Pic: Ankita Shreeram
That's a call for help directed at my own self and the universe at large. Because while I seek solace in my family and my friends, they can't really see right through to my soul. And I can't show them, even if I want to. "No one really understands," is a refrain we hear every now and then. All of us feel it, at some moment or the other - this niggling feeling that our problems are unique. Psychologists can cry themselves hoarse about the similar nature of angst faced at different stages of life but the truth is, no two humans experience pain in the same manner. Eckhart Tolle writes about the 'pain-body' in his theses on spirituality and the deeper meaning of human life. This pain body is a kind of destructive alter-ego and it represents the accumulation of all the negative feelings and experiences we have been through. These feelings and experiences cast lasting impressions on our memories and over time, lead us to believe in harmful patterns that soon become self-fulfilling prophecies. Believe it enough and it will be true. Unfortunately, that is an axiom that works both ways. Believe that you are unworthy of good things and life will prove it to you. Believe that you are the most splendid being on this planet and life will prove that to you as well. Somewhere in my childhood, I began to believe that I wasn't worth being befriended and that I was too ugly to be loved. Today, I know that neither of that is true. I've struggled with my demons and I have managed to lull them from time to time. I've reaped the rewards in terms of a few good relationships and an increased sense of well-being. But I will admit that I haven't entirely slayed them. My 'pain-body' is still in existence. I love solving other people's problems. Reaching out to them and easing their pain brings me satisfaction. But at the end of the day, it is only a means of distraction from my own issues. The 'other' is always easier to perceive and resolve. It is the 'self' that confounds and tortures. Relationships crumble when two people come too close for comfort. Imagine the relationship you have with yourself - so close that you are one. So close that dichotomy makes no sense and yet it exists! There is duality in every sense - I talk to myself like there are two of me, I wrestle with myself like I'm my own opponent and when I smile, I feel an echo from deep within. And that perhaps is the crux. The alter-ego is merely an echo of our real selves. And an echo says nothing new. An echo reveals nothing of importance. An echo is but a mere repetition. The affirmations are our own to make. Let them be so strong that their echoes resonate till the end of time. Let the belief in one's beauty and purity be so strong that nothing can cause a chink in that armour of positive energy. Help is ever at hand, in one's own heart and in every atom that makes up the pseudo-reality around us. It's strange. None of this is real but the problems this unreality churns up feel so crushingly real. I've been looking for salvation since a long time. I was briefly distracted by work - my karma. Now I am distracted by lust - kama. Neither of them are an end in themselves. They are merely means to an unending series of desires and disappointments. Love will make sense only when I slay my demons completely and find a partner whose demons have been cast into nothingness as well. Until then, every entanglement will be just that - a complicated, agonising twist of difficult-to-decipher words, feelings and expectations. Marriage will make sense only when it is between two souls who are complete in themselves and yet seek to create a greater, deeper reality by combining their life paths. In any other case, it will merely be a parody of what it's meant to be. 

Why do so many Bestsellers make it to the Rejection Pile?

Nearly every time that a book hits the bestseller lists, the event is inevitably followed by an article on how said book was rejected by a gazillion publishers before it made it to the presses. Why on earth would the world’s foremost publishers close the doors on age-defining novels like the Harry Potter series, Jonathan Livingston Seagull, Animal Farm, Gone with the Wind and Chicken Soup for the Soul? A quick read through the rejection histories of some of the most widely read novels in the world reveals that the reasons ranged from ‘not interesting enough’ to ‘too controversial’ or even the inane ‘too long’. In fact, it all boils down to the whims and fancies of those occupying the editorial positions at these publishing houses.

Bias against New Authors

Printing books is an expensive business and most of the times, publishers are loathe to experiment with a new writer. But then, the number of noteworthy first-time authors is so massive that this trend ought to have been bucked by now - Paul Harding, Arundhati Roy, Christie Watson and Kathy Taylor to name a few.  According to Andrew Franklin, publisher and managing director of Profile Books, only 20 out of 500 fiction submissions each year are eventually commissioned. That makes it a meagre 4% acceptance rate. Other experts cite an even lower figure – 2%. For an unknown name to cut through that clutter is a Herculean task. Yet, it does seem unfair when celebrities who haven’t a clue how to write a readable book get published in a jiffy. But who said there was any fairness in the world of creativity? Luckily for first-time writers, several avenues have opened up in self-publishing.

Intolerance for Offbeat Subjects

It is so much easier to go with what’s been tried and tested when there is money and painstakingly-built reputation at stake. Yet, the best novels have little precedent. That’s what makes them so extraordinary and memorable. Controversial subjects as in the case of George Orwell’s Animal Farm, an allegory on Stalin’s reign over the Soviet Union or simply hitherto unexplored themes as in the case of Rowling’s Harry Potter are both impediments for publication. Does that mean that writers should not dare to explore? That they should stick to mundane themes that are bound to interest readers? That’s certainly not the message publishers would want to broadcast to the literati.

Being Blind to what Readers Want

The trouble with publishers is the sheer volume of manuscripts that they receive on a daily basis. Jadedness is bound to seep into the editor’s decision-making process when he/she has to sift through a mind-numbing number of stories every day. But is that an excuse for failing to set personal preferences and prejudices aside and judging a book solely on its ability to capture the imaginations of its target audience? Personally, I find the Chicken Soup series overtly idealistic and plain ordinary at times. But does that take away from the books’ ability to touch a chord with the majority of readers out there? Of course it doesn't.

Tons of excellent children’s books have been rejected by hard-nosed publishers who could have simply taken a child’s opinion on the manuscript before dismissing it as ‘silly’ or ‘boring’. If stories are to be believed, that’s how Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone finally made it to Bloomsbury’s presses. Chairman Nigel Newton gave the manuscript to his eight year old daughter on a whim and when the child returned within hours, asking for more, he began to realise that he might have just landed a winner.

In Conclusion

Of course, to give publishers due credit, they also have solid reasons for rejecting manuscripts. The number one reason is that the book does not fit the publishing house’s profile or requirements. Authors need to ensure that they send their books to the right imprint, depending on the genre and target audience. All major publishers like Penguin and Harper Collins have numerous imprints catering to each genre. Additionally, even when a publisher has a diverse profile, they have an agenda at any given point in time. If publisher Z has decided to focus on thrillers for the time being, even the best romance novel may be relegated to the rejection pile.

The best solution seems to be to hire more manpower to devote the deserved attention to those whopping piles of manuscripts. Appointing freelance commissioning editors would be a great way for publishers to minimise the potential bestsellers they miss out on. Already, new agents are entering the market to cater to the burgeoning number of manuscripts being penned by immensely talented writers worldwide. And with the advent of e-readers, multimedia publishers need not worry about shrinking sales.