My first rejections for my first novel manuscript came in this weekend, and I’m glad I have prepared myself for them. Discovering recent posts about rejection (some links to those here) and just being in writing groups for several years and getting a feel of this process was a big plus in the preparation. The only thing I wasn’t prepared for is the actual giddiness and . . . dare I say . . . elation I felt receiving them. For those who’ve done this before, you may never have felt this or don’t remember feeling this. I can only attribute it to me knowing that someone has read my work (other than my friends or my beta readers –which are, for me, friend-adjacent) and commented on it on a professional scale. And – surprise! – they didn’t say it was crap! That makes me feel good. It makes me feel hopeful. And it prepares me for the next wave of submissions and inevitable rejections.
For those who are about to start the query process (or even if you’re in it), here are a few tips and some motivation that may help you through it.
- Rejection is inevitable. It’s going to happen. Even though in 2015 there were over 300,000 books traditionally published*, there were probably 1,000x more books out there that were rejected. If you want to make a career at writing, getting rejected is one of the “job duties.” Every traditionally published famous writer has a rejection or several rejection stories. It happens; find a positive way to deal with it.
- Rejection does not mean you’re a bad writer. It could, but most often it doesn’t. Sometimes it means you’re not a good fit for that agent or publisher. Sometimes it means there’s a glut of your kind of book in the market. Think about it this way: think of all the hundreds of thousands of athletes you saw at the Opening Ceremonies of the Olympics. Most of them will not get a medal; and they are the best of the best.
- Rejection isn’t personal. You look at your book differently than an agent or a publisher does. An agent or publisher sees books as product. This product costs money to produce, so they need to readily see that your book will make enough money to recoup all of its costs and hopefully turn a profit. And a lot of how they determine which “product” gets picked has nothing to do with you. Writing a book may be a hobby/obsession/act of love and creativity, but publishing a book is business.
- Prepare for rejection. Because you know it’s gong to happen, it’s best to emotionally and mentally get in a space where you can deal with it in a positive way. This is different for everyone, whether it’s making a goal for rejections, or seeing the positives in rejection, whatever you do, don’t get depressed or give up!
- There are alternatives to rejection. You can self-publish your book, and there are a lot of options with self-publishing. (A great article about this is here.) There is a stigma about self-published books being a lower caliber than a traditionally published book, but it is slowly fading. The trick here is to make sure your MS is professionally edited and re-edited, your cover attracts attention (and makes sense), you know how to categorize your book, and that you know how to market or get some professional help with marketing. The closer your book is to a traditional published one, the more respect you can command on querying for your next book.
*Publisher’s weekly article