A week doesn’t go by without another hopeful, yet frustrated writer asking me what it takes to be published by a commercial publisher. My answer is always the same: persistence and the capacity to learn.
Persistence, the strength and skill to move beyond adversity and thrive is an invaluable trait. For every yes, there is an accumulation of no’s, and overcoming rejection is a principal part of persistence. Diligence and passion often motivate a writer to persist, and that determination and perseverance are indicators of success. Any endeavor, no matter how great, has its moments of apprehension and uncertainty, especially when editors continue to reject a writer’s work. Because of this, it’s imperative that an author keep trying to perfect his writing, always putting forth his best effort. The persevering writer doesn’t give up. He keeps producing and submitting new, improved manuscripts. This is the crux of persistence.
Of course, it’s true that the odds against placing a manuscript with a commercial publisher are great, and the competition is fierce. Editors receive hundreds of queries and submissions each month, but fortunately, manuscripts are not pulled out of the stacks at random. They are eventually reviewed, and rejecting the majority of submissions is simple. A considerable portion of the queries are written by individuals who are sending in their first attempt at professional writing. When they are rejected a couple of times, they quit. Writing, after all, requires an irrefutable combination of tenacity, constancy, foresight, and conviction to persevere. Few people can withstand the strain when facing rejection.
Editors also receive a significant number of poorly written query packages. The inferior writing exposes itself in the first couple of pages, and necessitates no more reading. Strong writing skills don’t come effortlessly to most people and even enormous progress won’t advance many writers’ projects to the strict standards utilized by commercial publishers.
Composing publishable work involves considerable experience, in addition to the constant desire to learn and improve writing proficiency. Too many unpublished writers use the same old skills in new manuscripts, believing that their past rejections were due to uninteresting or off-base storylines. What should have been improved was not the subject, but the writer’s capacity to make definite changes and enhancements in style and composition.