“At the risk of ‘telling my grandmother to suck eggs’, may I respectfully suggest the following…”
So began a litany of condescending (albeit well-meaning) bits of advice to an author receiving a rejection letter. The author, Robert Galbraith, had been shopping a series of mystery novels.
Galbraith was no stranger to rejection but Galbraith is also a pseudonym. In fact, an earlier series in the authors real name was rejected 12 times before finding a home.
Back then, times were desperate. The author was living on assistance from the government, stealing spare moments to write. Success meant everything. There was no giving up, no matter how many times the answer was no.
In November 2001 the first in a seven-part series arrived on bookshelves. The rest is history.
Harry Potter became an instant classic and J.K. Rowling (who later penned and submitted the initially rejected mystery series under the name Robert Galbraith) shot to almost instant fame.
As an artist you will face rejection of course. This is not a reflection of your worth. As the story of J.K. Rowling illustrates, even one of the world’s preeminent authors can find herself at the receiving end of rejection many times.
There are concrete ways to improve your chances whether you are submitting work to galleries or applying to residencies and grant programs.
1. For starters, do not pin all your hopes on just one prize. Generate lists of galleries, residencies, grants, and patrons and start reaching out.
2. Program submissions and applications into your regular practice. Keep records of the places you have been in contact with and stay up to date on what they’re showing now. Make a monthly or yearly schedule of deadlines and stick to it.
3. Stand out from the crowd with beautiful handwritten letters, a well-crafted bio and artist statement, and a pristine website.
4. Cultivate your artist community through networking and outreach.
Remember that for every success story, there are dozens of stumbles along the way.
The more arrows in your quiver, the better your chances of success. A Praxis subscription offers powerful tools to support you on this bumpy road.