How Do You Handle Rejection Blues?
by Maria McKenzie
As writers, we must accept rejection. If we're not prepared for it, we don't need to be writing. However, it's important not to take rejection personally. It's your work that's being rejected, not you as a person. Agents, editors and publishers are concerned about the bottom line. They want to make money, and they want you to make money, too. If you're not a right fit for them, it's a lose/lose situation.
Author turned agent Jennifer Lawler says, "My problem isn't how much bad writing crosses my desk. The problem is how much good writing I see. I have to figure out which of these good projects is most likely to sell."
I asked writers from a couple of online writing groups how they handle rejection, and I received a variety of responses. But before I detail those comments, I'd like to mention a gentle reminder. Respect is the most important element of any business transaction. Respect equals the Golden Rule: treat others as you would have them treat you.
Sending a nasty email in response to a rejection letter won't do anything to endear you to that agent/editor/publisher or their agent/editor/publisher friends. And detailed blogging about your rejections and expletive filled opinions about those who rejected you won't get you far. You'll establish a reputation, but not exactly the one you want.
Here are a few other points to keep in mind. Regardless of how many rejections you get, keep persevering! Bestselling author Bob Mayer says he got published because he submitted to everybody! But do your homework. Make sure that whoever you're submitting to takes the type of project you're offering.
There's someone out there who will love your story just as much as you do. You wouldn't want someone representing you who felt only so-so about your work. Just like you wouldn't want to marry someone who only felt so-so about you!
Sometimes, as author Holly Jacobs says about one of her books rejected more than once, "...it was a matter of finding the right desk on the right day for the right line." This particular book, Everything But a Groom, became one of Booklist's Top 10 Romances in 2008.
If someone is kind enough to offer constructive criticism in a rejection letter, by all means heed the advice! Suggested changes usually apply to mechanics, rather than story elements.
Agents are hesitant to explain why they reject something regarding your story. Jennifer Lawler explains, "This business is subjective; what I think is wrong with your novel may be what the next agent thinks is right with it." Here’s one last tip: Do not email an agent and ask why you were rejected. As busy as they are, they don’t have time to answer you!
Here's some encouraging insight from other writers on rejection. I promised anonymity to all respondents so I took the liberty of creating new identities for them. Which identity do you best relate to?
"I run to my writer friends for comfort, advice and 'been-there-toos.'" The Seeker
"I framed my first non-form rejection letter. Now I just file the others away." The Sentimentalist
"I used to get really depressed when I got rejected. Now I just shrug and look for someplace else to send the story." The Realist
"I've worked in competitive environments all my life: air personality/operations manager/account manager/radio talk show host, TV sports anchor, etc. Slumps are part of those businesses, and so too are rejections from agents and publishers. You can't dwell on them, you have to learn from them. 'No' is just a word, losing is not a lifestyle." The Coach
"I found that in the process of becoming a serious writer, the rejections didn't mean so much after a while. It became a part of the process. Now when I get a rejection, I send that piece out to the next publisher on the list." The Perseverer
"I tend to over think things. There's no way I can know the reason for the rejection. So I just ignore it and move on. Getting better at the craft is a personal experience. The process of getting published has absolutely nothing to do with the journey of becoming a better writer." The Philosopher
I hope you’ve been encouraged by these words of wisdom and advice from fellow writers on confronting the “Dreaded R!” And remember, there’s always the option of going independent—that’s what I did!
Now it’s your turn, how do you handle rejection?
Maria McKenzie writes historical fiction with romantic elements. She is the author of Amazon bestseller The Governor’s Sons and Escape: Book One of the Unchained Trilogy. She is currently at work on part two, Masquerade. Maria is a member of RWA and Ohio Valley RWA. Visit her at www.mariamckenziewrites.com, and follow her on Twitter: @maria_mckenzie.
Thanks for the great post, Maria! Rejection is TOUGH to handle. I'm working on being more like the Realist. How about you?