I’m going to confess something.
My portfolio of rejection letters is still in the double digits. Under twenty, I think. Maybe even under fifteen.
Probably under fifteen.
Small potatoes, right? Of course, that’s not including the number of queries I’ve had go out that were simply . . . ignored. I actually had a mini celebration the first time my query letters started getting replies. They were rejections, but the agent/publisher at least took me seriously enough to say no instead of ignoring my existence completely.
A step forward, right?
Unfortunately, it’s a step forward into learning to be okay with ‘no’. And, when my book has been the better part of my life in the last seven years, ‘no’ is hard to swallow.
Nothing stings like a rejection letter when what you’ve offered is your heart and soul.
Our books are important to us. We’ve put endless hours of work into them, slaved over ‘perfect’ sentences, and revised our query letter until it makes us want to scream with exasperation. We want a ‘yes, absolutely!’, not another ‘no’.
Unfortunately, ‘yes’ isn’t always an option. And no matter how many rejections we get, they always sting.
How To Make It Happen
Rejection is always a discouraging thing, and too often, it deflates whatever day it happens to arrive on. Writing after that feels particularly impossible, and it’s easy to waste the whole day—or week—in feeling dejected.
But rejections are also a necessary part of writing, and because they are so necessary, we have to learn how to deal with them in a way that’s not going to leave us drowning in discouragement. Part of it, of course, is developing a thick skin for criticism. The rest is having the right perspective about rejection and developing tools to keep yourself moving and encouraged.
I do it with two truths, three tricks, and one long breath.
It’s not us against them. Agents are not out to ruin your day. Publishers are not against you as a person. They are simply looking for the right books to move their own business and career forward. If something isn’t right for them, they’re going to pass on it—either because they themselves aren’t excited about it or because they don’t think they can sell it. They don’t hate you. They don’t hate your writing. This a business and they are making business-minded decisions.
As the author, you also need to need to view it as a business rather than a personal project. When you do, it will take a bit of the sting out.
The wrong agent/publisher is so, so much worse than no agent or publisher. You do not want someone working on selling your book who doesn’t love it or have a vision for it. If they don’t care, they won’t convince anyone else to care either.
Writer, not everyone loves the same books. Agents are readers too, and they have likes and dislikes. They don’t want to be working on a project that they aren’t passionate about, and you don’t want them working without passion.
If they so no, let it be, and be glad they didn’t agree reluctantly just to boost their numbers.
- Celebrate the failures. This one sounds silly, but look at where you are. You’re querying! Hopefully, that means you have a polished manuscript and a competent knowledge of your own story. Every failure is only a step to success, so be thankful for the rejections. You’re that much closer to an acceptance.
- Don’t set all your hopes on one person. Yes, that one agent sounded perfect for what you wanted, or that one publisher would be exactly what you wanted. But there are so many agents and so many publishers. If you put all your hopes into that one person, you’re going to be crushed when they don’t see how perfect it would be and reject it.
- Try again. You only fail when you stop trying. Keep a few queries out all the time so that you always have a few hopes left. Rejections are less final and less fatal when you still have a few others to hope for.
One Long Breath
Writer, let it sting. Count to five, close your eyes, and let it hurt. A hope died, and it was painful. You are allowed to mourn for it, allowed to be sad, allowed to take a moment.
Then take one long deep breath and let it go.
Move on. There are other publishers, other agents, other magazines. You have more opportunities ahead of you, and you will find your niche. Dwelling on the rejections will end with discouragement, disillusionment, and dumped manuscripts. You have a place. Adjust where necessary, listen to feedback, and continue on.
Focus on that one long deep breath, and continue with your dream.
Good luck, dearest writer! May your tea be hot and your dreams wild.
What are some of the ways that you deal with rejection in your writing journey? Tell me about it in the comments, and stay tuned for next week, when we will be discussing waiting and how best to embrace it in your writing journey.