Thursday, November 24, 2011

Don't Tell Me 'No'

It's been awhile since my Dance Mix for Rejection and this post is along the same lines. I attended Writers Chatroom last night, and left with new passion and new fire for what I do.

In case you're new to this blog, I'm an illustrator who writes novels. Sometimes I don't feel like I belong completely in either group because of that. I haven't met many other author/illustrators, but I know they're out there, so I know I'm not alone. I also know they are up against a big wall in the publishing industry: house illustrators. I've been told many times that publishers don't want author/illustrators because they have their own illustrators. I've been told this so much, I get tired of hearing it. I've been told this so much, I don't care anymore.

I have a confession: I don't like being told 'no'. I'm not talking "No, you can't have that doll for Christmas". The kind of 'no' I mean is "No, you can't do that/have that/be that because it's hard/only for people who aren't you". When I hear "No, you can't illustrate your own novels" I feel defeated before I even try. I might as well just give up sending my queries now. I might as well hang up my pens and ink. I get defensive, I get passionate, I get ticked off. I feel as though those people telling me 'no' don't believe in me, don't think I'm worth it, and don't understand how good I am at what I do.

I understand when something has been in place for so long that people are loathe to change it. But that doesn't mean it can't be changed. That doesn't mean that the right connections, the right persistence, the right drive, the right query at the right time can't make a difference. From what I've seen and experienced, the publishing industry is all about the right connections, and the right query at the right time to the right person. I believe in that right time, and myself. I also believe in God, and above all, I know He has a right plan for my life. Who's to say this isn't it?

The people I admire have written books that launched vast franchises, illustrated comics that changed the industry, designed characters for movies, games or television that no one will ever forget, and no one can tell them now that they can't do it. No one would have the nerve to tell Neil Gaiman or Tim Burton they couldn't do something. And once upon a time, those men were unpublished, and underappreciated. We all start somewhere. Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, Stephenie Meyer, the list goes on.

Writers and artists need to be careful who they're talking to when they try to give a 'wake up' call to one of their peers. Even if you mean well, you might be building a wall of "no" and "can't" with your advice that should never be built. Let them face 'no' when the rejections start pouring in. Let them hear "can't" from someone else's lips, but not yours. There are enough naysayers out there without adding to the noise. They need your encouragement, not your negativity.

I first decided to include a few illustrations and chapter headers in my YA novel because an agent suggested it. Not a fellow writer, not myself, but an agent. She told me that agents are starting to want author/illustrators now. They like a package. That was only a few years ago. Since then I've grown my confidence to the point that I won't accept anything less than that dream. If I have to work hard, if I have to go through a mountain of rejections, I will see that dream fulfilled. I will not accept 'no'.

I've just started querying this year. Just started on the path that will lead me to publication. I don't need to hear 'no' this early. And neither does any other new writer. So save your 'no's and 'can't's unless you're saying "No! You can't give up!" Be a motivator, not a demotivator.

Here's a motivational song for ya.


  1. what a great post! good luck with the queries and I want to see some of your illustrations!

    Also, what a great looking blog. Really impressed.


  2. I just saw some of your illustrations! amazing stuff. I think publishers tell authors "we don't want your illustrations" because most can't do what you can. I hope they see what you can do!

  3. Thanks, Steven! I think you're right, and I understand why publishers would be wary. However, when they see MFA in Illustration in my query letter somewhere, I hope they'd reconsider. Degrees need to count for something more than just debt, right?


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