A book that's taken me eight years to finish, going through 24 versions, and six different titles, has finally become, perhaps, my favorite nonfiction book I've ever had the joy and honor to conceive and write. And, so far, it's been rejected by potential publishers, in one version or another, 45 times.
My record before this was 36 rejections, for my first book, one that I wrote when I was twenty-one years old. The 37th editor who saw that manuscript said yes, and so I was a published author at age twenty-two, because I didn't give up.
After that early stutter-start as an author, though, I've hardly ever tasted the disappointment of no. Instead, I came to enjoy a rare three-decade streak of unusual publishing success, producing twenty nonfiction books that launched me first into a great academic career, and then into a wild adventure as a public philosopher.
The new book that no one wants to publish is all about the wisdom of the great practical philosophers on how to respond to change, and especially, how to deal with difficulty. And with it, I've suddenly experienced a very big change. I've never had such difficulty with any project. But the nice irony is that I've been able to use the advice of the book throughout the process of dealing with publishers, and I've learned how well all the wisdom of the ages works. I've attained a level of inner resilience and sustained confidence through it all to make Seneca or Marcus Aurelius proud.
Remember the old adage: When life hands you lemons, make lemonade. Everyone says it, but no one says how to do it. The philosophers have great advice on this. So, the new book is called Plato's Lemonade Stand: Stirring Change into Something Great. Editors at the major publishers have said that it's elegantly written, and that it contains important ideas. They've praised my past work, my present "platform" and the impact my books have, both in this country and around the world. They just worry that the new book would not be "big enough" for them, which in publisher-speak apparently means that it would not grab enough media attention and sell enough copies for all of us to retire and buy Kardashian-style Bentleys.
Only two editors, after various nice comments, added a clear concern.
One said, "It's a little too prescriptive."
The other said, "It's not prescriptive enough."
Here's what I do. I don't let a spate of difficulty or rejection derail me. And you shouldn't either. The gatekeepers of any industry or enterprise are typically most comfortable with what they already know. And they may not know you, or understand what you're doing with your new idea, product, or process. But that doesn't determine the value of what you're doing, or how you should do it.
Creativity sometimes has a long road to walk. Dust off your shoes and keep walking.
Have your ideas been rejected? Have you been shot down? Well, remember that the Beatles were rejected and told, early on, that guitar music was "on the way out." The Dixie Chicks were advised to give up. They'd never make it in music. J.K. Rowling was informed over and over that there would be no market for her books about a kid named Harry Potter. And just yesterday, I read a book about one of my favorite movies ever - The Princess Bride - and how every major studio turned it down for 13 years, until my old friend Norman Lear paid to have it filmed by his friend Rob Reiner, who persisted despite all the difficulties. And the movie barely sold tickets when it came out, a seeming rejection at the box office as well, before it went on to become a classic.
Just do like all these creative people did. Keep doing what you you think is best.
That's what I do.