Rejection is a part of life. Sad but true. Regardless of your profession or abilities, you will come face to face with rejection and it's rarely a pleasant experience.
Writers have it pretty bad when it comes to rejection for two reasons: 1) They are trying to sell a product that is a part of themselves--something they care about that's personal, and 2) The rejection comes in writing.
The best advice I can give is to not take it personally. Truly, that rejection is not aimed at the writer in a spiteful or even personal way. Often, it is a form letter sent to hundreds and sometimes thousands of other writers who have queried that agent or editor.
On several occasions, I've received a personal message from a fellow writer ranting about how mean an agent was about his/her work in a rejection letter. When I asked the author if I could see the letter (because I've never seen a mean rejection yet and was intrigued) I discovered it was nothing more than a typical form rejection--well crafted to appear personal, but not personalized at all. The writer was creating a slight in his/her mind that didn't exist. In one case, I was able to produce the exact same letter with identical wording that I had received in response to my own submission to that agent months earlier.
Because I'm only one person with one person's limited experience, I want to share some other writers' views on handling rejections.
Jeremiah Tolbert is a science fiction writer and editor for Escape Pod. I love his article, An Editor's Perspective on Rejection (Click on title to read). Mr. Tolbert addresses his approach to rejection as both a writer and an editor. His take? It's not personal and don't expect a rejection to be writing advice.
Satire author Simon Haynes wrote an article on this subject called, Rejection of the Literary Kind, which should be required reading for unpublished writers seeking representation.
Mr Haynes proposes that the road to publication can be pictured something like this:
Mr. Haynes also addresses a recurring theme in my conversations with writer. Often, I am asked why an agent doesn't tell a writer what is wrong with the work. I know of several agents who used to do that, but had such negative responses from a few writers, they've stopped giving feedback on anything but fulls and even then, they are careful because some writers fire angry responses back. I find it hard to believe, but there are agents who have received death threats because of rejections. Sickening.
On this subject, Mr. Haynes writes:
Of course, agents who gave honest feedback would be swamped by a tsunami of vitriol from aggrieved and hurting writers, which is why they don't do this.
Literary agent Nathan Bransford is one of my favorite bloggers when it comes to helping a writer handle the hardships of the road to publication. He addresses how to respond to rejections in his blog post, About Those Follow-Up Questions After a Rejection...
Mr. Bransford explains why he gives form rejections and doesn't respond to questions regarding his rejections:
I know. My standard query rejection letters are just as ambiguous and unhelpful as every other agent's (except that if you personalize your letter to me I'll personalize mine back). I know you're left hanging, that you'd like some leads, some more info... anything more than what I'm able to give you.
But I'm sorry -- my response is my response. That's it. I get 6,000-7,000 queries a year. I can't provide tips or referrals or answer further questions to even a small portion of these, or else I'd do nothing but answer queries and query questions. I have to delete follow-up questions so I can move on with my day. I mean, I can't even respond to say I'm not responding, simply because that alone would be such a huge time suck. So I just delete them.
I guess my point is this: Yes, it's difficult for a writer to be told that the novel/book/story she has delved into her heart to produce is not right for an agent's list. Even so, a writer must learn how to deal with this rejection and use it in a positive way, not take it as a personal affront. Publishing is a business. A hard one. As the old saying goes: "The only thing all published authors have in common is that the didn't give up."
One of my books is in submission with publishers. Realistically, I will receive rejections (my agent will be receiving them as well. See? Agents get rejection letters too). How will I handle it? The same way I handled agent rejection letters. I understand that it is not me the editor will be rejecting, but my book. Not all my books--just this one. And I've got a lot more books in me.
I believe that in order to make it, all writers, new or established, must believe in themselves and their talent.
Hold those rejections at arm's length and don't let them close to your heart.
Do you have a technique/trick/tip for handling rejection? I'd love to hear about it in the comments.
Have a beautiful week,
Mary Lindsey writes paranormal fiction for teens and adults. Prior to attending University of Houston Law school, she received a B.A. in English Literature with a minor in Drama. Mary is represented by Joan Paquette of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency.