Note: I’m totally recycling this post from 2012 on rejection. It’s been on my mind recently as I’ve seen some butt-hurt whining around the Intarwebz lately from thin-skinned little crybabies who were told “no.” If you or someone you know needs their boo-boos kissed, you’ve come to the wrong place. We don’t do that kind of thing here. The bartender keeps a tube of this around, though. I dare you to ask them for it.
Without further ado, I present a retro post on this very topic, edited for updates.
It’s Not Personal, It’s Business
It happens to every writer. Every single writer gets a rejection letter for something at some point. Your favorite author? Rejected. Someone you know whose work is utterly brilliant and you can’t in a million years see how they could ever be rejected? Yep, them too.
Even people who are already repped get rejections for some of their new ideas, so don’t go thinking that once you’re accepted by an agent everything is going to be fine and dandy and you’ll never have to deal with rejection again. From bestselling novelists to not-yet-pubbed writers, rejection happens to everyone.
And you know what? To quote the Godfather, “it’s not personal, it’s business.”
The vast majority (and I’m talking like 99.8% here) of rejection letters aren’t personal. Again, if you’ve made a complete ass out of yourself or are known to be a complete stalker jerkwad, there might be a bit of “personal” thrown into your rejection, but that’s on you. You earned that. The rest of the time, though? Strictly business. (We’re not going to talk here about shit that should have been rejected outright/never have seen the light of day and was accepted instead of your shit. That’s a blog post for another time.)
It’s hard not to take it personally. Believe me, I know the feeling well. It’s hard not to get discouraged. But take a long, hard look at your letter(s). If they’re anything like “thank you but it’s not right for me/my catalogue/etc.” or “I don’t believe I’m the best person to represent this” or “I didn’t fall in love with this” or “I have to be very careful about the projects I take on and this just doesn’t fit,” here’s a hint. These are FORM REJECTIONS.
Now, if your letter says something specific like, “I couldn’t connect with the main character” or “I didn’t understand _______” or “I love your voice and your concept but _______,” these are generally personalized rejections. Now, “personalized” does not mean the rejection is personal. It means it was written specifically for you, not about you. That’s the difference here.
A rejection letter is rejecting your work, not you as a person, and that’s really what you have to keep in mind. I’ve read several blog posts lately from wannabe writers crying (angrily in some cases!) about how they’ve been rejected so many times and no one loves them and and and….
As I said before, if you’ve gotten more than ten rejections for a particular project, you might want to look to a few things. You don’t just keep querying with your work thinking all is well. Read your rejections carefully. Form rejection? Okay. Suck, but okay. Try someone else until you hit double-digits. Once you hit double-digits, try revamping things. Your query letter, your work, your choice of agent…there’s lots of things you can tinker with.
If it’s a personalized rejection, PAY ATTENTION to what they say. If they say your voice needs work, study up and revise. If they say your pacing is slow, revise. If they say your concept is played out, revise (or trunk, or resub to someone else).
Upon rejection, allow yourself a day to mourn. It’s a traumatic experience, form rejection or no. Do not post an angry rant naming the agent on your blog. Do not angrily upload your opus to Createspace in an effort to “show them.” (Hint: they’re not going to notice or care, I promise you.)
Notice the part about anger up there. Yeah, rejection sucks. It always hurts no matter how gently it’s done (and the majority of agents put a great deal of time and effort into making their form rejection as painless as possible knowing this), and it’s hard not to be angry about that. But suck it up and try harder. Try again.
Or don’t. I mean, the less you try, the bigger chance someone else has to be accepted.