Romancing Rejection: ‘Don’t Cut Off An Ear’

Image - iStockphoto: Art-Of-Photo
Image – iStockphoto: Art-Of-Photo

O, ‘To Be Poor, Misunderstood, Overlooked’

In this blog-heaving era, you sometimes can find comments as compelling and as nuanced as the writings they follow.

An instance of this occurs this week at Writer Unboxed where Simon & Schuster author Jael McHenry is followed in her post by the literary agent Donald Maass. Taken together, her original post and his comment enrich each other and on a point that many in the author corps might prefer we just not mention.

Jael McHenry
Jael McHenry

McHenry’s piece, The Dangers of Storytelling, looks at the tendency among some writers to respond to classic writing-career woes by “telling stories about ourselves.”

By this, she means building up the experience of the struggle to create a little heroic scripture all our own. She writes:

How many publishers rejected the first book in the Harry Potter series? The exact number varies, depending on your corner of the internet, but that story is such a common one. Faced with rejections ourselves, we want to hear that amazing success can come following repeated rejection.

Can it? Yes. Does it? Only sometimes.

Donald Maass
Donald Maass

What does Maass say in his extended comment on the essay?

That the industry misses a Harry Potter on the first round doesn’t mean that it’s broken. It may only mean that J.K. Rowling wrote a really lousy query letter.

Ever look at it that way? Many haven’t, you’re not alone.

In fact, even the most cherished breakthrough stories passed around the industry! the industry! are, of course, romanticized editions of events that played out with all the confusion, uncertainty, perhaps even incoherence that our own days can feature. It’s so easy to fall for the “boy, he really knew what he was doing” stuff of hindsight.

In the overwhelming majority of big-break tales, our beloved protagonists were walking smack into walls just as much as you are and/or the creative types around you are doing right now. Bump! Somebody just did it.

What’s so effective about the McHenry-Maass duologue is that they get this across with parallel grace.

Maass sets up and executes on one of the best premise-and-punchline sequences you may read all week.

First the premise:

To be an artist means to be poor, misunderstood, overlooked and possibly missing an ear. The lure of the suffering artist narrative continues today in our corner of the artistic world. The arch villains are publishing’s gatekeepers.

And the punchline:

If your query is met with deafening silence don’t cut off an ear. Instead, maybe work up a better query letter–and maybe deepen the novel that you’re pitching too.

Read More

There’s more: Read the full story at Thought Catalog

By Porter Ander­son

Writing on the Ether: Romancing Rejection: ‘Don’t Cut Off An Ear’

Originally published by Thought Catalog at



PubSenseSummit 2015 banner


IfBookThen banner


LBF banner general 2015 dated

2015 Digital Minds banner

640 x 203

Banner from new site
640 x 200

Updated #BIA2015 banner

IDPF General Banner 640 x 130


Leave a Reply