I read an article with this title today by Jane Pauley. It’s another little bit of synchronicity. I’ve come across this idea several times recently: the reminder that failure isn’t fatal. It can, in fact, be the first step to success.
Most of us make plans, and plans are good. But I know from experience that the old saying is true. And when plans go awry, sometimes the alternative can lead to something extraordinary.
I don’t like to fail. I don’t know anyone who does. It’s especially hard when you don’t know why you came up short. Anyone who’s received a form rejection from an agent or editor knows this. Yet we persevere. Persistence is honored. “You haven’t failed until you’ve given up!” So we examine our manuscripts for ways to improve them and then send them out again.
This failure to sell on the first or second or third try is a good thing. Really. Pretty much every new author out there in the history of writing (myself included) believed their first manuscript was great. Getting rejected gave us the chance to take that second or third or fourth look at it, to make it better.
After a while though, it’s as good as you can make it without working the life out of it. All you can do then is keep sending it out until it finds someone (an editor or agent) who will love it as much as you do, while working on the next project.
Or you can self publish, either digitally or POD or both.
Some people consider this a kind of failure because they think only naive and desperate losers who can’t get published the traditional way self-publish. This is an insidious argument because most of us start out seeking to be traditionally published and we’d be pretty happy if we were offered a contract. But not selling to a traditional publisher does not make all other alternatives into failure.
It’s good to have a plan, but sometimes well-laid plans don’t work out. Someone moves your cheese. Is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results insanity or perseverance? (We’ve all heard the stories about how a Big Name Author collected a bazillion rejections before hitting it big, after all.)
What do you think? Is self-publishing a concession of defeat or a clever adaptation to reality?