Here’s the deal: everyone gets rejected. Everyone. You. Me. Jesus. All of us at some stage will be told ‘Nope. Not for me, thanks.’ And you know what, it’s okay.
No, honestly, it is.
Okay, so rejection sucks, and every time a new form rejection lands in your email a little piece of your soul dies. But it really doesn’t have to be that way. Use the rejections as a way to develop as a writer. If nothing else, it’ll help you develop a thicker skin.
Most rejections are form rejections. This means that they are a generic line that the publisher or agent sends to pretty much everyone they reject. They usually read quite pleasant, like below:
‘Dear X, thank you for submitting your novel to us. Unfortunately it’s just not right for us at this time, but another agent may be a better fit. Good luck, Agent Z’
The tricky thing with really well written form letters is that, to the new and inexperienced, it can be hard to tell that they are form letters. But trust me, when you get enough of them you’ll be able to smell them through the envelope.
Sometimes you’ll get a personalised rejection. This is a step up from a form rejection and usually comes on the back of partials or fulls, and generally talks a little more in depth about the reasons the book wasn’t right, often with a suggestion or two on what needs work, and often an invitation to resubmit after a rewrite.
Some rejections hurt more than others – like that query to the agent of your dreams that you spent months researching and preparing for, only to get a one line form rejection from their assistant, or those horrible ones that suggest you take a course in creative writing, or maybe learn to speak English.
Most agents and publishers use a form rejection, or a ‘no response means no’ method. This is out of necessity for the amount of queries they receive, but also because of author reactions. I would love to say that I’ve never seen an author meltdown, but I have, and it aint pretty.
Agents and editors don’t owe authors anything when it comes to submissions. If they don’t like your work, they DO NOT have to give you reasons why. I’ve seen far too many new writers think it’s acceptable to write back to an agent or editor to ask why they didn’t want their book, or to have a rant, or to question their judgement. This is pretty much always a terrible idea. Not only does it make you look bad, and questions your professionalism, but people in the industry talk to each other, and word gets around. No one wants to work with a jerk, especially a demanding, self-important jerk who’s as in love with their words as they are with themselves.
Some people can go so far as to ruin their career before it even starts. A while ago I talked about Tales of a Rejection Queen, and how the initial sharing of rejection tales turned into something altogether less professional. The website is down now, but cached on the internet forever for those who really want to look. This was not the way to react to rejections and it did no one any favours. That said, I can understand the frustration when something you have worked on and believe in is rejected. It hurts. But this is an industry where everything is subjective, and there are always going to be people who don’t like what you do.
If you really want to see some horrible rejections, Susie Smith has compiled a wonder list over at http://susiesmith13.tripod.com/id12.html
My favourite from that list:
“I’m sorry, Mr. Kipling, but you just don’t know how to use the English language.” Editor of the San Francisco Examiner to Rudyard Kipling
So, what’s the best way to deal with rejection?
Work harder. Look at your work, I mean REALLY look at it from an outsiders perspective. What needs changed, what needs improved. Is is REALLY good enough? Take each rejection as a sort of evaluation. A couple of people might say no, but when you reach double figures with just form rejections to count, then you need to look at the work, at the query letter you wrote, where can you improve?
And don’t give up. I had one book that garnered over 125 rejections, I loved it and really believed in it, so I didn’t give up, even when I would have advised someone else to. Five years of hard work and revisions later, and that book is coming out next year.
The only real advice I can give you about rejection is this : get over it.