowledge about the publishing business. Wait, was I ever guilty of doing that myself? Hmm.
I find Rejection, Romance and Royalties a most entertaining read due to the author’s engaging prose and easy sense of humor. I also like that she places the romance genre on equal footing with any other genre when it comes to respectability and what not. But more importantly, I find myself getting a better insight into what goes on inside an author’s head as she deals with all kinds of things like publishing house politics, those days when the enthusiasm or muse is just not there, and more.
Clearly this book is of more value to authors as it offers plenty of sensible advice and encouragement to hang in there with the writing when nothing seems to be working for the struggling author. At the very least, the stories of persistent authors who find success despite the odds could be comforting read for authors who may be in need of some reassurance that they are doing something right.
But I also believe that this book has some good things to offer to the casual reader who is interested in how an author gets and remains published while keeping a good hold on her sanity in the process. I have learned quite a lot from this book myself.