Dealing with rejection

No thank you; not interested at this time; it’s just not for us…how many of us fear this reaction to our writing when we send out a query letter or manuscript? If you are one of the intimidated, the terrified, the petrified who don’t send out queries or manuscripts because of fear of rejection, you should know that you are in very good company. Come join the club, pull up a seat and get comfortable. Let me introduce you around. Over there, by the fireplace – that’s H.G. Wells. That man over there, by the bar – George Orwell. The man over there, clowning around – Dr. Seuss.  Even the Diary of Anne Frank was rejected; some poor, misguided publisher said “the girl didn’t have a special perception of feeling”.  In response to the manuscript for Lord of the Flies, one flabbergasted publisher wrote “Good God, I can’t publish that!” So what’s the difference between you and these famous authors? They kept trying.

Having a manuscript rejected is the bane of a writer’s existence; it is the blight on the joy of our flight into imagination. Yet it happens to EVERYONE; no one is immune. Not every story is for everyone. The idea is to remember that it’s not personal. WE are not being rejected, just OUR manuscripts. Are they rejecting it because it stinks? Hopefully, not. Most reasons for rejection are that the manuscript is just not ready yet, or it’s at the wrong publishing house, or the publisher just published something a little too similar, the list of reasons can go on and on. Notice here that none of them said – you stink. It is highly unlikely that a writer will receive a rejection letter on a manuscript that is a personal attack. If that is what you are worried about, I would suggest you lay that fear to rest. Publishers receive many, many manuscripts and queries, they are bogged down with new authors and scores of unpublished material, and they don’t have the time to get personal with you.

Most of the time, a rejection letter is just a standard form letter; if you are one of the lucky ones who actually gets a personalized response, it might be smart to take the constructive criticism to heart.  So, before throwing it out, filing it or wiping your tears with it, it might be a good idea to take a look and see if there is a recurring theme, something that most of the publishers are pointing to.  Is the plot predictable, are the characters two dimensional, is the world you created unbelievable? If we are getting messages like this, then it may be that we have some work to do on the manuscript before we send it back out. Does this mean we should throw away all our hard work? Absolutely not! It just means we have a little editing to do.

It all boils down to attitude. We can look at a rejection letter as an attack, a criticism, a put-down, or we can look at it as a badge of honor, an acceptance into an elite club of soon to be famous authors. Paper your walls with them, burn them if you like, but don’t let them stop you.  If every author stopped writing because someone didn’t like their work, there would be no books. If you are a story teller, tell your story; if you are a historian, educate us; if you are a travel writer, take us to new and exciting places; just don’t stop, don’t let one letter, two letters, or even three hundred letters get you down.  There are only two directions to go when receiving a rejection letter, forward or dead stop; keep moving forward.

Just for a quick laugh, here is something I picked up at a writer’s conference in England:

Dear Editor:

Thank you very much for your recent rejection slip.  As it does not quite fit my present requirements, I am returning it.  This in no way reflects upon its merits. Don’t be discouraged.  I read your rejection slip with great interest, and I hope you’ll continue reading my work.

I appreciate your thinking of me and wish you the best of luck in placing your rejection slip elsewhere.


Just Another Writer

P.S.  Please forgive me for this printed note.  I’d like to comment on each rejection slip, but the large number I receive makes it impossible to answer each one personally.

7 responses to “Dealing with rejection

  1. I keep my rejection slips – 14 and counting! – as a reminder that only a year ago, I would have been too afraid to submit in the first place. They’ve all been form letters so far, but that’s okay.

    I started submitting only at the beginning of this year, when I was still an undergrad, a period when most people aren’t ready to be published. At least now, I have 14 different versions of “no thank you” behind me to prepare myself for whatever comes next.

  2. Ha! Enjoyed the read – thank you very much. Come visit me at http://www.creativewritinginstitute. Drop me a line (addy is on the site). Maybe we can guest blog, etc. Happy Thanksgiving!

  3. I like the sentiment – keep plugging away, the problem I find is that there are to few ‘independent’ publishing houses these days. The reality is that they are almost all part of a larger Group. In my two genre’s – scifi and historical – there is one publisher who deals with the first (Golanzc) and they are part of Random House. Read down the list of imprints owned by Random House and you quickly realise that the field is very limited. I now have enoug rejection slips to wall paper the smallest room in the house…

    In historical fiction there is, at least on this side of the Atlantic, the same problem, especially if you have written anything which is pro-Christian and not the usual set of twisted facts and outright lies currently being served up as “faction” by the publishing industry. No, I haven’t given up, I know the book I have written will, eventually, find a publisher, but it does get a little wearing.

    In fact, I like the idea of “rejecting” my next few rejections slips. Come to think of it, it will at least get me noticed…

  4. That was an unbelievable good, and inspiring piece! Thank you for your sharing with us!

  5. I like that attitude. I’ve yet to send in a query or ms.


    Coming from a sales background, I had to go through of nos to get a yes. If you have a great product, it’s just a numbers game. No means you’re closer to a yes than before. *IF* you have a great product. If I hoped to continue doing business with a client, I also had to have the ability to build a relationship, which takes genuine care and dedication. It helps to have a good personality, although not absolutely crucial.

  6. I heard that anything vaguely resembling a positive with a submission to a publisher should be viewed as a good thing. This doesn’t suit our needs at this time, but please send us other work you do – should be construed as one of the highest compliments possible in rejection language.

  7. It took me 11 years, 3 agents, 4 novels, and 15 almost offers before I found the perfect combination of book/agent/editor/and angel that led to my first deal.

    Hang in there. There are many ways to skin this particular cat, especially now, but if you feel traditional publishing is right for you, and you keep honing your craft, and reaching out to others in the biz, magic can happen.

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