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How To Handle Rejection As A Writer

Rejection isn’t that bad.

A few rejections I’ve received before I decided to self-publish:

“Thanks for letting me take a look, but I’m going to have to pass.” – The Barone Literary Agency

“If you are receiving this message, it means your story either wasn’t a good fit for our agency, we already have something similar, or the hook isn’t strong enough. Thank you for considering our agency.” – Book Cents Literary Agency

“Thank you so much for querying me and giving me the opportunity to consider your manuscript. I’m afraid, though, that after reading your letter I just didn’t feel strongly enough to ask for more. I wish you the best of luck and much success with your writing career.” – BookEnds Literary

I could go on and on, but I think you get the point.

Up until four years ago, The most consistent thing about my writing career was the rejections coming in. I’ve gotten reject letters, emails, and phone calls for straight eight years and I must say… it’s a resounding feat because it shows resiliency. For gatekeepers who you’ve never met, to deny you to live out your passion could make anyone want to give up. I was one of them. But what if I told you that you shouldn’t feel bad at all? That you were actually an Ace in the hole for some people. As the self-proclaimed Reject Ambassador, I know a thing or two about keeping your spirits high in your literary journey.

Let us look at the word “No” for a second in terms of being rejected in the literary world. You might think it means “This isn’t good enough and I want nothing to do with it.” When in reality no in this context means, “No… not now.” The market is always changing so when it comes to agents, publishers, producers or whoever, they have to weigh the risks with the potential profit. If the risk is bigger than the profit, they’re not going to put their reputation, time, and most importantly their money into something that isn’t going to put them in the black. So don’t toss that Vampire versus leprechaun idea just yet. It might be the next thing to blow.

This is a business at the end of the day

That’s why when these agents and gatekeepers let you down, they let you down easy. You never know who you might need or work with in the future so they never burn those bridges. And you should do the same. So when someone tells you “no” you shouldn’t be discouraged.

When I was writing screenplays and pitching them to anyone with an email, I stumbled across an industry person that changed my whole view on getting rejected. His words were simple and to the point. He said, “No one gets fired for saying no.” That statement made my heart feel a little lighter. We always feel sorry for ourselves when a potential break doesn’t come through, but we never think about it from the perspective of the person taking all the risks.

The moment they say “yes” is the moment that everything changes for the both of you. They put everything on the line for someone who, for lack of better words, is a nobody, but a nobody they believe in. Would you do that for someone if the shoe was on the other foot? The decision isn’t as easy as you think. So again, it’s nothing personal and if you’re in this for the long haul, you may work with the very person who rejected you in the first place. It’s all about timing.

There are levels to rejection

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I’ve gone through almost all of them. Here’s a brief list of the one’s I’ve experienced.

  • No response rejection. This is when you send out your query letter to everyone and patiently wait for a response, but nothing comes. This is an indirect way of the gatekeeper saying no without saying anything. Maybe your story didn’t have a big enough hook or your query letter was off; who knows why your efforts went into the slush pile. But one thing we do know is that we have to stay consistent.
  • Motivation rejection. The next level of rejection is when the gatekeeper actual takes the time out to respond, but there’s a clue in the response. The clue is “keep going. You’re on to something, but it’s just not for me.”
  • The Right Path Rejection. This is when someone tells you, “No, I already have a project similar to this.” This is great news despite the rejection. It means that you’re writing something marketable and it can catch the eyes of the right people if the stars align.
  •  Back to the Drawing Board Rejection. I’m going to be honest here, this one stings and can make or break you some writers. This is when your query letter was interesting enough, and you get a request for the full manuscript. The whole time you’re on pins and needles because you’re one step to getting your career off the ground. A few weeks go by and you get an email and… REJECTED! But this isn’t just a simple no. A deep critique is done on your work and all the flaws are put on blast. Can you imagine? An industry insider telling you your precious piece of work isn’t good enough to see the light of day. The project you’ve spent weeks, months, or even years getting right and they tell you they don’t connect with your work. As heartbreaking as this might sound, we need this type of feedback if we ever want to get better.

Even the greats have been rejected

If anything, rejection should be worn like a badge of honor. A struggle that you’ve overcome to make it to where you want to be. We’ve all heard the war stories from literary greats. Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With The Wind was rejected 38 times before it was published. J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter was rejected by 12 publishing houses. William Saroyan received a whopping 7,000 rejections before selling his first short story. Even The Dairy of a young girl Anne Frank took on 15 rejections. The point is, we shouldn’t give up on what we love just because someone else doesn’t see our vision. Keep writing! Stay the course on your literary journey. One day you might inspire a generation of writers.

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