I wish this post was just off the cuff, and not in connection with anything I’m doing, but unfortunately, that’s not the case. The sad fact about publishing is this: not everyone is going to make it.
Sure, in this technologically evolving world, you can take your manuscript that’s been roundly rejected and self-publish it, and do so very successfully, but if you consider that a sort of “last-ditch” effort, it still means you’ve put aside your hope for a traditional publication.
So how (and when) do you make that decision? It’s certainly not when you’ve sent your book baby off only to your dream editor, who returned it unread. In my case, I’ve refused to give up after several rounds of submissions on some projects, ultimately landing a sale. On other projects, the author and I have looked at the rejections we’ve received, seen the hard truth in them, and agreed to put a project aside in favor of going out with something else, rather than whipping that poor expired equine any further.
There’s no number in my head (if I get to 20 submissions and no one buys it, I’m tossing the author!) and there may not be a number for you on the other side of things. We’re not in the business of numbers, anyway.
So what do words tell you? Well, nothing but form rejections on your query might say a pretty strong no — but that could just be your query letter, not your manuscript. If you’ve written a killer query, and were inundated with requests for the partial, only to have every agent reading it decline, that might say something else — in that case, I’d look closely at your rejection letters and look for similar reactions. And a pile of “No thanks” on your full — well, you still got to that stage, and I’m not sure I’d give up. Maybe THAT story isn’t the one that will get you the book contract, but lots of people seem to think you’ve got SOME talent — maybe you just need to try with something else.
I don’t know. I hate being a downer. It’s not in my nature. But I have to ask — is there a line in the sand somewhere that means “the end” for you? Where is it?