Friday, August 12, 2011

Lucky Number 61

The other day, I read a story about Kathryn Stockett, author of the best-seller, The Help (coming soon to a theater near you..)

Now, I haven't read The Help (although my wife's book group did, and there was apparently discussion aplenty.) But what interested me in the piece was that Stockett soldiered on through three and a half years of years of rejections--60 in total--before hitting lucky number 61.

Here's what Stockett wrote in a piece for Yahoo!

By rejection number 45, I was truly neurotic. It was all I could think about—revising the book, making it better, getting an agent, getting it published. I insisted on rewriting the last chapter an hour before I was due at the hospital to give birth to my daughter. I would not go to the hospital until I’d typed The End. I was still poring over my research in my hospital room when the nurse looked at me like I wasn’t human and said in a New Jersey accent, “Put the book down, you nut job—you’re crowning.”

It got worse. I started lying to my husband. It was as if I were having an affair—with 10 black maids and a skinny white girl. After my daughter was born, I began sneaking off to hotels on the weekends to get in a few hours of writing. I’m off to the Poconos! Off on a girls’ weekend! I’d say. Meanwhile, I’d be at the Comfort Inn around the corner. It was an awful way to act, but—for God’s sake—I could not make myself give up.

In the end, I received 60 rejections forThe Help. But letter number 61 was the one that accepted me. After my five years of writing and three and a half years of rejection, an agent named Susan Ramer took pity on me. What if I had given up at 15? Or 40? Or even 60? Three weeks later, Susan sold The Help to Amy Einhorn Books.

The point is, I can’t tell you how to succeed. But I can tell you how not to: Give in to the shame of being rejected and put your manuscript—or painting, song, voice, dance moves, [insert passion here]—in the coffin that is your bedside drawer and close it for good. I guarantee you that it won’t take you anywhere. Or you could do what this writer did: Give in to your obsession instead.
All I can say is good for Kathryn Stockett. May those of you (us!) who are querying be blessed with a similar perseverance--or, at the very least, a Comfort Inn around the corner.

What do you think? Could you handle 60 rejections of your beloved novel?


  1. "Could you handle 60 rejections of your beloved novel?"

    Bwahahahaha! Sorry. It's just: I handled a lot more than that before I got an agent.

  2. I'm glad she didn't give in. I read 'The Help' almost in one sitting and thought it was excellent.

  3. Loved this book!

    I'm nowhere near the querying stage yet. Still tapping away at a first draft. But there are times when I feel like it's a piece of garbage and just want to give up. Stories like Stockett's inspire me to keep on going.

  4. oh I love how she called the drawer next to the bed a coffin!
    now that's writing...and I did love the book too
    off to see the movie
    I hope they make The Hotel at the corner of Bitter and Sweet into a Movie
    I wonder how many rejections he got?
    good topic there Michael
    can't wait to hear more about your conference

  5. I'm pretty sure I've already had 60. They're all my fault though, for querying like WAY too early.

  6. My daughter has just finished the book and can't wait to see the movie! Stockett is a brave lady and I do admire her! I was neurotic by 10 rejections and I hate to admit that now! Great post for the day, Michael!


  7. I thought the average was 100+ She did good...And you can't live cutting off your voice...whatever love it is.


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