Photo credit: Caro Wallis via / CC BY-NC-ND

A to Z Challenge: R is for Rejection

Photo credit: Caro Wallis via / CC BY-NC-ND
Photo credit: Caro Wallis via / CC BY-NC-ND

RFear 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.

Photo credit: BookMama via / CC BY-NC-ND

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.

Photo credit: ▓▒░ TORLEY ░▒▓ via / CC BY-SA
Photo credit: ▓▒░ TORLEY ░▒▓ via / CC BY-SA

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!

Photo credit: symphony of love via / CC BY-SA
Photo credit: symphony of love via / CC BY-SA

18 thoughts on “A to Z Challenge: R is for Rejection”

  1. Thanks very much for this. Before you get to the stage of approaching an agent, you still need to get it past your harshest critic…yourself. It’s all very well when you’re in the flow and it’s all going well but them you need to go into edit mode and I know my inner critic starts to raise it’s ugly head. Nasty! Nasty! Nasty!
    That’s where putting your writing on the blog can be very encouraging. Reading positive, enthusiastic feedback can help you through the hump. At least, that’s the plan.
    xx Rowena

    1. I think my problem with my manuscript after having queried a small amount of agents, was that I loved the story, but felt there were parts I could still improve on. I just didn’t really know where to start. I had hoped the book would get signed, an editor assigned to me, and then they would help make it perfect. Wrong. The problem is, they see the same faults we do. They want us to get our books as close to perfect as we can before they sign. I don’t blame them. This is why I hired my own editor (Alison Williams) who I adore working with. She is helping me to get Adeline’s story to where I am proud to send it to agents knowing it is the best I can make it.

  2. Ah, those lovely rejection letters. I’ve had my fair share, but if you listen to those who provide feedback (not many do) you will succeed. thanks for another great post.

  3. Thank you for this!

    I’m excitedly dreading the point when my manuscript will be ready for query submissions. I’ve been trying to mentally and emotionally prepare myself for the rejections that I’m sure will happen, but it helps to keep things in perspective and I totally agree with your advice to listen and consider suggestions that agents make.

    I like how you stressed ‘can take their suggestions’ but still let writers know it’s in their hands whether or not they will.


    1. It’s so very true. Agents advice is very subjective as would be anyone’s who reads your work. Having said that, their opinion should still carry weight as they’ve been in the business longer and have seen a lot of what works and what doesn’t. Thanks for stopping by, J.R.!

  4. Hey!
    Finally getting a chance to catch up with my A to Z reading tonight!
    I’m not trying to be a published writer but I loved your post. Sometimes the feedback you get from rejections is really disappointing. I once had a professor in college who completely insulted my writing (and let me tell you the essay was beautifully written, he was genuinely a pathetic man who the entire college hated … he was even fired later for being racist and partial with grades). For some time I was really affected and lost confidence in writing but I overcame that and emerged an even better writer!
    Great post!
    ~ Saraallie

    1. That is great that you didn’t let the comments of one professor (who sounds like he was off-base in his feedback) stop you from your writing! Not everyone would have pushed forward after that. It just goes to show, you shouldn’t let rejection stop you from what you love. :) Thank you for stopping by, Saraallie. I hope to see you again!

  5. Great post! Rejections must be hard, but also a great learning experience, especially if you’re given feedback. Good luck as you keep pushing on!

    1. Thank you, Jackie! The more you get, the easier it gets. That’s why, when an agent leaves constructive feedback, it is that much more special. Something in your writing struck them enough to want to take a moment to write a personalized response. Those are the best kinds of rejections :)

  6. Rejection is definitely a struggle. Both my girls are planning on creative careers – one is a visual artist and the other a creative writer – and we talk constantly about the fact that they have to be prepared for rejection, and be ready to move past it and not give up.

    1. That is so true! I bolstered my confidence against rejection by doing a lot of research prior to querying. The research told me how much rejection happens in this business and not to be put off by it. It’s just a stepping stone to getting where you want to be!

  7. I forget where I first heard it, but someone *somewhere* gave me the advice that the magic number is 40. As in, you’re probably going to be rejected about 40 times before you get an acceptance. I always repeat that to myself when I get discouraged, because 40 is a lot of queries. If I’ve already done 40, I know I believe in the project enough to keep going. The proof is right there in front of me.

    1. That sounds about right! Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell, was rejected 38 times. Agatha Christie’s books were rejected for over five years before they were finally picked up for publishing! I find it amazing that so many famous authors struggled with this same thing when they first began. It makes the journey to publication, and getting the rejections, a little easier to manage when I know that I’m in good company.

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