Guest Post By Arka Datta: Getting Published in India, AKA the Act of Befriending Rejections

Arka Datta is a recently published author and I’m proud to be his friend. Arka is a writer from Kolkata, India. He has been a lot of different things before deciding to settle with writing books. His short stories have been printed by publishers like Penguin and HBB, and a few respected online magazines.

About Arka’s Book:

Arya Sen is destiny’s child, a young boy from Kolkata who is born to be the greatest the Football World has ever seen. The universe never fails to surprise him with good fortunes as he embarks on his journey from Kolkata to all over the world. But, just when he starts to believe that nothing can go wrong for him, everything changes. Surrounded by loss, darkness, and complete absence of luck, Arya desperately waits for hope. And it appears but from the unlikeliest of places. With the support of his wife April and younger brother Ilan, Arya takes upon him a task that is bigger and more important than all of them. This time, he is up against his greatest friend: Destiny.

This post was Originally published here.
If you are reading this then you are either writing a book or have finished one and looking for publishers, or, perhaps, thinking about writing one. If it’s the last one then I have a story for you. It’s about a frog who had once decided to jump into a pond. That’s it! That is the whole story. He is still contemplating. The most important part of writing a novel is to put the first word down on the paper (or the computer screen, whatever).
By nature, I am a lazy person, with a very short attention span. That is not an ideal combination for a writer, or for any creative person for that matter. What worked for me is the fact that writing has never been a thing that I had to DO. It has always been coming through me. The part I had to work on is research, and I have no complaints about that. I have always enjoyed that part of the process: hunting down information and ideas that I can use.
All these have nothing to do with publishing a book. This is for writing it, but, I have to remind you to enjoy the process. Because- and this is of utmost importance- writing a story is the most joyful and the easiest part of the entire process of becoming a writer. Getting published and selling your book are not preferred processes for most authors. Sure, there are plenty of great self-publishing choices, but that has never been my cup of poison. I like to die the old-fashioned way: slowly and with the knives of rejection piercing through me.
So, if you are one of those people who likes to experience the struggle of getting a publishing deal then this post is for you. Let’s face it: Most of us didn’t have a tough childhood, didn’t have to leave home because our fathers wouldn’t allow us to write, or surely didn’t have to live in a war-zone like the greats before us. If we don’t, at least, face the song of rejections then what do we even have to show for?
And that’s precisely why I had decided to go through the excruciating pain of receiving rejection emails every day. Three years ago, when I had just finished writing and editing my first novel, I was a more hopeful person. I had thought that the worst part was over, that finishing a 1,32,000-words-long story meant I was ready to take the world by storm. I was even more of a fool then than I am now. Writing the novel was the gateway to a hell that doesn’t burn you, doesn’t hang you, but simply offers you hope only to take it away one piece of your gut and your heart at a time.
At this point, I must make it clear that I don’t believe it’s the same for everyone. You may write the worst book ever written and get published by a giant, or write a decent one and get no deal at all. But, for most of us, not getting published is about losing faith in your own abilities and your own novel little by little. For that very reason, I am here to tell you that the key to becoming a published novelist is to have the courage and to build a thick skin.
Just like other things in life, the world of publication will offer you more rejections than acceptance. And they do it in the most charming of ways. “Interesting idea but sadly it doesn’t match our list,” and “interesting idea but your story is too long,” are the most common replies I had received from the publishers and agents I thought I would surely impress. I also believed them when they kept saying that the story was interesting. Then, after the umpteenth rejection mail, I had realized that they were simply trying to make my death painless. There were no ways to know if my story was good enough or not, because, of course, if it were, then why hadn’t the very first publisher accepted it like I had dreamt they would? There will come a moment like this to your life between sending the proposal to publishers and waiting for their responses.
This is where I will slip in a little data for you:
  • Lord of the Flies by William Golding was rejected 20 times before it was published.
  • John le Carré’s The Spy Who Came in from the Cold was passed on because le Carré “hasn’t got any future.”
  • Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell was rejected 38 times before it was published.
  • Sanctuary by William Faulkner was called “unpublishable.”
  • Gertrude Stein submitted poems for 22 years before having one published.
  • Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl was rejected 15 times before it was published.
  • Beatrix Potter had to publish The Tale of Peter Rabbit herself.
  • Carrie by Stephen King was rejected 30 times before it was published. One rejection letter read: “We are not interested in science fiction which deals with negative utopias. They do not sell.”
  • Louisa May Alcott was told to stick to teaching.
  • Marcel Proust had to pay for his own publication.
  • Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig was rejected 121 times before it was published.
  • E. E. Cummings named the 14 publishers who rejected him in No Thanks.
  • Rudyard Kipling was told he didn’t know how to use the English language
  • A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle was rejected 26 times before it was published.
  • Animal Farm by George Orwell was rejected because “there is no market for animal stories in the USA.”
  • Dune by Frank Herbert was rejected 23 times before it was published.
  • Agatha Christie had to wait four years before getting published.
  • Dubliners by James Joyce was rejected 22 times before it was published.
  • Ulysses was also rejected several times on the grounds of “obscenity.
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was rejected 12 times and J. K. Rowling was told “not to quit her day job.”
You see, even for the most successful of publishers, the business is not about publishing the best books. It hasn’t been so for last few decades. You can’t blame them for these dark days either, because, literary fiction doesn’t sell as much as you think it would.
The higher percentage of readers want to invest their hard-earned money into books that are “easy reads,” and the ones that won’t expect any mindfulness from them. That is why the publishers are forced to print and sell books that are more popular, in order to soften the losses they face with most quality literary fictions. The award-winning ones still create some buzz later on, and end up selling a few copies, but that’s not the story with most books.
This is why you must understand that the rejections you get have nothing to do with the quality of your writing, the genre of your book, your educational qualification, your appearance, or your gender. These are the easily available black holes that the rejected writers mistake for comfort-pillows. The rejection emails tell only one story: You have decided to become a writer, and it’s not our job to help you with it. They also say that the market is competitive because everyone is a writer now. But, most importantly, the rejection emails tell you that it’s not going to be easy, Ms. Author, so, buckle up. Be a rock. Be a mountain. Better yet, be a river and keep flowing, keep bombarding the publishers with your manuscript. Get noticed. Keep sending the proposal to the same publishers over and over again; so much that they almost start to expect your mail every morning. So much that they notice it when you decide to stop emailing them. Shamelessly keep knocking on their doors until they send a restraining order to you. The trick is in the realization that these rejections have no power over your self-respect, your confidence, and or your heart. Don’t let them break it. You get to be a writer, a creative soul, unlike most people who aren’t blessed with that gift, your life isn’t mundane. It’s a blessing. Be very thankful. Find other writers who are going through the same and form a group of demented, sleepless bodies who can tell each other that it’s completely okay to be a little sad, but it’s never okay to doubt yourself.
However, even with the heart of a lion or the relentlessness of a…well, lion, it sometimes gets too much to handle: The circle of sending your manuscript to publishers, waiting for a reply, and then getting the unwanted response. You should use this period of time to make sure that when your book is finally published (“when” not “if”), it doesn’t find you unprepared.
Keep working on the script to make it better and without syntax errors. This is very important. Also, create a fan base: Create author’s profiles on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter and update them with engaging posts regularly. Also, start a blog if you already don’t have one. Take this part very seriously. If you already have an audience then the publishers will surely consider you as a credible person who can sell a few books. This helps with their decision.
Once the book is published, showcasing it to people outside of your circles of friends and family is very crucial. I have never been farsighted enough to work on creating a base of readers. Therefore, it’s harder for me now to sell my copies. But, that’s a different story. I will tell you all about it once I am able to figure out the play. Right now I am stuck in that storm!
This is one reason I am insisting on building a readers’ base. The “getting published” part is not in your control once you are done sending the manuscript, but there are a lot of things that you can do to make sure of a smoother transition from being an unpublished writer to the one who can market the published book. Use your time wisely and give the publishers enough reasons to not reject you. It’s really not that tough. At least, it doesn’t have to be.
Practice patience, meditate on it, and keep reminding yourself that if you have finished writing a book, or even if you have started working on one then you are already doing better than the millions of frogs that are waiting to jump. You are already in the water. Is it deeper than you had anticipated it would be, is the current too strong, have you just found out that the pond is, in reality, a raging ocean? Well, of course it is! If it were just a pond then everyone would jump in. If you have, then you are already a champion. A winner. Pat yourself on the back, eat a piece of cake, and hit the water hard with your limbs. Eventually, you will figure it out. You are a writer, remember?
I don’t know if this piece is of any help to you. I had to write this one because I hadn’t found enough text on the subject when I was desperately looking for emotional support as the publishers were rejecting my proposals from all sides. I wish someone had told me then that even the Gods of writing were discarded once too and that it only proves what I had always known to be true: I am a real writer!
After 2½ years, 12 rejections, and 6 “no replies” later, when I had finally received the YES I had been waiting for, I remember having to read the mail a good number of times to finally being able to believe that I was accepted. And, if a lazy-ass guy with a focus level similar to a drunken cat can pull this off then there is no reason you can’t. Take a deep breath. Fill your lungs with oxygen and inform your brain that you will get published, that you will be acknowledged, that your book will be accepted. Don’t just hope; KNOW that it will happen to you sooner than later.
If you have anything to ask me about the struggle then I am here for you. My memories are still fresh, so much that some of them are still bleeding. I can remind you again and again that it gets better.
I wish the universe be always on your side!
You can get Arka’s Book, A Team of Extraordinary Bastards in the following places:

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