One of the hardest parts about writing is dealing with rejection. Unless you’ve written the next great American novel, you might be dealing with a lot of it. Rejection is a big part of the writing journey, and it can get so many people down to the point where they feel like quitting.
I’ve worked with several editing clients who’ve started off by sending me some version of an email telling me that they’re ready to give up. They’ve received countless rejections and maybe they should just stop.
I usually end up talking to them about why they started the story in the first place and what they love about it. Then I talk to them about not giving up if they believe in their story.
That’s the thing about getting rejections, they can cripple you from furthering your writing career. I know when I got my first few rejections, I wanted to take my toys and go home. Then I developed a thicker skin and I grew sort of okay with them.
Rejections stop stinging so much after a while, but I’m not sure they ever stop being discouraging, even the nice ones. So here are a few things to remember the next time you get one.
Everyone experiences rejection
I know this is a hard one to remember when your rejections are about to reach the triple digits and you’re wondering why you started on this depressing road in the first place. But it’s the truth. All writers have rejections, even the biggest writers. J.K. Rowling, John Green, Veronica Roth, Stephen King they’ve all experienced it.
I know it probably doesn’t take the sting away, hey, I’ve been there, but it is nice to think about how these were authors who were turned down by agents and editors and went on to become huge successes, despite the rejections. Stephen King even kept up with his rejection letters, which leads me to my next point.
Rejection doesn’t mean it’s the end
I don’t know about you guys, but when I got rejections, many times I wanted to quit. It’s hard to keep seeing them in your inbox, especially when it was on a full and with an agent you were really hoping for. So if you’re like me, you may need a few hours to a few days to pull yourself up again and send out more queries.
That’s okay, take your time. The agents are still going to be there.
A rejection doesn’t mean it’s the end. A hundred rejections don’t mean it’s the end. Only you can decide when it’s time to put a project aside and start on a new one. I encourage people to keep going rather than quit because many times, the writer just hasn’t found the right agent or editor. I queried for eight months, before I found the right agent.
It’s okay to not listen to feedback in rejections
There are a lot of agents who send standard rejection letters. I’ve seen my fair share of them. Then there are the ones who send a rejection with feedback. If you get feedback from an agent, it’s tempting to take it and run with it, before really thinking it through. Feedback can be a big deal, especially if the agent really liked your work but doesn’t feel it’s ready. But there are agents who GET your work, and agents who like your work. Remember, agents got where they are by being smart and knowing the markets. If they send you feedback, especially an R&R, they really saw something in your work. Just make sure you're not too quick to implement or dismiss feedback without really giving it some thought.
It’s important to only dive into feedback, or an R&R, if you really feel what the agent is saying is right. If you don’t feel like it’s right for your book, don’t make the changes. When I was querying, I had an agent send me some feedback about changes and one of them was really big. I also didn’t agree with it, but I did think about it for a while, because it’s AGENT feedback. It just wasn’t right for my story, and I’m thankful I didn’t make that specific change. However, I doubt I would've gotten my current agent if that other one hadn't offered the R&R to me. Her insight was invaluable. Remember, you know your story better than anyone else does. Be open to feedback, especially from those who know the business, but also listen to your instincts.
One day you’ll be grateful for the rejections
This one sounds weird, I know, but it’s true. There were several agents I really wanted when I was querying. A few of them requested partials or fulls from me. Then rejected the book. A few of them wanted to see other stuff I had written, but I wasn’t ready to give up on my current project, because I FELT it was the one.
When I got the rejections from the ones I wanted the most, it was worse than when I got rejections from agents I wasn’t totally sold on. But now looking back, I’m thankful for the rejections.
The agent that I ended up signing with totally got my story. She loved it like I did, and that’s why she wanted it. And that’s ultimately what I wanted in an agent. Not just someone who would be there for one project, but someone who loved my writing and would be there for them all.
And I know that when my agent finds a home for my book (that’s right I said when not if, power of positive thinking. You listening, Universe?) I’ll be thankful for the rejections I’m currently receiving and will receive from publishing houses.
So yeah, the rejections suck, but when you reach the end of the journey, and you sign with someone terrific who loves your work, it’s worth it. Don’t stop sending out queries until you feel it in your gut that it’s time to. And even then, send out one more.