Rejection Opportunities

Rejection is not personal.  This is probably the biggest hurdle an aspiring writer has to overcome.  While this simple fact may be easy to hear, this truth may not be so easy to accept.  Why?  Because if you write from the heart, you are allowing others to see your most vulnerable side.   Words in your novel may reveal all you hold dear and so it is easy to relate the rejection of the work to the rejection of you as an individual. 

Unless you are as lucky as a lottery winner with a one in a billion shot at the jackpot , here is the ugly truth.  If you write, if you submit, you will be rejected.   I have been rejected so many times that I’ve coined a new term for my queries:  they are “rejection opportunities.”   So let’s take a step back and review what rejection does not mean before we look at the positives. 

Rejection does not mean:

  • your work is bad, horrible, unworthy…
  • you are a failure
  • you are not talented
  • you should stop writing

Rejection does, however, offer an opportunity for you to:

1).  Review your query letter.  Take a fresh look at what you have written.  Do the contents represent your novel, book or article?  Did you remember to list all your relevant publications and contest wins?  Did you follow the submission guidelines or try to submit more than the agent asked for?

2).  Assess whether the agent or editor was the right person to query in the first place.  Did you do your homework?  Do they represent your genre?  Have they published other work that is comparable to yours?

3).  Take a step back and evaluate the bigger picture.  Why do you want to be published?  Are you doing it for the money?  Bad news on this front.  Chances are you will have to invest more in learning the craft than you will ever make in profit.  Are you doing it for fame?  Again, the bitter truth is you are probably more likely to win the lottery than become the next Stephanie Meyer and J.K. Rowling.   Does the act of writing still enrich you?  Did you need to refine your craft?  Do you want to continue to shop for a publisher or start on another novel?

4).  Evaluate your fortitude and work ethic.  Did you run for the tissue box when you got your rejection?  Were you so devastated that you could not function that day?  That week?   If so,  you may not have what it takes to survive the publishing industry.   If your novel is acquired, keep in mind that there will be rewrites in your future.  If you are too attached to your work, you will most likely have to face whether you are malleable enough to compromise and listen to opinions that don’t fit your vision of your novel.   Your best bet may be self-publishing.   

5).   Accept the result and move on to the next agent or editor.  At the end of the day, you have no control over the whims of a given person.  The desirability of your idea, your prose, you characters, your plot, will be scrutinized by a subjective audience trying to wade through a mountain of letters. 

6).  Consider other options.  If you have gone through the list of agents and editors that accept your genre and you can’t find anyone who is publishing your kind of work, self-publishing, epublishing and print on demand  may be your next course of action.

Personally, I am not ready for number 6.  My game plan is to move on to the next agent or editor on the list.  As long as I have a query in the mail, there is still hope that someone will take a chance on me.   I have heard too many tales of writers who found their agent or editor after a hundred (or more) rejections.  I haven’t scaled that lofty number yet.   At this point, I still have a few more “rejection opportunities” to mail.

How do you handle rejections?  Do you have a story about the best or worst rejection you’ve ever received?


4 Responses to Rejection Opportunities

  1. A useful guide to rejection. 🙂 Something that a lot of writers forget is that rejection doesn’t speak volumes about their talent – Hemingway was rejected, as was Poe!

  2. chs says:

    Nice post, Jill! You present a very constructive view of rejection. I especially liked the reminders of what a rejection is NOT.

  3. Susan Berman says:

    My drawer full of rejections – first one, I cried all night long. After that, I pretended I didn’t really like the agent or publisher anyway. The last few rejections have driven me to consider gardening instead of writing. Wonder how our yards would look covered with tulips?

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