Handling Rejection

So I know I said I’d do a post on drafting query letters, but I’m still working on that. Instead I’m going to address methods of coping with rejection. I feel like this is an important lesson for writers to learn. I know I talk about all the rules for writing, but a lot of times people don’t talk about the steps you need to take when you’re done writing.

Here’s a scenario: you’ve spent six months writing a story, and then another six months editing it and getting it ready for publication. You’re finally ready to start sending it out to agents and publishers. You’ve spent a week creating the perfect query letter. You send out a round of about six to ten (which is a good number to start with), wait about six to eight weeks to hear back, and then get three rejections in a row.

Hurts, right?

Well, of course it does. No one likes rejection, especially when it’s someone saying they don’t like your baby.

But that’s part of writing, and it’s important to learn how to handle these situations.

Remember: a rejection isn’t necessarily a reflection of your story or your skills, but because the agent doesn’t feel like they can adequately represent your work.

First, and foremost, don’t get angry and don’t yell at the agent (or publisher), demanding they tell you why. I know your first instinct is to defend your precious child, but understand that the agent knows what’s best for them. If they don’t feel like your project is an appropriate fit for them, then you don’t want them representing your work.

If you need to cry, then you should cry. Allow yourself a few minutes. Not a lot of time. Not days. Give yourself a good thirty minute, gut wrenching cry. Use up a box of tissues if necessary. But once that timer goes off, you wipe those tears, splash water on your face, and you move on. Lingering in sorrow and letting your emotions get the best of you will only hold you back.

Grow a thick skin. Yeah, I hate to break it to you. But in order to break into the business, your skin will have to be thicker than the average person’s. If you cry at every rejection, you’ll be going through a lot more than one box of tissues. Good for the tissue company, bad for you. Learn to take rejection with a grain of salt. You aren’t the first to receive it, and you won’t be the last.

Understand the business. You’re a writer. You’re an artist. They’re a business man/woman. They market and sell. They aren’t looking at this through your creative eyes. They’re seeing what will gain profit. Is it sellable? Can I sell it? Know that it isn’t about your craft, per say, but rather the business. Getting an understanding on how the publishing business works will help you not only market yourself, but it’ll give you an insight and understanding as to what your agent/publisher goes through.

Reread the rejection letter. I know this sounds crazy, but take another look at that letter. Did the agent offer any tips or reasons as to why they passed? Not all agents will do this, and that’s okay, but sometimes an agent will explain why. It may be because the genre isn’t one they represent. It may be that your query letter was weak. It may be the manuscript still needs work. Find out why and see if other agents are saying the same thing. If you get more than one agent saying your query letter isn’t selling, then maybe it’s time to go back to the drawing board.

Turn a negative into a positive. Don’t despair. Use this as a way to improve your craft. If you get back multiple rejections, take a look at your manuscript and see where it could use some improving. Plenty of famous authors have been rejected. Agatha Christie got rejected for five years straight. John Grisham’s first novel was rejected 25 times. Beatrix Potter had to self-publish. Dick Wimmer was rejected over 150 times! What’s important is that you keep trying. Don’t quit until you’ve exhausted every possible avenue.

Find a constructive way to deal with the rejection. After you’ve created multiple drafts of queries and combed through your manuscript a dozen times, sometimes you’re still feeling down. Find a way to deal with it. Pool your frustration into a craft. Take those rejection letters and turn them into a work of art. Post them on a corkboard and draw hearts over them. Write notes about things you can improve on. Don’t let them get you down. They’re stepping stones to a bigger and better you.

Remember, it’s not the end. A rejection doesn’t mean failure. It doesn’t mean the game is over. You’re on your way to something great and you have to keep trying. Even if this story doesn’t pan out, your next one might. Charlaine Harris didn’t find success until she was in her fifties. Never give up. That’s the most important thing to remember. You can never give up. If your story was important enough to write, then it’s important enough to be read.

Rejection will happen. It’s a fact of the writing life. You here those one in a million stories about this author being found. This one getting the million dollar deal. We aren’t all going to write the next Fifty Shades of Gray (not that I’d want to, yuck). For most of us (and by most, I mean about 99% of us), we’re going to do this the old fashion way: sending out queries and getting rejections, until that one agent takes a chance. It’s important to just stick with it, keep your chin up, and use coping methods to handle any ill-will you may feel. Go have a drink. Call your friends. Read a book. Just, don’t give up.

Want inspiration? Check out these famous rejection lists! If they did it, so can you!

Literary Rejections

Writer’s Relief

Aero Grammar

Flavor Wire

The Atlantic

Mental Floss


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