A couple of months ago I talked about how I submitted my book, Ten Thousand Days, to a self-published novel competition. I mentioned that it was some pretty stiff competition (300 entries, many of them by successful, established authors), and that the judging was pretty loose, as the reviewers involved all had very different tastes and were not even required to read all the books, but just to give them a reasonable chance to catch their interest before culling them from the pile.
I knew I wasn't going to win. I knew I wasn't even even going to be a finalist (again, the competition was very, very strong), but I thought at the very least I would get a little exposure and a half-decent review from a notable fantasy review site that I could use in future marketing. I know I'm not a stellar writer by any means, but I don't think I'm the worst, either. I figured I would be eliminated (in my category) without fanfare in the middle of the pack.
You could say I was somewhat floored when I awoke last Monday to discover Ten Thousand Days had been the very first book eliminated.
For context, Ten Thousand Days was cut before the book that was so poorly rewritten the reviewer couldn't get past a few pages. Before the book that had been disqualified for technically being ineligible for the competition. My book was the first one at the top of the list.
Needless to say I was supremely disappointed, completely beside myself. I knew I wasn't going to win, but what could I have done so wrong to be brushed off so quickly?
It would seem the reviewer took offence to an off-handed joke on page 5 and didn't read any further. She thought it was inappropriate and turned her off from the story. Sure it wasn't a great joke, but I never dreamed anyone would take offence to it. It's not even as bad as stuff you hear on prime-time sit-coms. But what can I do? Those are the breaks when you submit your books to reviewers, agents, publishers - you're at the whims of their tastes, and frustrating as it may be that's what you sign up for. Writing is a very subjective thing, everyone likes different stuff and you can't change that.
I'm downplaying it now since I have some distance and perspective, but I will admit I was really upset when it first happened. I've gotten tons of rejections lately but this one really stung, probably because of how public it was (parts of the review were shared on Facebook and Goodreads). I refrained from writing about it right away because I was angry and didn't want to say something I would regret. A few days ago I wrote my first draft of this post but then deleted half of it, because it went into details that I didn't want to dwell on.
I'm trying to let it go. I realized that yes, I might feel like I was treated unfairly, but do you know who else gets treated unfairly? Everyone. Some a lot more than others. (Like, a lot, but I'm not going to go into that now.) I asked for this. I knew what I was getting into, and I can't blame a reviewer for their opinion, tastes or perspective. It's disappointing, but it is what it is.
So yeah, I'm trying to acknowledge my feelings and accept them as valid, but also move on because it's not helpful to dwell on such miserable things. And ranting and raving will only lead to the Dark Side (of the Internet). I'm trying to find lessons from the exercise for the next time. Developing a thicker skin is certainly one. Finding markets for people who will better get my work is another.
Any other suggestions are welcome.
The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Writers post their thoughts on their blogs, talking about their doubts and the fears they have conquered. It's a chance for writers to commiserate and offer a word of encouragement to each other. Check out the group at http://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/.