Fear of rejection. Putting yourself and your work out into the world is hard enough, now we have to get used to being rejected too? That in and of itself has caused many writers to stop the story they are working on to move on to other ventures.
Handling rejection isn’t something that comes naturally to any of us. In the business of writing, however, if you ever want to get your work published, it is something you must learn to accept graciously, deal with, and move on.
It happens. A lot for many. A little for few.
I had done extensive research before ever sending out that first query letter to gain an agent. I read the blogs that explained how Stephen King’s book, Carrie, had been rejected 30 times before finding an agent to represent it and him. Frank Herbert’s famous book, Dune, was rejected 20 times before it got to the printers. Beatrix Potter had to self-publish The Tale of Peter Rabbit in order to see her book and illustrations in print (for more, see 50 Iconic Writers…Rejected).
When I sent out those first five query letters, I had bolstered my confidence with the understanding that I was bound to get rejected (see my post on Q is for Query Writing). Not everyone would see the vision for my story, or feel strongly enough about the concept to want to represent it.
I knew that some agents would send the standard one line or two that just says, “Thank you for your submission. This project isn’t for me.” Others, less frequently, would send a personalized response, even though it was technically still a rejection.
The rare few would respond with suggestions, some even requesting a rewrite and resend. Here is where you really want to listen.
If an agent takes the time to give you feedback on your writing, listen to it. They don’t have to do this. Something in your writing struck a cord with them. It may not have been enough to request the full manuscript, but it did make them pause.
Agents suggestions shouldn’t be taken lightly. They have been in this business far longer and know what’s looked for in a submission. Whatever it is they suggest, consider it. If it means rewriting the first ten pages to better grab your readers, then look at it as time well spent.
If an agent loves your work and requests the full, review their submissions guidelines again to see how they want the full manuscripts sent over (Word doc, PDF, with a cover letter, etc.). Send it only once you’ve managed to format it the way they prefer. Make sure that the attachment is there and that you’ve spelled their name correctly. Put forth your best work, even if it is just in sending a document over to them. Think of your manuscript as a present that will also be graded on how well you wrap it.
Once you’ve done that, you wait. Sometimes for weeks. Don’t lose heart. They will respond if they’ve requested the full manuscript. Make sure you wait to follow up with them until the response time they have given you.
You are trying to begin a relationship here. If a potential friend was hounding you to get together with them, you may reconsider starting that friendship. They may be too high maintenance for you at this time.
Don’t give the agents any reason to reject you or your manuscript. Best foot forward only. If you are still rejected again at the end of all of that, start again. Send out another five queries—some suggest five at a time, others ten. It’s entirely up to you.
Whatever you do, don’t give up. Begin writing your next project. If you do get an agent interested in representing you, one of the first questions they will ask is, “What else are you working on?”
They are looking to build a new relationship, one they hope will last throughout your career as a writer.
Be the writer that any agent would be jumping at the chance to work with. Swallow the rejections down with water, then pick up your fork and dive right back in again. Anything that is worth having is worth waiting for, and becoming a published author is no exception.
Good luck and query on!