Sometimes, a piece I do won’t be used by my client.
Rejection can be surprising and downright disappointing. If I recall correctly, the two pieces below were actually declined right around the same time. It was very tempting to wallow and mope and decide there was no point in trying anymore because clearly, no one wanted me in their book ever again. Maybe you’ve felt the same if you got a rejection cluster.
Instead of giving up though, I got back up. I certainly allowed myself some wallowing and moping, sure! …But then I took a deep breath and got back to the business of making the next thing I was passionate about.
Here’s the story of how that went.
First off, I decided that I was genuinely proud of my work even if it did not work for my client’s needs. After all, I had been proud of it right up until the moment it was rejected! The work didn’t change, so why should my perception of it change based solely on that?
Secondly, I realized that throwing a cloak of secrecy around my rejections would just make me think that I genuinely had something to be ashamed of. But rejection and plans changing are an intrinsic part of life. It’s not healthy to hide such a common experience, or fear it as the worst thing that could ever happen to you.
With that in mind, I will now show off my frickin’ AWESOME artbook reject. BEHOLD.
This lovely lady didn’t make it into Printed in Blood‘s Ghostbusters Art Book. Which has great stuff in it, by the way, so go check it out if you’re into Ghostbusters:
I think it’s pretty important to acknowledge that 1) I really dig the work I did and 2) they made a truly fabulous artbook without me.
It wouldn’t be healthy to start doubting the work I had believed in so firmly before my rejection, OR to falsely pretend that the artbook in question is “bad” because I am not in it. Both my art and this artbook CAN be good at the same time. There’s plenty of room for both of us.
When you realize that your work isn’t automatically bad because it was rejected, you can more clearly think about why it may have been rejected. This is especially helpful for your next efforts, since the rejection might offer important insights about what your client is looking for, or new things you can explore as an artist if something didn’t work this time around.
In this specific case, Printed in Blood was working with another entity’s intellectual property. The IP holder actually decides what pictures go in the book in those cases. So it was actually Sony that had declined my Ghostbusters piece, just as it was actually 20th Century Studios that decided to accept my Aliens piece. So if one person or committee doesn’t pick you, there’s no reason to despair about your chances with a completely different one.
To illustrate this, I went on to get into either 2 or 3 artbooks AFTER this rejection (I am unsure of the chronology on what hit when).
If it’s something you truly care about and believe in, keep going.
In that same vein, here’s my other recent reject:
This lovely lady (you’ll just have to trust me) was tentatively going to be the cover for Michael Cisco‘s book Ethics, but things didn’t work out. That book’s another good’un, I highly recommend it:
Mr. Cisco’s also a hoot to talk to, I had the pleasure of sitting in on a Lovecraft eZine podcast with him a couple years back.
But to continue, the same thing happened with Lovecraft eZine that happened with Printed in Blood. I ended up doing work with them AFTER this rejected cover…and oddly it was much larger project where I (cautiously) think I might have done some of my best work to date. That could never have happened if I had decided to slink off into the darkness after one single cover design didn’t pan out.
Of course there are cases where a client or publisher actually isn’t a good fit for you. I definitely don’t recommend slaving away just to feel like you have finally been “accepted” by a client or are finally “good enough” for them. Frankly, if you need someone else to make you feel like you are good enough, then it’s time to take a step back and work on that feeling before you do anything else.
You should always be your biggest fan and you should always be the critic you strive to satisfy.
But if you genuinely like the client and believe in their work, that’s a different matter. That’s how I feel about both Printed in Blood and Lovecraft eZine, so when they have a new project that I’m excited about, I go for it just like I always did.
And in the meantime, I continue to be proud of my work and show it off whether it was useful to someone else at the time or not. Creating truly is an audacious act, and sometimes no one will be around to encourage you to keep it up. If you don’t have faith in yourself, you can lose momentum pretty easily.
I hope that after reading this you can all be overconfident jerks like me. Or at least, that you don’t let rejection ruin your love for your own work or your ability to see the beauty in the work of others (even if it doesn’t involve you this time). There’s a big beautiful world out there with so many chances for us to try new things.
So why should we let rejection slow us down? It’s not that deep.