Yes, it happens to us all: We make errors in judgment, we miss a beat. Sometimes these slip-ups are small, sometimes the results ripple out in time. And publishing industry pros are as prone to these moments as the rest of us. I remember hearing one executive on a panel talk about a manuscript that she passed on, only to have the book that resulted go on to become a major bestseller. And who can forget how many times JK Rowling was turned down by both agents and publishers before her happy ending?
I was reminded of how fickle book-related decisions can be when my brother Pete sent me a story about Vince Flynn, a highly successful writer of thrillers. In the article Albert Eisele, a former agent, lamented turning down Vince’s first novel.
A writer from St. Paul, Minnesota, Vince sent Albert the manuscript of his debut novel, The Right to Rise. While Albert enjoyed the book he ultimately sent Vince a rejection letter saying that the novel, “didn’t strike any sparks with me,” and adding that he felt Vince didn’t quite capture the atmosphere of Washington, DC in his writing.
As Albert goes on to say about his turn down of Vince’s work: “Bad decision and poor judgment on my part. Flynn landed a deal with Simon & Schuster’s Pocket Books with the help of a literary agency, and his novel, now titled Term Limits, became a paperback bestseller in 1998.”
Vince went on to write a second book called Transfer of Power, and ultimately penned a dozen novels featuring a hard-driving, terrorist-fighting, well-loved protagonist named Mitch Rapp.
When Albert met Vince after he was published, he apologized for turning him down, but Vince told him not to worry: he wasn’t the only one who’d rejected him. Not much consolation, apparently, because every time Albert saw one of Vince’s titles prominently displayed in a bookstore or airport, he just about kicked himself for not signing the author.
Just a little reminder to us all about the fact that industry pros aren’t any more perfect than we are. And just because some rejections come our way, it doesn’t mean that there isn’t an agent or publisher somewhere out there who’s going to absolutely love our work and want to help us get it out into the world. So let’s celebrate all the author triumphs we can — and let’s write on!