This post is for the folks who’ve heard me speak at writers’ conferences, and others with literary ambitions.
After my agents sent my proposal for The Pixar Touch out to publishing houses in February and March of 2006, it didn’t meet with unanimous acclaim. No, we ended up, as I remember, with three houses bidding and six turning the project down. Usually the rejections were pretty cursory, but one editor e-mailed the agency a detailed response:
Thanks for giving me the last-minute look at this. I liked it—the Pixar story has elements that remind me of books by Tracy Kidder or Michael Lewis, books about technology and business that are also great character-driven narratives that wring drama out of the process of building something. I love that kind of book, but I wonder if this story has all the necessary ingredients to get there. My primary concern was that – outside of Jobs – I couldn’t find the big character to drive the story. I also worry that the Pixar story—based as it is in the world of entertainment (and children’s entertainment at that)—feels less consequential than some of these other stories (although I know that entertainment is one of the last industries that America truly dominates). In terms of making this a broader, /Soul of the New Machine/ sort of book, I think he may be working against the zeitgeist: Pixar is most interesting, I think, as a pure business story because it’s not a sexy business with a hot new idea…we’ve read lots of business/technology narratives already over the last ten years and this story doesn’t generate that rush of excitement you get when following an entrepreneur into the unknown because a) it’s a software company, at heart, which is no longer such a revolutionary thing to be; b) it’s now an established company (and even from the beginning was operating under the guidance of name-brand businessmen like Lucas and Jobs). As a pure business story, I think it’s fascinating, but as a broader narrative, I’m just not sure the elements are all in place.
Of course, I disagree with what he wrote, but I’d be the last person to criticize him—it was my obligation to make the case for my book, and obviously my proposal didn’t do the job for him. (It’s easier for me to be cavalier knowing that the book went on to find a wonderful and very supportive literary home at Alfred A. Knopf.)
My point is that rejection is just part of the process: Learn what you can from it and move on.