1. BruceA
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    BruceA Senior Member Supporter

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    JK Rowling posts rejection letters

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by BruceA, Mar 25, 2016.

  2. Nightstar99
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    Nightstar99 Contributing Member

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    I'm not clear at what point the publishers / agents realised that she was J.K. Rowling or really how much appeal the Galbraith books would have were they not attached to the Rowling brand.

    She clearly thinks she has something to prove outside the Potter books. If I were her I would get on with enjoying her enormous success rather than trying to be a "serious" writer. Whatever that is anyway.

    My own two cents worth is that I don't think that in a technical or literary sense she is a particularly good wordsmith. I completely understand why the Potter books are sensational childrens' stories written for children, which created a considerable zeitgeist in their own right. I have never understood the appeal for adults, find the subject matter unappealing. and dread the day my son wants me to read them to him.

    I read a few pages of one of her Galbraith books in a bookshop once and think that the rejection letter suggesting a writing course was fair criticism. The prose was kind of lumpen and over worked with heavy descriptive narrative about things that didn't have a context to justify them being described, and repetitive adjectives about people standing sadly shivering with slowly steaming coffee and wotnot. Exactly the things that writing courses tell new writers not to do.

    That said I will now go back to my poverty and driving my 14 year old car.
     
  3. dbesim
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    dbesim Contributing Member

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    I thought the letters were OK on constructive criticism if you can take rejection! As she's a successful children's writer already, she can probably take it.
     
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  4. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Invest in the Stephen Fry auidiobooks. They're wonderful!

    Both of these letters are just form rejections--the same ones they sent to every unsuccessful author at that time, no matter how good or bad the writing. I have a whole bunch of 'em, so I can legitimately say I'm as successful as Rowling in one aspect. :D
     
  5. TheRealStegblob
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    TheRealStegblob Active Member

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    What was the point of the second letter? She faced rejection on a literal technicality of the publishing house having merged with another one and could no longer take any submissions.
     
  6. Raven484
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    Raven484 Contributing Member

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    This is my whole problem with traditional publishing. If she had put out the books under her name, she would have no problem getting them published, even if they are garbage. You roll the dice on traditional publishing and pray that they receive your work on a slow day. Other than that, they don't even bother.
    If I was Rowling, I would consider myself lucky to be published and move on from there. She should of just used her name instead of wasting time. Some look at her as a hero for doing this. I look at her as being a loser for trying to prove she could be published twice. She tried to spin it off by saying "See, I get turned down just like you, keep your chin up." She must have been so embarrassed by all the negative turn out for her new stories. Didn't take her long to let it out so she could sell more of those novels.
     
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  7. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    In fact, I think she wanted to remain anonymous, but somebody outed her just after the book was published. Sales shot into bestsellerdom just after that, although it had been performing very modestly at first.

    I can understand where she's coming from, really. Writing was part of her life for so long, and has brought her unprecedented success. But she suffers doubts the same as lots of other writers, which makes her human. Am I really any good? Will people still want to buy my books if they don't know who I am?

    She obviously can just sit back and live off the proceeds of her success, but I think she really does want to improve. However, she's a prisoner of her own fame. Unless she can slip a book under the wire, she'll always be judged as the person who wrote Harry Potter. This can either bring her praise she doesn't deserve, or possibly criticism she doesn't deserve.

    If she really wants to, I suppose she could pay some struggling author to pretend they wrote a book, and see how it does. But they'd have to be sworn to secrecy, and that could all go belly up if the book actually does become a bestseller in its own right.

    People really do get trapped by fame and fortune. I guess you have to be careful what you wish for.

    The the lesson to take away from all these rejections—not only hers, but others as well— is twofold. First of all, don't give up. Second of all, realise that many publishers and agents are not going to like what you do, no matter how good or saleable it may prove to be.

    The trick is landing one who does.
     
    Last edited: May 17, 2016
  8. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    A traditional publisher would buy them under her own name, regardless of quality, because they know they can sell a bunch of them. It's a business decision, which is what all big five acquisitions are.
     
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  9. A.M.P.
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    A.M.P. People Buy My Books for the Bio Photo Supporter Contributor

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    I enjoyed the article and interview.
    Very humanizing.

    I also like how she posted the form rejections, even the simple second one.
    It just shows to anyone wanting to write and tell stories that even today's stars weren't/aren't universally accepted.
    And that's a good thing.
     
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  10. IlaridaArch
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    IlaridaArch Active Member

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    Authors just need to try. An editor is just one person. One person equals one opinion, and it isn't more important than other editor's opinions. Because we all know (hopefully) that opinion =/= fact. It starts to become a fact after you have collected thousands of those opinions. And even then, there might be the chosen one (blah blah bad character design) waiting for you.
     
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  11. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Or else, authors can make a decision to strike out on their own.

    I run into too many aspiring authors who think they have some right to not only have their work out in the world, but to have someone else pay to put it there - to pay for the editing, the cover, the marketing, the production and distribution of the books themselves, etc. It's bizarre. No matter how well you write, you don't have the right to have someone else foot the expense of publishing and distributing your book, and take the risk that it'll tank and they'll lose money. If you're going that route, you're entering into a business partnership with another entity, and so you play by their rules (which often boils down to the bottom line; if they can either publish your awesome first novel or a mediocre Potter follow-up by J.K. Rowling, guess which one they're going to publish?). If that's the route you want to take, and you're fine with all that, then that's great. But these days, you're not limited in that way. You can publish the book yourself, and decide for yourself when it's ready to be out there, and what the final text should be like, and what the cover should look like, and how it should be marketed, etc.
     
  12. Cave Troll
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    Cave Troll Bite the bullet, do your own thing. Contributor

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    @Steerpike You make valid points there. New versus Big Name mediocre, we all know which one they are going to go with. Just goes to show that name recognition is more important than good (why bet on an unknown when you can bet on a sure thing). I think in a way you are saying that publishers are looking for low risk/high return which makes sense in one aspect. Though if they place themselves behind something that they thought was a sure thing and lost on it, they might reconsider their decision. But that would never happen considering people will always go for the recognized name and not the newbie busting their ass.
     
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  13. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I'm sure they have disappointments with recognized names. And something they take a big chance on an unknown (like paying $750 million for Twilight). But people seem to lose sight of the fact that it's a business. It exists to make money. Sure, the editors at the publisher etc. may really be book lovers, who would love to publish books for more than their commercial appeal (particularly, I think, at smaller publishers), but if they're consistently making money-losing decisions, they're not going to be employed long.
     
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  14. Cave Troll
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    Cave Troll Bite the bullet, do your own thing. Contributor

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    I am sure there are a lot out there trying to ride on the coat tails of those who have made it big, writing similar stories. That must be frustrating for the publishers as well, cause many will want to get in on the trend of what is hot at the moment. Probably why idiots like me will never find success, oh well. It is easier to accept rejection when you expect it. Makes it all the sweeter when the opposite happens (but not likely). :p
     
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  15. Mumble Bee
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    Mumble Bee The writer formerly known as Chained. Contributor

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    I know this is supposed to be encouraging in a 'even the great ones struggle' type of way, but to me its depressing in a 'it doesn't really matter how good you are, its all dumb luck plus you have to be amazing' type of way.
     
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  16. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I don't think you do have to be amazing. Harry Potter was amazing because it captured so many imaginations, even if the writing itself wasn't out of this world. I haven't read the Galbraith book (books?) but they clearly weren't amazing in the same way. My understanding is the sales figures were fine for an unknown author, but it was hardly the success that HP was.
     
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  17. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    The sad thing is, there used to be many many publishing houses out there that made a living publishing niche books. No they didn't figure on the stock market or anything that big, but they got by. However, they seem to be fewer these days.

    I maintain that real readers—people who love books and aren't afraid to tackle non-genre 'slow moving' but immensely rewarding and memorable books—are still out there. My fear is that they aren't as numerous as they used to be, and their needs are getting swept away in this race to publish the next blockbuster—which has to be short short, if you're going to get published in the first place. Or to publish books on the coattails of the last blockbuster.

    I get discouraged at the unspoken principle that seems to simmer away at the back of so much 'advice' about how to gain a traditional publisher. And that's: "Write for people who don't actually like to read. Write for people who have very little spare time, and who would rather be doing something else with it, like watching an action movie, a rom-com, or playing a computer game. Don't waste their time with slow starts, slow buildups, long books, subtle conflicts, complex characters, little action and much reflection, etc. You know. All that old-fashioned stuff that requires thought and immersion. Just whack in and out with something quick and easy to consume, that will amuse them on the commuter train going home from work. Even better if it's something that can immediately be made into a movie."

    I feel there is a lot of advice out there that isn't geared to helping new authors write good books, but at helping authors sell books of readable, but ultimately forgettable quality. Junk food sells. So do books that simply tick all the boxes. And unfortunately, that often means quick and easy stuff.

    Despite protestations to the contrary, real creativity is not being encouraged much in the writing trade. Or rather, creativity is encouraged, but only within established frameworks. Tick all the required boxes, but do it in a 'creative' way. Of course it's all a business, but I'm sad the business has taken this turn. Just like I'm sad you can't buy a toaster that's going to last for 25 years any more. It's a throwaway culture, and I fear books are going the same way.
     
  18. BruceA
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    BruceA Senior Member Supporter

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    @jannert I agree with many of your sentiments, but I think it has always been so. Writers have had to fit in with the current trend or strike it out and create the next one. Shakespeare and Dickens wrote to please their readers (or in S's case the people who saw his plays). Writers in the past made money by writing trashy pennydreadfuls or pulp fiction or mils and boon romances. I don't think things have changed that much in that if people want to make a living from writing they have to write the things that the masses will enjoy (if you are not writing to earn a living - like me - you can write what you like). Obviously, this is not always quality - much of it will disappear forever (thankfully) but some of it (like Dickens) will live on. I think Rowling will live on because she (like Enid Blyton in my case) managed to get children interested in books (and wrote something that parents didn't mind reading to their kids).
     
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  19. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Yes, maybe I'm being overly pessimistic. It's just that I have so much trouble finding new books of fiction to read that I feel satisfied with. I read all the time, follow up on reviews that interest me, etc. I buy and read these books, finish them, and they pass the time, but they go straight on the 'give to charity' pile—or get deleted from my Kindle. None of them inspire me to write.

    That wasn't always the case for me.
     
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  20. BruceA
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    BruceA Senior Member Supporter

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    @jannert : the problem is it is easier than ever to buy (or obtain for free) books than it used to be, so there are more opportunities to get rubbish ones! Also as we get older we get fussier! My choice of books is usually based on word of mouth (sometimes on reviews, but less common). I stopped 'buying' free books for my kindle because they were always rubbish. As a kid I would buy new books only very rarely (almost never), I would buy books from second hand shops and borrow books from libraries. Then later I would buy new paperbacks from trusted (to me) authors. Most books I chose from unknown (to me) authors I would scan first and check I liked the style etc. Sometimes you can do this with e-books, and this does help.

    My taste in books has changed over the years (I used to read lots of fantasy, and now hardly ever), so perhaps I am less easy to please now. There are of course thousands of books already published that are great, that I haven't yet read!
     
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  21. terobi
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    terobi Contributing Member

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    I think the point of submitting and publishing under a different name was not to go "hey look, I'm so good I can do it twice!", but rather to prove to herself that publishers aren't just going "Hey, another great one!" while they high-five eachother over piles of money. She knows as well as any of us that any publisher would happily accept any steaming turd she handed them with her name on and it'll sell zillions of copies.

    This is insecurity, plain and simple. She wanted to prove to herself that the Harry Potter books weren't just a fluke or a lucky break, that her writing is still good enough to be published without an 8 digit guaranteed sales receipt.

    She's hardly the first author to do that. Stephen King did similar when he started publishing under the pseudonym "Richard Bachman" in an attempt to see if his popularity was attached solely to his name or to the quality of his writing (though King just convinced his publisher to release the books under a pseudonym, rather than submitting anonymously).
     
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  22. Raven484
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    Raven484 Contributing Member

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    This is one of the reasons I am a fan of self publishing. If you take the time and make an effort, you could build a nice following with your early work. If you can grow it big enough, a publisher could take you.
    I am a big fan of Angela White. She writes three different series at one time about post apocalyptic events. She is entirely self published right now and openly admits she could used a good editor on her first couple books. The first book had a lot of errors, but the story and flow was great for me. Each book her writing improved. I am reading her first series and I am on book 7. Each one is over 600 pages long, she never would have been able to publish this being a first time writer. She just told her story and put it out there in 2010. She quit her day job in 2012 and is a full time writer now. She has 35 books out there and soon to be self publishing number 36. She is not rich, it pays her bills. She just loves to write.
    I have beta read a couple stories here on this forum that were a lot better than her work. The only difference is she has more confidence in her work, and herself, than most people do. Angela White might not ever be considered a great writer, but damn she is living the dream. You guys should check out her blog sometime, she is an interesting story for new writers trying to get out there.
     
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  23. Nightstar99
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    I don't believe that the publishers didn't know it was Rowling when they picked up the Galbraith books. I am sure she believed it, and they probably let her continue to let her believe it. But they just aren't very good. Their existence is a giant payday for investors in the Rowling brand though.

    Following my earlier post I am now having to wade my way through the first Potter book as my son wants me to read it to him. I hate it. I have reappraised my view of her as a children's writer as the books are not badly written at all its just nothing about the story or subject matter clicks with me. Not that its supposed to I know.
     
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  24. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Don't give away the ending?

    Every bit of advice I've ever read on query letter blurbs said I should give away the ending.

    Now I'm confused.

    In a way, it makes sense not to give it away because (let's face it) publishers demand happy endings these days (well, maybe a few don't, but most) so the writer really doesn't have to give it away. The hero will be heroic, the love interest will love and the bad guy will be vanquished. That pretty much sums up 99% of all bestselling novels written since the mid-1980s. The ending is given away by convention.
     
    Last edited: May 21, 2016
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  25. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    True, true, but sitting on all those billions and with all the Harry Potter films in the can, I suppose now she's got a lot of free time on her hands. I'd likely waste some publisher's time, too, just ’cause I could. Who says she didn't go for a bit of revenge? ;)
     
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