Healthy Fear Of Rejection Or Self Fulfilling Prophecy

I've been reading the Waverly Novels by Scott, and laughed out loud when I came across the following exchange from The Antiquary. An older, somewhat experienced writer is questioning a young friend about his literary ambitions, who states:

I have no instant thoughts of publishing.

The antiquary responds:

Ah, that will never do, you must have the fear of the public before your eyes in all your undertakings.

One suspects this line reflects Scott's own view on the subject. If you love classic literature, it's informative to read the autobiographies of the the authors. There's none of this modern or post modern baloney about the purity of art and blah, blah, blah. The authors who wrote the great works of English literature did so with the public before their eyes. In many cases, as with Scott and Trollope, the author may address the reader directly from time to time, explaining how the story is being arranged in a manner the author estimates will best please the public.

A healthy fear of rejection is a necessity for any self publisher who is publishing as a business rather than as a hobby. But too much fear of rejection leads some writers to go into a defensive mode, where they try to protect their egos by predicting their own rejection by the public before the public ever gets the chance to read them. To paraphrase briefly from an e-mail I received the other day:

I'll understand if you think I'm nutty or don't want to be bothered looking at my website. Don't bother responding if you're busy. I'm not going to pester you if you don't want to answer this email, nor get angry if you think my book stinks. I've become entirely inured to rejection.

I answered, in part:

Don't write strangers and go on about how maybe you're a crackpot. I assume you want your work to be taken seriously, so take yourself seriously. Nobody else will if you don't. It sounds like you're deep in some defensive crouch so your feelings won't get hurt, but it makes your attempts at communicating your work a waste of time.

While it's important to take your ultimate audience into account, if you have something to say that they might not want to hear, you just have to plan your business accordingly. Not every book can be a great success, or even break even, but there's no point in publishing at all if you're going to approach your potential readers (or publisher) with some passive aggressive twaddle about great ideas or artistic integrity. Explaining to readers why they won't like your book is a sure way to prevent them from trying, and is on the same order of cosmic value as explaining jokes.

No comments: