Thursday, October 25, 2012

Maria McKenzie on the Rejection Blues

Please welcome Maria McKenzie today!

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, " 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, 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?


Romance Reader said...

After getting two 'Rs' I didn't even look at those stories for so long now!

I'm taking on different projects (Editing) and reading craft books but not writing!

All the best with your release Maria!

Hi Jemi!

Anonymous said...

I have a brief pity party for myself and keep writing and submitting. I also believe in the stars aligning for a yes to turn into another and another.

Laura S. said...

I feel bummed for a bit but then I get back to writing and submitting. Chocolate always helps, too! :)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

That's some smart advice.
Think I was somewhere between Perseverer and Coach. I just shrugged and kept going.

Jemi Fraser said...

RR - they sure can be hard to take! Building up the confidence to try again is hard!

Medeia - a short pity party is a great idea! :)

Laura - yes - chocolate is a huge help!

Alex - I do have the perseverence thing going for me too! :)

Natalie Aguirre said...

That's all great advice. Thanks. I do get a bit depressed about the rejections, but then recognize it's part of the process and move on.

Beth said...

I think I'm most like The Perseverer. When I realized that it was just part of the job, I learned to shrug off the rejections. I just always have a list ready so I know where to send it next!

DEZMOND said...

sounds like a nice lady. Life isn't easy for agents either, no matter what writers think :) Especially since about 90% of all of them are wannabe writers :( But even they can find agents as we've seen with some of the most horrid YA books that are hits these days...

Laurel Garver said...

It is a subjective business, and also one in which the gatekeepers make their best guess as to which things will sell.

I love the advice that what one agents thinks is wrong another might think is right. Same goes for readers if you ever read both the 5 and 1 star reviews for just about any book.

Anita Saxena said...

Great post.
At this point in my writing journey rejections don't sting as much as they used to. I like to analyze each rejection for what it is. Is there something I need to improve in my writing OR should I push on with the next submission.

Maria McKenzie said...

@Jemi: Hi, Jemi, thanks so much for hosting me today! I appreciate the chance to meet some of your readers:).

@Nas: It's great that your using your writing talent in other ways, but never give up on writing your own stories:).

@Medeia: I've had my share of pity parties, too!

@Laura: Chocolate, the ultimate cure for the blues.

@Alex: Shrug and keep going--keep moving forward:).

@Natalie: Once we realize rejection is a part of the writing process, it's not so bad;).

@Beth: You're so organized, with a list ready for the next submission:)!

@DEZMOND: Agents have a tough job! There's a lot of good stuff to choose from. They have to decide what'll sell:(.

@Laurel: Reading is so subjective! One size doesn't fit all;).

Maria McKenzie said...

@Anita: Rejections can make you a better writer, especially if they offer feedback.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Just have to understand that it's a business! If you're too bummed by rejection, you probably won't make it in this business.

Jemi Fraser said...

Natalie - it's tough, but I think we do get used to it!

Beth - that's an awesome attitude! I'm working on that!

Dezzy - you're right - an agent's life isn't an easy one either - and a super busy one as well :)

Laurel - so true! It's really all about taste and timing :)

Anita - being able to be objective about it isn't easy - I'm trying to get there :)

Maria - you're most welcome! It's a pleasure having you visit :)

Diane - so true. Having that thick skin is a must ... still working on mine :)

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

I think keeping busy is key. So, if you have a rejection, keep writing until you have a yes!

Jemi Fraser said...

Elizabeth - that is a really good plan!! :)

Maria McKenzie said...

@Diane: I agree! You have to develop a thick skin and keep going:).

@Elizabeth: Great advice--focus on the positive!

Michelle Wallace said...

I'm not at that stage yet... but I've read lots of different thoughts/responses on the topic.
As writers have pointed out, it's a business. Nothing personal.

mshatch said...

I used to be hugely disappointed but now I just shrug it off and keep on writing. I'm a realistic perseverer!

DMS said...

What a fabulous post! I try to take rejection letters as a chance to improve my writing. If there is feedback- I take it into consideration and decide if there are changes I should make. I also understand that the process is subjective. The Golden Rule advice was a good reminder. :)

Jemi Fraser said...

Michelle - I wish I could remember that all the time - it can be tough!

Ms H - I like that! That's my aim :)

Jess - agreed. If there's feedback it's invaluable!!

Patricia Stoltey said...

The rejections I love are the nice ones that come with a little helpful feedback. I always shoot back a quick thank you e-mail to that agent or editor. The rejections I hate are the ones that look like my submission flying into the twilight zone ("if you don't hear from us in the next five years, you can assume we're not interested in your project").

Rejections are always a disappointment because it means we have more work ahead of us, either in more queries or more rewrites. But it's part of the game, a part we better get used to.

Jemi Fraser said...

Pat - so very true! It really is part of this game we're playing :)

Those twilight zone rejections are the absolute worst!!

Maria McKenzie said...

@Michelle: It's business, alright! And rejection is a lot easiers to take when it's not personal;).

@MSHatch: Being a realistic perseverer is the best kind of writer to be;). Don't let anything hold you back!

@DMS/Jess: Thank you! Glad you enjoyed the post:). Since writing is so subjective, you know someone's out there who'll love your work!

@Particia: I'm with you! The nice ones try to lift your spirits and let you down easy. I really hate the "if you don't hear back..." ones! I also hate the form letters that start with Dear Author!

Carol Kilgore said...

Rejections are no fun. I give myself five minutes of wailing or whatever and move on. Life's too short to dwell on devastation. Focus on the good :)

Happy Weekend!

Jack said...

This is good to keep in mind. I've been preparing myself for rejection for the last few months, but I'm still not sure how I will handle it if my book is completely disliked.
Good to keep in mind though, keep going.

nutschell said...

Rejections can sting, but perseverance is the key! great post!

Jean Oram said...

I just keep moving forward. And talking to my critique partners helps. :)

Jemi Fraser said...

Carol - true! And I love the word choice with devastation - that can be exactly what it feels like!

Jack - it's a hard business. And no matter how good your book is, some people are going to dislike it. It takes some getting used to!

Nutschell - it really is the key!!

Jean - that's the only way to move. Don't know what I'd do without crit buddies!! :)

Missed Periods said...

The first rejection is the worst; then, it just becomes part of the process.

Jemi Fraser said...

MP - I remember the first rejection making me feel like a real writer! :)

Melissa Sarno said...

I'm working on responding like The Realist too. But I also like The Philosopher's philosophy : ) Great post!

Talli Roland said...

Alcohol? :)

What a great guest post. Thanks, Maria and Jemi!

cleemckenzie said...

Well, there's always that "poor me" moment, but then I usually take off for a lovely hike and put the big R into perspective.

I'm back from my blogging break to wish you a Happy Halloween!

Lisa Gail Green said...

Great advice!! Thank you! And I love the new look btw!

Jemi Fraser said...

Melissa - I think Maria nailed it! Rejection is tough - but easier when we learn how to cope!

Talli - that's always an option!! :P

Lee - thank you! Hard to believe Halloween is already here! This year is tlying by :)

Lisa - thanks! :)

A said...

Rejection is part of the game and she is right, it's not personal :-)

Jemi Fraser said...

Agnes - agreed - it's just hard to reemmber sometimes :)