Writing Tip #6: Surviving Rejection

Rejection is everywhere, especially in the publishing industry. Even if you have your critique group, a handful of beta readers, and a couple of freelance editors go through your manuscript, there’s no guarantee your story will ever be accepted by a publisher or agent.

Sad but true.

In fact, even if the acquisitions editor loves your book, if she can’t sell it to the marketing team, she won’t buy it. Everyone has to be on board. Not an easy feat to accomplish.

So, what should you do when you receive a rejection letter from an agent or editor? Cry, swear, punch your pillow—just don’t send them a nasty note saying they don’t know what they’re talking about or that they’re really missing out on something big. Don’t post something nasty about them on a loop or blog. This is a small industry, and there’s a good chance it’ll get back to them, especially if they have Google Alerts set up whenever their name is posted online. Not to mention, whatever you put on the Internet stays out there. Forever.

Another thing you should do is analyze why you may have received the rejection in the first place. Aside from the obvious, like maybe your writing isn’t up to snuff, what else could cause an agent or editor to reject a manuscript?

-The agent/editor just bought/signed a similar book or writing style.
-She can’t quite place the story in a category, so she doesn’t know how to market it.
-She has an overload of paranormals (or whatever genre you write) on her list this year.
-She’s seen too many similar stories.
-While your story is well written, it doesn’t stand out.
-You write romance, and the agent only represents a genre with romantic elements—nothing overly romantic.
-She is new and still trying to find herself and her place in the industry.
-She doesn’t like your style or voice.
-She sees a resemblance between your hero and her ex-husband.
-She hates prologues (even if your genre generally has a prologue).
-Your heroine is too much like her ex best friend, the one who ran off with the agent’s husband, leaving her children fatherless and forever scarred.
-She hates dogs, and your heroine brings hers wherever she goes.
-She doesn’t like first person narration.
-She doesn’t like such dark fiction. Violence, blood, and gore give her nightmares.
-She feels you skimp on the sex scenes.
-She didn’t have time for her morning cup of coffee.
-She hates her job, life, and all humans.

There are far too many reasons an agent or editor may reject a manuscript, other than the writing wasn’t good enough. So, if you’re confident the writing isn’t the issues, let it go.

This is a very subjective business. What one person loves, others will hate and vice versa. You just have to hit the right person, at the right time, with the right material. Easy peasy. Yeah, right.

All you can do is continue on. Keep sending out queries, but don’t wait for this manuscript to hook someone. In the meantime, start working on your next book. Maybe the book you’re querying isn’t the one that will get your foot in the door. Maybe it’s this next novel. You’ll never know until you try.

You can survive rejection, and you’d better get used to it, because you’ll get a lot of rejection in this industry, even if you’re a fantastic writer. Grow thick skin. Trust in your ability. And write.

What have you learned from the rejections you’ve received? How did you handle that first rejection? How do you handle rejection now?

Lynnette Labelle

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