You ever been rejected?
I mean, yeah, we all have, right? Ask the pretty girl on a date and she says no. Apply for the job and don’t get it. Shoot the ball, only to have it slapped back into your face. We’ve all been there, and we all get it.
But I want you to imagine a whole different kind of rejection. To create an analogy, let’s go to back to asking the pretty girl (or boy) on a date. We’ve all been there to some degree, and even if we haven’t, we know a thing or two about how it all works. If you want the best chance of success, you should probably get cleaned up, dress nice, look sharp, go to a place where singles hang out, be confident, be witty, buy a drink, don’t come on too strong… and so on. We know these little rules because we’ve either lived them, read about them, seen them on TV, or whatever. We know what’s what. We know if we’re good-looking, average, or need some help. We know if we need to work on some parts of ourselves, accentuate the positives, or downplay the negatives. And even if we don’t know, we have a pretty good idea of what works and what doesn’t just by being humans in this world.
Now take all of that knowledge and throw it away. Think of yourself standing in front of the void, completely clueless as to what to say, how to say it, or even what you’re doing there.
Welcome to the world of being a stupid-ass with a decent book that he thinks should be published.
“Hello,” Stupid-ass says to the void.
“Got a book here.”
No response. Not even an echo of Stoop’s own voice.
“Anyone want to take a look?”
“Okay,” Stoop says, “I’m going to package this thing up and send it to literary agents and see which one of them wants to represent it. I mean, I know it’s not the best thing ever written, but I think it’s pretty okay, and maybe someone else will, too, huh?”
“Anyone out there?”
So I did just that. I queried literary agents. And here’s how green I was, people… my initial line on the first two hundred or so queries included, “I’ve written a novel of fiction.” Now, for those who don’t know (I certainly did not), the world novel implies fiction. So, when you say to some literary agent, “Hey, take me seriously as an author! I have a novel of fiction here!” You’re essentially walking up to the prettiest girl at the bar and saying, “I have a hairy back. Want me to hump your leg?”
Over the course of the next two years I was rejected approximately 400 times. And remember, we’re talking about the void here. Most of the rejections were straight up non-responses. A hundred or so others were boilerplate rejections, which is essentially the same as a non-response. And a handful of them were personal, but with virtually nothing valuable to gain.
After over two years of querying I was no closer to understanding what might work than I had been before. Imagine that in the dating world. You get rejected 400 times. Don’t you think at various points along the way you might learn a thing or two about what worked and what didn’t? Maybe you get past, “Hi,” a few times and then start in about your booger collection, and that’s when things go south. So you stop talking about your booger collection and get a little further along, but then you mention that your mom still makes your bed, and wham, it’s over. Okay, you take notes… and you learn. No boogers, no mom bed-making. Maybe I should ditch that story about how I burped my way into Sea World.
Me? I learned nothing. There was nothing to learn. I screamed into the void for two years and never heard as much as an echo.
But then something happened.