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Not All the Chairs Will Turn Around: Writing, The Voice, and Approval

I'm sure you've probably heard of the show The Voice on NBC, but in case you haven't, let me give you the scoop. The Voice is a singing competition in which four judges (Christina Aguilera, Cee Lo Green, Blake Shelton, and Adam Levine) create teams, coach them, and then let the contestants compete for the title of The Voice (and a recording contract).

But why are you talking about The Voice? This is a writing blog!

I know that, Parenthetical Voice.  But I have a point, I swear. In the first round of the show, they have "Blind Auditions." In this section, singers go out on the stage. The judges are in chairs with their backs to the stage. If they like what they hear, they hit a button that turns their chair around so they can see the singer. Sometimes one chair turns, and the performer is automatically on that coach's team. Other times two, three, or all four chairs turn, and then the singer picks whose team to be on.

Still not getting it, Kody.

I'm getting there!

So here's the thing about blind auditions. It's very, very rare that all four chairs turn. Sure, it happens sometimes, but it's not common. Most of the time one or two chairs turn. And that's still a huge success for the contestant - they are on a team! They get to compete! They can still win! The number of chairs that turn plays no part in the rest of the competition. They just need one chair to turn. One "yes."

I think I see where this is going . . .

Yeah, you probably do, Parenthetical Voice. But I'm going to say it anyway.

Some of the most talented, brilliant singers on The Voice only get one or two chairs to turn. It's not an indication of talent at all. Usually, it's about taste. Blake Shelton will turn for the country singer, because that's his genre, but Cee Lo might not. It doesn't mean the talent isn't there - it's just not his taste. Or, even if it is, it's not a style he thinks he's best fit to work with.

When pursuing publication, it's important to realize that not all the chairs will turn around.

Wait, chairs?

It's a metaphor, Parenthetical Voice! Weren't you listening to my whole thing about The Voice? 

Anyway, as I was saying. Not all the chairs will turn. Not all the agents will offer to represent you. Not all the publishers will want to buy your book. That doesn't mean your not talented or that your work isn't wonderful. But it's not going to be for everyone. And that's okay - that's part of being human. We all like different things.

So don't be discouraged, as you move forward in publishing, if you get rejections or passes. We all get them - even the most brilliant, talented, best-selling authors got their share of the word "no." Heck, J. K. Rowling was rejected by pretty much all the publishing houses in the UK. But then she got a "yes" and the rest is history. A very, very successful history.

Those publishers who said no to Harry Potter must be all kinds of cray . . .

I know, right?

But it happened. It didn't means he wasn't brilliant. It just meant the book wasn't for those editors. Even if they liked it, maybe they didn't think they could work with it. There are a million different factors that go into play.

So don't go in expecting all the chairs to turn for you. If they do, that's great! But if they don't, that doesn't mean you're going to fail. Whether it's one "yes" or fifty, you still achieved your goal. And that is something to be very proud of.

I still don't get the chairs.

Let it go, Parenthetical Voice.  Let it go.
Kody Keplilnger

Kody is the NYT bestselling author of The DUFF, Shut Out, and A Midsummer's Nightmare, all from Little Brown/Poppy, as well as Lying Out Loud, Run, and the middle grade novel The Swift Boys and Me, from Scholastic. Born and raised in Kentucky, she now lives in NYC.

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  1. Great comparison.

    When I first started, I thought all publishing professionals could recognize and would agree upon quality work...not so.

    The most overdone truth written in form rejection letters is the "writing/publishing is subjective" or "tastes vary."

  2. I've read some agents say not every "no" is an easy "no." Sometimes a project comes along they really like, but they just can't see how to sell it. Either they don't know a publisher that would take it, or they don't think the market is right. Often, they will pass, perhaps with an encouraging note to the author to query widely--another agent may have all the right contacts, and perhaps knows the perfect market for the book.

    I guess the bottom line is, never give up. :)

    Thanks for the post Kody, and Parenthetical Voice! :)

  3. I love this! In one post you've summed up why rejections don't necessary mean, "You suck" and why "This isn't right for me" doesn't mean "This isn't right for anyone." A very inspiring post for anyone in the query or submission trenches. Thanks!

  4. Good comparison. I too needed this. Thanks!!

  5. I loved the Parenthetical Voice! Great post.

  6. This sets my heart at ease. Not everyone has to like you or your work. And the caveat associated – You don’t need anyone’s approval to know your work is valuable, since it’s all a matter of taste. If you know you are doing your best, most exciting work, that’s all you need. If someone likes it, it’s an added bonus.

  7. Great post!!! And I think this is a key idea for all aspiring writers to really get. Seeing a slew of no's doesn't say anything about your talent as a writer, just that you haven't linked up with the right agent yet.


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Item Reviewed: Not All the Chairs Will Turn Around: Writing, The Voice, and Approval Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Kody Keplinger