Recently I’ve been encountering an odd phenomenon in the writing community. New writers are afraid to submit their work to publishers and agents. I’m coming across more and more writers who are writing away only to put their work in the bottom drawer without ever showing it to someone.
I understand the fear element to submitting your work. Writing isn’t a day job. It’s a passion. You put your blood, sweat and tears into a piece of work you believe in and to have someone say they didn’t like it is a dagger to the heart. I’ve said it before—no one goes out of their way to write a crappy book on purpose. Someone’s “sub par” work still represents their best effort and no one should forget that.
There’s a lot of potential in that unread manuscript. It’s unseen and unknown. It could grow up to be anything. But the reality is that only a small percentage of manuscripts will end up on a bookstore bookshelf. So I understand the fear. A rejection letter could dash a writer’s hopes and dreams.
But rejection letters are part of the business. I can’t say I like receiving them. Each one feels like drop kick to the nuts. And with over 600 rejection slips from magazines, agents and publishers over the years, I seriously doubt my ability to father children.
So avoiding the pain of rejection and possible failure makes sense.
But, at the same time, not submitting that manuscript is a tremendous waste. Why put all that effort into an enterprise and not see it through to the end? That’s tragic. That’s something to fear. While there is the very real possibility that a manuscript will be dismissed without a second thought, there’s also a likelihood that a manuscript will be embraced and published.
What is there to fear? Wounded pride? A dented ego? Yes, but there’s really nothing to lose here. So, the book or story never gets published—at least you tried. But the story doesn’t end there. You still have options—give up, resubmit elsewhere, edit the hell out of it and resubmit, or write something else. There’s no dishonor in giving up. You gave it your best shot and it didn’t work out. Try something else. Giving it a second shot means having to put in all that hard work again with the possible outcome of failure again. But even if you sell the first book, you’ve got to write a second…and a third…and a fourth. You’ll have this agony all over again.
Being afraid of submitting a manuscript is a real mistake. The old saying about the only thing to fear is fear itself rings true here. So, if you have a manuscript lurking in your bottom drawer that you’ve never sent out to anyone, then do it. What’s the worst that could happen?