Monday, July 31, 2017

Rejections - By Maple Lam

We have all experienced rejections. Maybe it’s a college application rejection. Maybe it’s a job rejection. Maybe it’s a relationship rejection. You and I both know rejection is not the best feeling in the world. You feel deflated, unwanted, not up-to-par, and all the other squeamish negatives all crunched in one bitter hardshell nut.

Our natural tendency is to avoid putting ourselves in the situation of being rejected. After all, who wants to be in the hurt?

But the world of traditional publishing is in essence an exercise in the rejection game. I don’t know any author-illustrator friends who has not been rejected regularly. We pitch ideas to agents; we send dummies to editors; we send art samples to art directors; we get rejections.

All. The. Time.

Maybe the idea turns out to be half-baked at best. Maybe the story is too similar to something the editor has recently acquired. Maybe the art style does not align with what the art director visualized. They are all very real, valid, and professional reasons. None of this is personal.

In fact, we learn from these rejections. We make better stories; we execute better artworks. Hidden within this really bitter hardshell nut is a delicious piece of dark chocolate.

The truth is, you only get rejections because you are willing to step out of your comfort zone to take risks. The more rejections you get, the more chances you are taking. It means you are another step closer to bullseye. Congratulations.

If it makes it easier, set your goals from the negatives. Aim to have 100 rejections next year. Create more. Learn more. Develop thicker skin. Take risks.

How afraid are you of being rejected?

Hopefully, if you are serious about being in this industry in the long run, the answer is: not so much.

But wait! Don’t get rejections for rejections’ sake!

Don’t go about mailing artworks and dummies to 100 random publishing houses just to meet your rejection quota! That would be a costly waste of everyone’s time. Get strategic rejections. Read as many picture books as you can. Learn the names of editors and art directors whom you believe aligned with your creative style. A good place to start such research is the annual catalogue published by the Society of Illustrators Original Art Show. It gives the names of the publishers, editors and art directors of the winning picture books of the year.

Good luck! May the KidLit Force be with you.


Maple Lam wrote and illustrated MY LITTLE SISTER AND ME (HarperCollins). Her next illustrated books: FRENEMIES IN THE FAMILY (Penguin Random House), written by Kathleen Krull, will come out Spring 2018. WHAT CAN YOU DO WITH A TOOLBOX? (Simon & Schuster Paula Wiseman Books) written by John Colarneri and Anthony Carrino, will come out Fall 2018.

Maple has a passion in history, art history, picture books and graphic novels. She is happily represented by Joanna Volpe at New Leaf Literary Agency. You can follow her work at: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram