May 21, 2012

Rejection Ratio

I've posted this before, but I came across it again this weekend, and it strikes me (again) as so smart that I wanted to repost it.  It's from the inestimable M.J. Rose and Angela Adair-Hoy’s book How to Publish and Promote Online ~ M.J. Rose’s chapter "Last Words." It seems to me a very healthy way to look at things, no matter what sort of project you're trying to put out there.

Like it or not, people say no more than they say yes. But when I started out on my own in the publishing business I got paralyzed by the first few dozen no’s that I heard. Rejection is tough on even the most self-confident person. …

So I was telling a friend, who is a professional fundraiser, about my dilemma. She laughed and told me that in her business that the no’s are a good thing. “For each no you are getting closer to a yes,” she said. She even had a mathematical equation she’d worked out from ten years of experience. She had to get fifteen no’s to get a yes. And since she was asking for contributions for a worthwhile charity, her no-to-yes ratio would be lower than mine would. I could count on a thirty-to-one no-to-yes ratio.

So I started to tally the no’s.

In the first two weeks I got ten no’s.

In the second two weeks, twelve no’s. (I was starting to get excited, twenty-two no’s down, only eight to go. Finally, after six weeks and thirty-four no’s, I heard one wonderful, resonant yes. These no’s and yes’s were about getting a major reviewer to read my self-published novels.)

A funny thing happened to me in those weeks. I went from dreading and hating the no’s to understanding something about them. They represented hard work and determination on my part. I was proud of those no’s. Plus, the no’s were important. They weeded out the people I really didn’t want to review the novel anyway. Only someone who truly was open to the idea that a self-published novel could be any good was the right person to read it.