Last Impressions

This article, by Mike Resnick, originally appeared in the April 2009 issue of Jim Baen’s Universe.

I met a young man at a recent convention. He had submitted a story he thought was wonderful to Jim Baen’s Universe, and it had been turned down. Never got as far as Eric or me.

Okay, these things happen. Lots. For every would-be writer who can sell a story, there are dozens who never will. He decided he was one of them, and told me he’d wiped the story from his computer. Well, maybe he should have.

But let me give you a little hint: if you don’t have faith in your story, why should anyone else—like, for example, an editor? First impressions are important . . . but it’s last impressions that count. I’m not saying that every rejected story is a misunderstood gem, but a story that remains in a desk drawer or a computer file (or gets wiped) never has a chance of being understood or misunderstood.

Ever hear of a novel called Up the Down Staircase? It spent a year on the New York Times bestseller list, and was a major motion picture starring Sandy Dennis, back in the bygone days when she was a major motion picture actress.

That was a last impression. You know how many times the book was turned down?

88.

You know how it finally sold? The author, Bel Kaufman, showed it to her minister’s wife, whose brother happened to be peripherally connected to the publishing industry, and one thing led to another, and suddenly the 88-times-rejected manuscript was the Number One seller in the country. I guess it’s lucky that the author didn’t burn the damned thing after the 50th or 75th turndown after all.

You think that just happens in other fields?

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