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Handling Rejection as Failure: Aspiring Writers Getting the Rejection Slip
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Sociology.
2016 (English)In: Valuation Studies, ISSN 2001-5992, Vol. 4, no 2, p. 153-176Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Included in the definition of being an aspiring person is the risk of failure. Aspiring fiction writers are no exception. This article shows that the role of aspiring fiction writer involves managing three issues: the hope of being published, rejection by a publisher, and the perception of the rejection as a failure. Drawing on 47 interviews with fiction writers who have attempted to become first-time writers, the analysis shows that aspiring writers’ responses to rejection are related to accepting and dismissing responsibility for having failed and admitting or dismissing the rejection as a perceived failure. Based on these findings, the article presents procedures associated with four main approaches to dealing with failure: conceding, excusing, justifying, and refusing. This conceptual framework for understanding failure contributes to a theoretical understanding of evaluation and valuation processes and their consequences and to empirical studies of rejection as career failure; it also systematizes and extends Goffman's work on cooling out strategies.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2016. Vol. 4, no 2, p. 153-176
Keyword [en]
cooling out strategy, cultural worker, culture of success, evaluation and valuation, failure, rejection
National Category
Sociology Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology) Social Psychology
Research subject
Sociology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-311274DOI: 10.3384/VS.2001-5992.1642153OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-311274DiVA, id: diva2:1059415
Funder
EU, European Research Council, 263699-CEV
Available from: 2016-12-22 Created: 2016-12-22 Last updated: 2017-01-10Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Selected or Rejected?: Assessing Aspiring Writers’ Attempts to Achieve Publication
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Selected or Rejected?: Assessing Aspiring Writers’ Attempts to Achieve Publication
2017 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

In many markets for cultural goods, gatekeepers select the cultural goods, relatively few cultural goods are selected, and the criteria for selection are unclear to both artists and gatekeepers. Not knowing whether cultural goods are of the 'right' quality to be selected, artists and gatekeepers become preoccupied with handling quality uncertainty. This thesis studies such handling of quality uncertainty before, during, and after aspiring writers attempt to succeed in the publishing market.

Drawing on eighty interviews with mainly aspiring writers and publishers in Sweden, three papers investigate three phases of handling quality uncertainty in the publishing market. First, in attempting to get published, writers handled uncertainty about how the quality of their work would be evaluated in the publishing market by using appraisal devices: trusted, knowledgeable appraisals of their work’s chances of success or failure on the publishing market. Second, publishers responded to uncertainty about the quality of manuscripts by learning to consider means before ends, such that certain qualities of their reading experience became the necessary means for realizing that the manuscript might be publishable. This realization moved the manuscript from the discovery phase to justification phase, in which publishers made a final decision to select or reject the manuscript. Third, for the rejected writer, the uncertainty of not knowing how the publisher had determined the quality of the manuscript made it possible to excuse the course of events. Writers gave reasons why their manuscript had been rejected based on how they imagined publishers had determined its quality. They accepted the occurrence of failure but dismissed the responsibility for having failed. Writers also engaged in justifications, refusals, and concessions of the perceived failure.

These concepts for analyzing the publishing market are based on a perspective that takes into account subjectivity, temporality, and the condition of quality uncertainty. The perspective and concepts are useful for understanding other market situations in the cultural industries, wherein the successful hiring of cultural workers and the acquisition of cultural goods are rare relative to the number of aspirants, and wherein assessments are conditioned by quality uncertainty that needs to be handled.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 2017. p. 86
Series
Digital Comprehensive Summaries of Uppsala Dissertations from the Faculty of Social Sciences, ISSN 1652-9030 ; 135
Keyword
acquisition of cultural goods, acquisition of manuscripts, artistic careers, artistic markets, aspiring artists, aspiring writers, creative industry, cultural industry, cultural production, fiction debut, literary careers, publishing industry, publishing market, quality uncertainty, sociology of success and failure, trade publishing
National Category
Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)
Research subject
Sociology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-312277 (URN)978-91-554-9790-3 (ISBN)
Public defence
2017-02-24, Geijersalen, Engelska parken, Thunbergsvägen 3, Uppsala, 10:15 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Projects
ERC 263699-CEV
Funder
EU, European Research Council, 263699-CEV
Available from: 2017-02-01 Created: 2017-01-09 Last updated: 2017-02-02

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