The Three 'R's of Getting Published, Rejection, Rejection, Rejection: My Path to Becoming a Published Author, Part 2
I know what you're thinking. Why put up with all that rejection? Wouldn't I have been better off sometime after the first fifty rejections to just take up Canasta? After a hundred rejections try to fine tune my German pronunciation? Close to the two-hundred-and-fifty mark, shouldn't I have have attemtped to learn the didgeridoo, the King of Aboriginal instruments? (FYI, I haven't had 250 rejections, although I am getting close and it feels like a thousand.)
The answer, of course, is Nein; I wouldn't have been better off. And there is a simple reason why. My gut instinct is to tell you that if I had, then (insert shameless plug here) my first published novel, The Intern, would never have been made it to print, (Insert another shameless plug here) nor would The Vatican Conspiracy have either. And while that is very good incentive for a guy that has been writing for a long time, it's not what I am getting at.
I started my first manuscript fifteen years ago, about a year after I turned 40. The manuscript was good, too, or, at least I thought so at the time. I attracted the attention of a few literary agents with it, and I wisely accepted their invitation to revise and re-submit. And although they both passed on the revision, something important happened. The manuscript got better, quite a bit better, actually.
The same thing happened for my second manuscript, The Vatican Conspiracy. The original manuscript netted more than thirty requests for full manuscripts from agents, and I ended up with a half-dozen R&R requests. Again, I wisely accepted the invitations, and this manuscript also got better, a lot better, good enough, in fact, to get offers from more than a handful of agents. If you're thinking that this was my big break--that is certainly what I was thinking--you'd be wrong as I was. Despite a lot of attention from Big 5 editors, including some of my favorite imprints such as Atria, Tor and Minotaur, it was all passes.
But... along with the passes I got some great advice. And I revised again, and modified my writing style as well (which is way harder than revising the plot, btw.) And now you are thinking: He finally got his big break? And you are wrong again.
Nope, not yet. Because (point#1 about publishing) this is a tough business. But I was close, and I never stopped believing in the book, so, while I started on the next manuscript which would become (insert shameless plug #3 here) my first published novel, The Intern, I submitted The Vatican Conspiracy to a few writing contests, and, lo and behold, it was named a finalist in a major, nationwide writing competition. And while it didn't win, the Finalist title got the book the attention it needed, and I signed with an imprint of Hachette UK months later (point #2 about the publishing industry; it grinds like a snail-driven gear in desperate need of oil) which is when the real improvement began. When The Vatican Conspiracy came out earlier this year (Bookouture/HachetteUK 10/2020) it was a much better book.
I have now had the good fortune of signing with two different publishers and working with two different editors, and I am here to tell ya that this is what every writer should be aspiring to do. The process of working with an commissioning editor--the one who has signed your book--is the best learning experience an author can get. Why? Because the point is anything but moot, that's why. The editor is investing a lot of time and money into you and the manuscript she signed. The gloves are coming off, my friend, and that's a good thing. Having done a bunch of editing myself, I can tell you that it's all fun and games until there is a signed contract on the table and the presses are warming up to print. There's a lot of money riding on the success of the book; the time to worry about sparing someone's feelings is long gone. And that's when the learning takes place. That's when you become an even more accomplished writer. That's when you take your writing to the next level.
The point? Dust off that short story you slaved over and then shelved. Extract that manuscript from the depths of your computer, you know, the one you intended to be the next great American novel. Enter a contest. Submit to a publisher or a literary agent. The worst thing that can happen is a No, and that's also the best thing that can happen, because you are now on the road to become a better writer.
And if you need a break from #quarantine and #corona (and we all do) give The Intern a try. #theintern is a compelling tale of a doctor’s love for a dying boy and the effect it has on her life and happiness, set in the dusty hallways of an inner-city charity hospital in Spanish Harlem, surrounded by a cast of quirky but memorable characters, and told with clear prose and professional detail. If thrillers are more your style, The Vatican Conspiracy is getting great ratings and reviews, which, again, are due in large part to the wonderful collaboration between Ruth Tross and me.
Peter Hogenkamp is a practicing physician, public speaker and author living in Rutland, Vermont. Peter's writing credits include The Intern, TouchPoint Press, 4/2020; The Vatican Conspiracy, the first book in the Marco Venetti thriller series, October 2020, Bookouture/HachetteUK; Doubt, Marco Venetti #2, April 2021; and THE LAZARUS MANUSCRIPT, a stand-alone medical thriller; Peter can be found on his Author Website as well as his personal blog, PeterHogenkampWrites, where he writes about most anything. Peter is the founder and editor of The Book Stops Here, the literary blog for readers and writers written by authors, editors, agents, publishers and poets. Peter is the creator, producer and host of Your Health Matters, a health information program, which airs on cable television, streams on YouTube and sounds off on podcast. Peter tweets--against the wishes of his wife and four children--at @phogenkampvt and @theprosecons. Peter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on his Facebook Page.