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 Publishers receive many, many manuscripts and queries, they are bogged down with new authors and scores of unpublished material, and they don’t have the time to get personal with you.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:
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.