[Podcast] What To Do When Your Book Is Rejected

What if I told you that your dream will come true and you’ll publish a book? 

Now, what if I told you it will take 14 years before you get published?

That’s bittersweet, right? Jennifer Risher, author of We Need to Talk, a memoir about wealth, attended multiple writer’s conferences and rewrote hundreds of manuscripts for her book. And she was rejected each time. It took her 14 years before she would be published.

In this blog post, we talk about what to do when your book is rejected—specifically  how you can use the time to improve your writing and thinking for a better book.

Rejection Is Not the End of Your Story

Rejection can make you feel like your story “isn’t good enough.”  But don’t let it dampen your passion for your idea. Jennifer believed she had a story that needed to be told. Her constant rejection—partly due to publishers’ bias about her topic, wealth—further solidified her belief that she needed to share her story. Rejection might have been a setback, but it didn’t permanently derail her. She chugged along for 14 years, rewriting her manuscripts, improving her writing, and fine-tuning her thesis until she published her book.

Too many people give up on their story too soon. Refer to our talk with literary agent, Adria Goetz, who’s heard of people facing a hundred rejections before connecting with a publisher. Sometimes it’s the 101st time that is the big breakthrough.

Do you believe in the story you’re writing? Do you believe it needs to be shared? If you answered yes, then keep writing. Rejection is not the end of your story.

What to Do When Your Book Is Rejected: Ask, “Do I Have a Solid Thesis?”

There is a payoff to 14 years of rejection—other than finally getting published. You’re offered time to get into the weeds of your book. To improve your writing.

Embrace the opportunity to mature as a thinker and writer.

If your project was rejected, consider redefining your thesis. All nonfiction books—memoirs included—must include a meta idea, or thesis. It’s the main focus of your book! It might be why you were rejected. Jennifer came to realize, during her years of rewrite, that she lacked a solid thesis. Her book did not have a purpose other than for her to emote her experiences. She realized she needed to define, sharpen and refine her thesis.

To define your thesis, you’ll need to reconsider your core audience. You may find that your rejected manuscript was written to a general audience. You’ll want to position your writing for your minimal viable audience. Ask yourself: “Who am I writing this book for?” Specify your audience based on your answer. This will help you determine what subject you’re writing on.

What To Do When Your Book Is Rejected: Redefine Your Narrative Arc

Once you’ve determined your core audience, consider your narrative arc. A good book includes an arc. In the case of fiction and memoirs, it includes the development of your character/s throughout the story. Ask yourself: “How does my character change over time? What do they learn?” This will allow you to take your story to places you might have missed when you first wrote. It will help you explore your feelings and emotions associated with the message of your story. Your character arc will relate to the subject you’re writing on. It will help focus your thesis.

But even non-fiction trade books need an arc, one which most often starts with a problem and resolves with some insight or solutions. Use the time after rejection to reappraise the journey you’re taking the reader on. Can it be clearer? Can you raise more tension earlier on? Can you add complexities to the solution?

Rejection can gut you—plague you with self-doubt. But it’s important to make the most of it. Believe in your story. Return to your writing. Reconsider your thesis, your core audience, your character arc. Keep with it—until that book is finally published.

Here’s a Glance at the Episode

[3:30] A look into Jennifer’s life and her inner turmoil when talking about wealth. 

[8:37] Jennifer shares the beginning of her writing journey and her early stages of rejection.

[17:01] Jennifer discusses the process of writing a memoir.

[19:03] Jennifer explains the character arc and the importance of recognizing her core audience.

[26:43] We learn about the process of rewriting as well as balancing the truth of scenes when writing a memoir.

[34:44] An encouraging message about perseverance and the surprises of book promotion when working with a traditional publisher.

Links Mentioned In This Episode

To check out Jennifer’s book We Need to Talk: A Memoir About Wealth, follow this link: http://jenniferrisher.com.

Jennifer shared a book that had a great impact on her writing journey, Dry by Augusten Burroughs. To read Dry, follow this link: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/dry-augusten-burroughs/1100350852.

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