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07.02.2019 – From ‘Rejected’ to ‘Published’

This year I have been blessed to see a lifelong dream become reality. After many years of hard work I’ve had two of my works picked up by publishers!

Unless you are one of those rare prodigies, as a composer you quickly learn to live with rejection. Many of you will perhaps remember applying for university and receiving rejection letters. While it can be devastating, you eventually move on in one way or another. Imagine, if you will, a lifestyle in which you receive a steady stream of these rejection letters. Composers regularly submit their works for publication, festivals, and competitions. And the funny part is because of long evaluation periods you’ll often forget you even sent out a piece until you receive a surprise downer in the form of an email or form-letter. It’s daunting but, as I said, you move on in one way or another.

For many years I made a go at self-publishing. And not just listing items on my website and crossing my fingers, but attempting to reach out, cold call, and send colorful mailers. I bought a spiral binding machine and a printer that could handle tabloid size paper. I even sourced the perfect off-white paper stock from a local supplier. Sadly, perhaps due to my weak professional networking, it went nowhere. The first piece I ever sent to a publisher was a percussion duet called “Infringement”. I had programmed it for an alumni concert at Oklahoma City University and had been so pleased with it that I decided to try my luck in 2015. Rejected. As were a couple of sacred choral works I shopped around.

My first success was with Carl Fischer, a company I’ve always considered one of the most prestigious publishers in the market. They agreed to pick up one of my pieces for young string orchestra, but the process was not quite what I had expected. I submitted the piece I thought had the best chance of getting picked in the Spring of last year. There was a batch of about five pieces for string orchestra grades 1-2 that I had started the winter before and felt very strongly about. I should pause here to point out that it took me several years before I really understood what makes a good piece for young string orchestra. With my two degrees, I thought I had enough understanding that surely I could easily get something as simple as a beginner orchestra piece published. As it turns out, that was not at all the case. There are a number of nuances that come into play that define the type of piece that an orchestra director will be willing to try out on his or her group. And it goes well beyond simply knowing the correct keys to write in and the ranges for beginner instruments. I didn’t wrap my head around these things until I had been an orchestra teacher for about six years. It was then that I could look and see which pieces I tended to pick for my orchestra, and which pieces my colleagues seemed to favor, and could therefore hone in on what made those pieces as appealing as they are. With that knowledge in hand, I sat down one night and started work on about seven pieces.

In October of last year, I received a response from the strings editor at Carl Fischer. Another rejection letter. I had received one the week before from another publisher. So it goes. In my reply, I thanked him and said that I would be happy to send him more of my work if he was willing to receive it. An hour later, 9pm on a school night, I got a response inviting me to go ahead and send him more. Waaaaaaaaaaat. I immediately went back to my studio and started going through the pieces I had been working on. Three of them were ready to send, one of them which I quite liked still needed a bit of editorial cleaning-up. So I worked until after midnight to get everything ready. Eventually I sent four more pieces. A couple of (very long) days later, he wrote back with the good news that he wanted to publish one of them, Siberian Hunt. There was the usual give-and-take of editorial requests, and he was patient enough to answer all my naive first-timer questions. Not long after that, I also found a publisher for the percussion duet I had sent out a few years ago. So I went from ‘zero’ to ‘two’ in the blink of an eye.

2019 has unquestionably been one of my best years. I have so much to be thankful for in my professional and personal life. My advice to those wanting to be published is to keep working hard and be persistent. As saturated as the market is for beginner music, one can’t really expect success without putting in the time to understand what makes a piece appealing to the director you wish to sell to.



Links to the pieces:
Siberian Hunt String Orchestra grade 1.5
Infringement Percussion Duet grade 4-6

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