Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Golden Ticket

We attended the American Idol Experience at Disney’s Hollywood Studios for the first time last weekend. I’d only tuned in once or twice to the show so I wasn’t overly familiar with the format. However, I do appreciate talent shows for finding the stars of tomorrow, and I understand how wildly popular this program is to its fans. Contestants at Disney have auditions during the morning, and then there are five shows during the rest of the day, with three competitors each. The audience votes on the winners, so in the Final Show, all those with top scores from earlier performances compete against each other.

Whoever wins this final daily competition gets a “golden ticket”, a chance to audition at the front of the line, so to speak, for the real American Idol. At least this is how I understood the process; I won’t vouch for it 100%. Anyway, three judges participate in the show, and each contestant sings a song of their choice from a given list. You can see their hopes and dreams in their faces. The experience was fun, and I’d go again.

Then I came home and checked my email and found a message from my agent. We’d gotten a rejection for one of my submissions. My hopes for that project plummeted. I felt like the losers in American Idol, with disappointment washing away my dreams. It was a close call, too, because the editor liked my work very much but they were publishing something similar.

We go through this all the time as writers, and yet those who stick to their guns are the ones who succeed in this biz. Look, it took me six practice books before I sold my first novel. Now fifteen published books later, I am still getting rejections. The publishing market has always been tough, and these days it’s even tighter. But we have to go on stage just like the singers in American Idol, throw ourselves into the performance body and soul, and wait with bated breath for the audience results. Do we move on to the next stage, i.e. a contract and copy edits, or do we step back and regroup before trying a different tack?

Truly I sympathized with those contestants during their vocal performances and the subsequent judging. Maybe editors can’t see our faces or hear us sing when they read our work, but our words sing for us. And if we don’t make the cut, well, there’s always the next show.


  1. There's nothing like that feeling of having your work out there, being reviewed and (sometimes) rejected, either by agents or editors. Then we have another challenge--of getting accepted or rejected through sales, contract renewals, and new contracts. It never stops. But meanwhile, it's a great way to spend a workday, no?

  2. Great post, and good advice plus a dose of reality. I like your term, "practice books." I always called them unsuccessful, but I like your words better. And that's what they are--practice.
    Thanks for sharing.

  3. Nancy, sorry to hear the bad news. But like you stated, the successful writers keep writing and submitting. What wannabe authors don't always realize is there's a zillion reasons why books get rejected--many times it has nothing to do with the story or the writing. In your case, they were already publishing a similar book. BTW, a new season of American Idol starts tonight with two new judges. Might be a good time for you to become an AI fan. It's one of my favorites.

  4. Professional writers don't give up in the face of rejection. Like, I've just revised an earlier proposal to send to my agent. We rework, revise, and diversify. Rejections hurt but we move on. It's part of the business. And Richard, I've been known to snatch scenes from those practice books, so nothing is every wasted.

  5. A couple of decades ago, hard to believe I am old enough to remember things I did as an adult that far in the past, any twenty some-odd years ago I tried my hand at stand-up comedy. It was long as they laughed. But if the audience did not respond, or worse booed, it was like the whole world stopped spinning. Luckily I never got booed, but there were some scary silent moments when the punchline just didn't strike anyone as being funny. The trick I learned then was to not give them a chance to think you weren't funny, ie move on to the next thing as fast as possible without skipping a beat.

    In the writing world I am experiencing the same learning process. Work hard at the material, learn the trade, and then try and keep trying until the audience is rolling just at the mention of your name and never let those silent moments (or the rejections) stop your rhythm.

  6. Good advice, Basil. I can't think of anything more scary in the world of performances than trying to be a stand up comic. You made it through and your lessons learned can benefit the rest of us. It's like a dancer on stage who stumbles and carries on.

  7. It's only a problem if your agent doesn't really care if you compete.