Someone once told me that every step in the literary ladder has similar stresses, hopes, and disappointments — just at different levels. Before you’ve been published, it feels as if the world will be a better place and your life will be transformed if you just get that first “yes” to a submission. Then, if and when you get that “yes,” you begin to worry about whether you will ever get another one. If and when you get a second acceptance, you wonder if you can keep the momentum. And if you’re persistent, hard working, and lucky enough to get a number of acceptances, you begin to worry that your work is (choose one):
- Only being accepted by online journals
- Only being accepted by lesser-known journals
- Is being accepted by good journals but hasn’t been nominated by the editors for any prizes
- Won a prize but not an important one — after all, it wasn’t a Pulitzer.
And so it goes…
I’m at the stage now where I’m worried that my book manuscript won’t get published. I’ve gone through all of the stages of convincing myself that indeed it won’t get published so that I won’t be disappointed if it doesn’t. Still, I find myself believing and hoping, despite my better judgment. I don’t want to jinx the process by talking too much about where it stands; there have been some positive developments accompanying the usual and more daunting bumps in the road. But it’s all been a lesson in the same type of thing: first you wonder if any editors will even read the manuscript, then, when someone agrees to read it, you sweat over the likelihood of a rejection. You remind yourself over and over that at this stage it’s as much about marketability as about the quality of your work — or even perhaps more about marketability. But there’s still that eager, hopeful, scared writer inside of your reasonable head saying, “Please, someone fall in love with and publish my book.”
But what if I’m ever lucky enough to hear a publisher say, “Yes?”
I’ll probably celebrate by dancing alone in my home office for a whole five minutes before I start worrying about what reviewers will say and whether the book will please the publisher by selling.
But that’s jumping way ahead of things right now to a place I might not ever reach. Let’s take things one step at a time.
All of this, anyway, is about feedback from the outside. In the end, what’s really important is to be able to look in the mirror — in the real world or on the page — and be happy with what’s there.