Rejection is part of the writing business : it means, more than anything else, that you’re doing your job. No one (and I mean no one) gets through their career without getting rejected. But there are ways to make rejection work for you.
There are two crucial things to remember about rejection:
First, rejection stinks.
Second, you are going to be rejected.
Once you learn these two crucial things, you’re on your way to dealing with rejection in a positive way. Here is a list of ten ways to do that:
1. Remember that you’re not the only one.
Every writer has been rejected at some point in their career ‘ for just a few examples see the attachment to this list.
2. Look at your manuscript when it comes back and has been rejected..
* Does it look clean and professional? No? Then fix it.
* Are there spelling or grammatical mistakes? Fix them.
* Make sure you’re using a laser printer. If you don’t have one, go to the Internet caf’ up the street and print it there.
Remember that you are a professional and do what it takes to look like one. No, it’s not cheap, but it is important.
3. Learn to distinguish between ‘good’ rejections and ‘bad’.
A bad rejection is a form letter with no information at all included except ‘we’re not interested’. A good rejection can come in many forms:
* we love your writing, but the story doesn’t work for us
* we love the story, the writing needs to be tightened up
* we’re not interested in this story (or book, or article), but send us another
* any rejection letter that contains a personal or handwritten note, especially one with revision suggestions
* we like the story, but it (doesn’t fit our publishing program), (is too local in interest), (isn’t what readers are currently looking for)
* we already have a book or article coming out on the same subject
Editors are extremely busy people and if they’ve taken the time to write a short note or to give you any kind of personal indication of their interest in you or your work, it is a positive thing. They’ve placed you above the run of the mill writer and are interested in your work.
4. If you are consistently getting rejections that are nothing more than form letters ‘ bad rejections * then check, check again and then check once more that you’ve:
* sent the manuscript to the right person
* spelled everybody’s name correctly
* sent it to the right address
* sent it to the right publisher ‘ that is, someone who publishes mysteries with a cat as the hero or paranormal romances or Christian literature
* not sent a copy of the manuscript with coffee stains on it
* not sent a manuscript that’s missing pages
* checked your grammar
* checked that you’re not using run-on sentences
* checked that your heroine doesn’t have red hair on page 3 and black hair on page 7
* had your critique group or partner take one more look at it
5. Once you’ve learned to distinguish between good and bad rejections, ensure that you consistently get good ones rather than bad.
Many of these good rejections come because you haven’t properly researched the market and you’re sending science fiction to a romance publisher or fiction about pets to a magazine that publishes only non’fiction. Think about these possibilities:
* if the rejection letter says we love your writing, but the story doesn’t work for us, read several copies of the magazine to make sure that you’re sending them stories that meet their needs
* if the letter says we love the story, but the writing needs to be tightened up ‘ do it
* if the letter says we’re not interested, but send us another, first read the publication to make sure you understand what they’re looking for and then send them another story
* if the letter includes revision comments and those comments make sense to you, make the revisions and send the story back
* if the letter says we like the story but it doesn’t fit our publishing program, is too local in interest, or isn’t what readers are currently looking for, do your research and find somewhere else to send it
* if the letter says we already have something coming out on the same subject, it means that you’re in the ballpark ‘ find another publisher and send it to them
6. Be realistic.
Writing a story or an article or a book isn’t easy and it doesn’t happen in a day. Once you’ve written the book, you have to market it (and yourself). And that definitely isn’t easy.. Or fast. Do not expect to sell your first story to the New Yorker or to get a million dollar advance for your first book and don’t be disappointed when it doesn’t happen.
7. Celebrate your rejections ‘ they mean you’re a writer.
Have a glass of wine or a dish of ice cream or buy yourself a new notebook or go for a walk on the beach.
8. Share your rejection with your fellow writers, your family, your friends.
My first reader LOVES my work and I show it to her first because I want a positive experience before I send it out into the cruel world. Remember that old saying? A trouble shared is a trouble halved? This is especially true of rejection. Share the pain with someone else, let them tell you how wonderful you and your work are, and then move on.
9. Don’t make it personal.
Your work was rejected, not you. The editor doesn’t think you’re a bad writer or a bad person, it simply didn’t work for that particular editor on that particular day. Sometimes editors have a bad day. Some editors don’t like cats or green houses or characters named Mel. There’s nothing you can do about this so don’t worry about it.
10. Don’t give up.
If you’ve got a manuscript that you still believe in, keep sending it out. It may be accepted on the fifth or eighth or twentieth try. Think about the writers of Chicken Soup for the Soul if you’re ready to give up. They had 140 rejections on that book proposal before it sold ‘ now it’s worth millions to them and to their publisher. They have 70 titles, 85 million copies in print in more than 37 different languages. They didn’t give up.