Writers, Rejection, and the Law of Attraction

The last book I wrote for Silhouette’s now-defunct Bombshell action-adventure line, with the fabulous Natashya Wilson as my editor.  Loved
this story, loved my editor. And yes, it’s very dark for anything Silhouette has ever produced.

This article is from the upcoming book, 23 Ways I Screwed Up My Life  with the Law of Attraction—and How I Fixed It

Early in my writing career, I became a regular victim of  my own sabotage.   It wasn’t the baby editors or the money-grubbing agents or the sucky market.   At the time, I believed the only way for me to gain acceptability as a novelist was to find a major international publisher who would pay me a pittance for a book that would sell 100,000 copies.  Technology has brought many new options to writers since then, and though I’ve not sold as many copies of books I’ve published through what used to be unconventional means, I’ve made more money per book than most of the ones I sold to major publishers, and I’ve done it  by finding new and unique ways to get my work to my audience.

I’m primarily a suspense writer, and I love a good  thriller with a little romance thrown in and maybe even some paranormal.  Though I’ve written in just about every genre but westerns, my biggest sellers were in the  romance genre, particularly  what’s known as romantic suspense or paranormal romantic suspense.   That means lots of plot and complicated twists and some form of boy-gets-girl.  I didn’t really care which genre I got published in as long as a major publishing house validated my writing.  I shoe-horned myself into romance amid many skilled authors who could go deeply into emotion and character whereas I was more about the story and keeping the surprises coming right up until the last page.

Unfortunately, instead of using the Law of Attraction to bring me opportunities that were easy and fulfilling, I did a great job of shoving my dreams away from me and making it as hard on myself as I possibly could.

The most obvious example of attracting the wrong thing to myself was in my rejection packages.  I joined the best writing groups out there, including the Romance Writers of America, which had excellent tools for teaching the craft and business of writing for publication.  They taught me what I needed to know about writing, selling, and promoting my novels, to the point where I hit a couple of chain bookstore bestseller lists under my pseudonym.  They taught me what to expect from an editor and how the whole process worked to get an editor to read your manuscript without using it for a foot stool (my second editor did that with another author’s manuscript).  They taught me that  if the editor wants your work–something that you could expect to happen rarely–you would get “the call.”  Acceptances were always a phone call.  Rejections meant a fat package in the mailbox.

Or a package that wouldn’t fit in the mailbox.

Writers had a lot fewer options for publication in the 1990’s when I was getting my start.  We had to accept conditions we didn’t like, such as “no simultaneous submissions.”  That meant we printed out a 400-page manuscript, packaged it up, spent a small fortune to get it to New York City, and then waited for a response…often up to six months, even when we were under a contract that said the editor had to notify us within 60 days of acceptance or rejection.  Remind them at five months, as I did with my second editor, and the rejection could arrive almost immediately for every project on her desk.  My longest submission–where I actually received a response at all–took 24 months to the day on a 30-page proposal.  Good thing I had a personal invitation from that editor to send the book!

I was prolific, and I rarely had fewer than five projects out for review, usually at more than one publishing house.  But instead of every day expecting every phone call to be from an editor in New York, which would have been the best way to use the Law of Attraction as a writer, I came home from day job and began to crane my neck to see the mail box from the moment I spotted my house down the street.  Sometimes I saw them crammed into mailbox,  those returned packages with a polite “Doesn’t work for me” or “Pushes the envelope too much” attached to pristine, unread tomes or to pages that smelled of cigarettes and coffee.

If I turned the corner on my way home and didn’t see an overstuffed mailbox or maybe a box resting atop it, my heart would skip a beat.  Another day, I thought, without a rejection, and that meant the possibility of going to contract on a new book. Then I would steer past the mailbox and into the drive and I’d crane my neck to see if perhaps the mailman or UPS had delivered a rejected manuscript direct to my door, which was also a familiar sight.  If not, then I could wait another day to see if the editor called with good tidings or left me an unwanted package.

Looking back, I see now that I was looking for rejection. I was focused on it.  I didn’t listen for the phone call–no, I looked for the rejection in the mail.  It became part of my daily ritual, Monday through Saturday, to look for rejection on my doorstep.

There were many other abominations that happened, like losing my editor, like getting a new editor who hated suspense, like having an editor give my killer title away to another author after rejecting my manuscript for being too similar to one she’d just bought, like having an editor give my entire synopsis AND the heroine’s unsual name to a has-been author who needed a new historical bestseller,  like finding a terrific editor and having the company close down the line three months after my novel was published due to a change in the market.  I could go on and on, but honestly, I’ve forgotten most of those atrocities now.  I no longer focus on them.  At the time, it was a feeling of helplessness in the big, bad publishing world and anything that could go wrong did.   Like with most authors I knew.  There were things going on in my personal life where I felt I had no emotional support from my loved ones and I put a lot of desperation (aka resistance) into having my dream career as a successful, full-time writer so I could leave a less fulfilling but more prestigious career.

Things turned around for me when I found a place of contentment with my writing career.  I don’t have to put that old pressure on myself to make a new bestseller list or get a three-book contract or have my editor adore me.  All I have to do is love what I write and ways to get it out there to readers who enjoy my work will appear.   But since I’ve come to understand the Law of Attraction, I never ever go looking for rejection.