Rejection and more rejection

After the initial rejection of “No Time To Run” by an agent, I did what writers were supposed to do. I continued to revise the manuscript and I continued to submit it to literary agents. This was over fifteen years ago. Independent bookstores were not complaining about Amazon so much back then, they were complaining about Barnes & Nobles and Borders (remember that Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan movie?). Amazon certainly sold books, but it wasn’t what it is today.

Self-publishing wasn’t really a viable option at that time, because there were no Kindles, Nooks, or tablets. The physical book ruled, and in order to sell copies of a physical book, an author needed distribution. Sure, you can print a hundred copies and sell them out of the trunk of your car, but that was generally not deemed a proper and acceptable path. Fair or unfair, self-publishing was viewed as an act of desperation. There was a reason it was also called “vanity” publishing because the authors who did so were considered vain by polite society.

So I played by the rules. The proper way to publish your book is to first obtain a literary agent, and then that literary agent will go to lunch with acquisition editors of various publishing companies. The literary agents were the gatekeepers, and if you got past them, then maybe you had a chance. I looked up various literary agents, and I sent them query letters. I got outright rejections by some, but it was actually pretty positive. Quite a few of the agents asked for my full manuscript. They seemed genuinely interested and excited. Then, time passed, and eventually, the rejection letter came. The tone of the letters were largely the same. The agents loved “No Time To Run.” The agents thought I was a good, talented writer. They also, unfortunately, thought “No Time To Run” was unmarketable. In the end, it was too weird and the main character wasn’t very likable. This last bit hurt my feelings, because the main character, Michael Collins, was sort of based on me. The agents were essentially saying that I wasn’t very likable. These were the days before the anti-hero. Breaking Bad didn’t come out for another three or four years, and Michael Collins was and is a very morally ambiguous guy.

This cycle of submission and rejection went round and round for a long time. Eventually, I gave up. I couldn’t fundamentally change who Michael Collins was without totally changing the book, and I didn’t want to rewrite the story. This was the first book that I wrote that didn’t suck, and it was the kind of book that I wanted to read. It was fast and quirky and funny. Unfortunately, nobody was willing to take a chance.

“No Time To Run” sat on my computer’s hard-drive. Nothing happened. I went back to focusing on being a practicing attorney. That’s what paid the bills. My little family was growing. Writing took a back seat, again. I still had the dream, but I didn’t get up in the early morning to write. Instead, I got up in the early morning to change diapers and unload the dishwasher.

I’m not sure exactly how much time passed. I think it was four or five years. This is hard to believe, but it is true. The excitement I had after winning the writing contest had faded. To be honest, it was pretty easy to forget I even wrote “No Time To Run.” I had a third child on the way and there were more pressing concerns. We needed money for a minivan because all car seats wouldn’t fit in a normal vehicle, and we needed money for student loans and health insurance. It wasn’t a good time to be a dreamer.

JD Trafford