Milestones are tricky beasts. Sometimes they nudge your life in a different direction through stealth, and you are not even aware of them until months, or even years, later. Others announce their presence with a trumpet voluntary and fireworks.

In the last two years I have sprinted past a number of milestones – first blog, first blog post, first submission, first publication, first review, first podcast, and now first rejection. Yet of all those firsts, the one that has made the least impact on my life was the last.

Being rejected by Harper Voyager [the science fiction imprint of Harper Collins] should leave me feeling gutted. It doesn’t. And no, I’m not just saying that to cover up some deep seated, intensely private pain. There is no pain. As milestones go, this one did not even make it to a whimper much less a bang.

For me, all the emotional fireworks happened while I was agonizing over whether to submit to the Harper Voyager open submissions or not. Now that was a major milestone. You see, up to that point I was well and truly ready to become an indie. In fact, I was looking forward to striking a blow, however microscopic, against the woes of traditional publishing. I wanted to show that indies were the ones carrying the torch of creativity and innovation. In a word, I was primed.

And then that damned open submission went viral. I could not pretend I did not know about it, and I could not ignore it, not without feeling like an utter coward for the rest of my life.

I am not a conventionally brave person. You won’t find a well-worn Wonder Woman outfit in the back of my cupboard. However I do have a thing about courage. I believe true courage lies not in a lack of fear, but in the ability to conquer that fear. That is the golden rule I have always tried to follow. Yet there I was, looking down the barrel of a great big, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to face my fear of rejection, and I was scurrying in the opposite direction.

I did face my fear in the end, and I did submit to Harper Voyager, but it was a hard fought battle. When I finally pressed that Submit button I felt like Edmond Hilary on the top of Mount Everest – breathless, and a bit dizzy, but triumphant. Win, lose or draw, I had already won.

Like anyone with a heartbeat, I hoped I would be accepted – in the same way you hope that one day a Porsche 911 will miraculously appear on your doorstep. However I had no expectations of success because I knew a story about aliens, and nothing but aliens, would never make it to the best seller lists.

In their submission guidelines, Harper Voyager made it clear that anyone not accepted within three months of submission should assume they never would be.

At the end of the three month waiting period I breathed a sigh of relief, and self-published my first book, Vokhtah. That was another major milestone, and incredibly sweet. Since then I’ve self-published a second book, and been involved with a third. My sales have been poor, and I don’t expect to become a household name any time soon, but the confidence I have gained is immeasurable. Which brings me back to milestones and Harper Voyager.

The formal rejection email I received just a few days ago was interesting, and a bit surprising as it had taken almost a year to arrive, but other than that, it was a non-event. I admit, I am curious to see what kinds of stories Harper Voyager have accepted, but I do not feel any envy, or resentment towards those writers who did succeed. I have already conquered my Everest, and I’m in training for another peak I see in the distance.

Will I ever submit to a publisher again? I don’t think so. I conquered my fear of rejection, and I’m happy as an indie. Now the milestones I count are the ones to do with my craft.

Rejection has never felt so good.

24 thoughts on “Milestones”

  1. Great stuff. That’s about where I stand, now, too, though i decided not to even try submitting anything except a short story about which I have yet to hear anything. I like being Indie. It suits who I am. Looks good on you, too. 🙂

  2. Well said and well done. Nothing ventured, nothing gained but I think your attitude is the very best. It would have been an interesting turn of events but you’re quite happy to continue on your original plan.

    Great post. :))

    1. I don’t believe in predestination, but sometimes I really think Fate is nudging me in the right direction. I was reading a post on the Passive Guy today and some of those contractual traps are frightening. Author beware in every sense. Being accepted would have stroked my ego no end but the reality would have driven me insane I think. 🙂

  3. Belief in yourself is an important aspect of being a writer, but more so if you’re an Indie. Those major publishers are about doing the safe thing (for them) and if we don’t conform to their ideas of conventionality (subject matter or form) or, these days, already have the best seller, as an Indie, then we don’t enter their equation. We are the ones breaking new ground, we are the pioneers, they are the plodders (the dinosaurs).

    I like your attitude, AC. Roll on the next milestone! Indies rule OK!

  4. Terrific attitude; it’s so nice to read about an author who’s comfortable (as you say, primed) to go the indie route and not salivating after a traditional publisher. That’s what is so great about writing today–we have options. We are not either invited to the table or begging for crumbs. We have our own destinies to fulfill. Congrats on your successes, and good for you for recognizing the challenges for what they are: character-builders and confidence-builders. Although it doesn’t sound like you need either!

    1. -blush- Thanks Melissa but I can assure you my confidence still needs a lot of building! I’m just trying to come to terms with my first 1.5 star review. Heart and head not in the same place at the moment. 🙂

  5. Fantastic post. You brought up a great point, most of us are very content in the indie world for many reasons, but does that mean we wouldn’t want to tip our toe into the traditional publishing world? Good for you, each step just makes us stronger in our pursuit.

    1. When I was young we used to say ‘don’t knock it until you’ve tried it’. Having tried the submission approach I can honestly say I don’t want to try it again! lol

      As for the being published bit, in the year since the submission I’ve learned so many nasty things about what happens to trad published authors, any romantic notions I may have entertained are long gone.

  6. Great post.
    You’ve made the decision to be Indie, based on what is right for you.
    The research you’ve done and the risk of rejection you took have empowered you to accomplish your goal of publishing. How cool is that!
    You’re a success, a published author. 🙂

  7. I wrote a blog post recently that is to be published on the Killer Nashville blog, and it’s about, what else, indie publishing. In the post, I used my favorite word about our type of publishing – liberating. Giving up the effort of querying agents and publishers and making changes they suggest has been the most liberating thing I’ve ever experienced. I love it!

  8. Great minds, Helen! Liberated is exactly the right word to describe how being an indie makes me feel. And I think being an indie is liberating for fiction as well. Perhaps that’s why indies are leading the way in fresh, innovative, think-outside-the-box type storylines. 🙂

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