The Writer's Life

Writers and Their Anti-Fans (from my article in

Writers and Their Anti-Fans

Marti Leimbach

Writers are used to rejection and criticism, if only because the ones who can’t cope with it stop being writers early on. We have in common, too, a feeling of celebration whenever we hear of successful books that were initially turned down by reputable publishers. The story of J.K. Rowling’s twelve rejections for Harry Potter passes down generations of new writers like a seminal myth, providing living hope that great books win in the end. In truth, twelve rejections isn’t a big number in the publishing world.

Rejections from publishers are discouraging, but not unduly so. Reasons vary from “We’ve recently bought a book on a similar topic” to a vague “enjoyed it but it’s not right for us.” They can be genuinely apologetic, with the editor almost begging forgiveness for not having room on her list. Some are even funny. One December, I watched a fax arrive at my agent’s office from the then-editor at Ballantine, Bob Wyatt, whose rejection was handwritten and seasonal. “Ho, Ho, No!” he wrote.

If it were only this kind of rejection writers experienced, we wouldn’t lose so many important voices early on. But the rejection process begins well before publishers are involved and has a ruthless presence from the very beginning of a writer’s life. Professional rejection comes so late in the process of becoming a writer that, while it matters, it isn’t always as damaging as the earlier discouragement we may receive from friends or family. Destructive responses from those who I call “anti-fans” can hurt us fatally. Like twelve rejections of a manuscript, the existence of anti-fans is not unusual. In fact, it is normal. If you are aware of this phenomenon, perhaps you won’t be one of the many talented people who has fallen by the wayside because of them…(to continue to read this article, click here)

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