Wouldn’t it be nice if you could write a book, email it in, and see it in print without any fuss?
Unfortunately, that’s not the way the world works. If you’re an aspiring author and you’re determined to go the traditional publishing route, then you know that rejection is inevitable. Even the best writers (think JK Rowling, Stephen King, and Ernest Hemingway) received plenty of rejection letters before they saw success.
I’m convinced that writing is synonymous with rejection.
Once you’ve slaved away on that book, shared it with your beta readers and critique partner, and edited feverishly, you’re ready to start the publishing process. You find some agents and email your manuscript over. Then you wait, fingers and toes crossed, for the response.
And the rejection letters (or emails, in most cases) inevitably arrive.
Whether you’ve received one rejection or a hundred, it can be hard to bounce back. You might wonder if the agents are right. Maybe there is something wrong with your book. Maybe you’re talentless, luckless, and worthless.
Instead of drowning your sorrows in your vice of choice, take a look at some other (arguably better) options to recover from a rejection letter - or twenty.
Take the Personal Feelings Out of It
As a writer, it’s important to know that rejection is inevitable. Each person in the world if vastly different from the others, which means each person has his own opinions, likes, and dislikes. Not everyone will love your book.
You’ll get a lot of criticism when you start sharing your work - from agents, editors, readers, and publishers. A lot of people will share their opinions with you. It’s important to know when to consider their advice and when to let it roll off your shoulders.
Advice about your manuscript (underdeveloped characters, plot holes, pacing issues, and description needing work) is the kind you may want to consider. It’s important to know how your audience views your work. Some of this criticism may be based on personal preference, but if you’re getting the same remarks from multiple readers, you may want to reexamine your manuscript.
Attacks on your merit as a writer (writes like a child, lacks talent, horrible storyteller) are a waste of your time. You have other things you can be doing, and it’s not worth your worry.
Not permanently - don’t panic! Writing is just like any other pursuit; you can burn out. A heaping pile of rejection letters is enough to dip any writer into a funk. It’s important not to wallow there, however.
Consider taking a break from your writing. Instead, do a lot of reading. They say that avid readers make the best writers, and they’re not wrong. Read inside your genre and explore other genres as well. The more widely-read you are, the more informed you’ll be as a writer.
While you’ve got some free time, try researching the market for the genre you’re writing in. Start paying attention to the new titles coming out that are similar to yours. Who are their agents? Add them to your list for your next round of queries. The more you know about the market, the more you’ll see where your novel fits into it.
Learn Something New
You could be a ten-time bestselling author at the top of your game and there would still be room for you to grow and learn. That’s a hundred times more important to realize when you’re just starting. There’s always room for improvement.
Always work on expanding your knowledge and skills. Read books on craft and style. Go to writing conventions. Explore YouTube’s vast database of writing craft videos. Research your characters, your setting, and your plot points.
Learning new things keeps your passion alive. Even if it doesn’t seem relevant, that knowledge will work itself into your writing at some point. It will make your work more believable.
Find Your Tribe
This is really hard for a lot of writers. By definition, most of us are introverts and we like to stay in our cozy corner of the world. Believe it or not, though, writing is a community. Social media has a huge network of writers in Facebook groups, Instagram hashtags, and Twitter feeds. Writing groups meet regularly in a city near you. They converge on writing conventions to meet new people and network.
No matter how you do it - virtually or IRL - it’s important that you find your tribe. Fellow writers give unparalleled support and advice. Most of them have gone through the same thing you’re going through, and they can offer insight you wouldn’t consider on your own.
From this pool of people, you’ll find beta readers, critique partners, and confidantes. No matter what stage of the process you’re trudging through - plotting, drafting, editing, or submitting - there are huge benefits to finding your tribe now.
Query Again. And Again.
I’ve heard the same advice again and again when it comes to querying: whenever you get a rejection, send another query out that same day. I never understood it. Why query a couple at a time when you can query all the agents on your list at once? A broader audience means that you’ll have a higher chance of someone giving you an offer, right?
So, so wrong.
When you send your query out to your entire list at once, a couple of things happen.
First, you get a wave of rejection letters at pretty close to the same time. There’s nothing that can crush your self-esteem faster than an entire pile of rejection letters in your inbox at once. Not only that, but you’ll get a sinking feeling in your gut when you realize you just got twenty rejection letters and there’s no one left on your list.
Second, you don’t allow yourself any room for improvement. If you send a couple queries out at a time, you’ll have time to fix your query or edit your manuscript before you submit to the next few. It also keeps the hope alive that if you didn’t get it with this round, you’ll get it with the next one.
The Bottom Line
If you take nothing else away from this blog post, remember this: rejection is inevitable, but it’s not the end. Querying (publishing in general, actually) is a long process. You can’t rush it, so you might as well enjoy the journey.
I love my rejection letters. Some of them really hurt and I couldn’t even bear to read others all the way through, but they’re proof that I’m on my way. Each one is a stepping stone to bigger and better things.
I won’t give up until I see my name in print, and I hope you won’t either.
What’s the worst rejection letter you’ve ever gotten? How do you recover when you get a rejection? Let me know in the comments below!