The word in the email devastated me, and tears began to fall. The manuscript, The Diary of a Serial Killer’s Daughter, was a passion project. I became so invested in telling the story of Ruby, a girl who was very unique, a poet, and the daughter of a serial killer. Still, after hours and hours of hard work and a belief in my story, that one word shattered my confidence.
When not only one but several traditional publishers turned down my book after The Widow Next Door had seen such success, an old, ugly friend started creeping in—doubt. Dream chasing often is accompanied by this fear, no matter what goals you are chasing. However, writing, in my experience, is a particularly vulnerable craft, as is any form of art. You pour your ideas, vulnerabilities, and views into your words.
After those rejections, I started to wonder if my dark, twisted story was worthwhile at all. Fears and questions plagued me: Should I abandon the book?
My husband, though, helped me understand that the obstacle of rejection wasn’t actually an obstacle at all; in fact, as he helped me realize, it was an opportunity for me to take charge of my dreams.
I decided to do something I had never done: self-publish my book.
In a way, the rejection came at a perfect time. At this point, I had written over fifteen books. I had experience with the market, with publishing, and with how to finetune my craft. I knew all of the editing and formatting tricks. I’d taught myself so many of the marketing hacks, graphic design, and blurb writing involved in the process. Most of all, I’d experienced some success with The Widow Next Door hitting the USA Today Bestseller’s list. I told myself that if I wrote a book that could do that once, I could do it again.
So I trusted my gut, and I trusted my story. Was it scary as hell? Absolutely. Did I cry a few times and wonder if I could really do it? Yes.
Still, I trudged on. The Diary of a Serial Killer’s Daughter came out in March of 2020—right in the middle of a global pandemic. So yes, the timing wasn’t wonderful. Still, it managed to sell thousands of copies and even win a book award. Most of all, review after review poured in from readers who understood the power of Ruby’s story, who really got the themes I tapped into, and who the story impacted in deep ways. For me, that last part is what it’s really all about.
Our journey to our dreams will always be filled with obstacles, fear, and rejections. This should not stop us, however. Instead, if we let them, these rejections can strengthen our journey to our dreams and help us understand our true passions.
Being rejected from traditional publishers reminded me why I wanted to write in the first place: to tell the stories on my heart. Not the stories others wanted me to tell. Not stories that were deemed commercial or watered down to meet some rigid book equation. I wanted to have the freedom to tell uncensored, sometimes dark, deep stories that touched on issues, especially about women, that many books in the genre shy away from. I wanted to illuminate real, genuine women’s issues and showcase the darkness in the world. I wanted to make readers think and not just give them a cookie-cutter story that the industry sometimes dictates.
The other thing I learned that I hope you have learned, too, is that no one gets to reign in your voice or your dreams. You are the champion of your passions and of your goals. You get to decide what that looks like and what voice you share with the world. This is not to say you should ignore all experts in the industry, nor does it mean you should ignore constructive criticism. There is a fine line between confidence and cockiness, and one must learn to navigate that line in order to truly grow into the best version of themselves. However, you also cannot let experts tread on your passion, your dreams, or your future. Learn to trust your gut. If you believe in something, find a way to make it happen. Step outside of your comfort zone if you have to.
Rejection is never easy or fun. We’d all love to hear nothing but “yes” and find our way to success paved in glittering, resounding assurances. However, sometimes rejection makes the final destination sweeter than we could have expected because it reveals a resilience, a dedication, and a passion we may not have even known we had.
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USA TODAY Bestselling Thriller author with Avon Books (HarperCollins), The Widow Next Door, The Diary of a Serial Killer's Daughter, and other creepy thriller books