Rejection. What a grim and depressing idea. The word itself seems cold and desolate. Whether you are an actor auditioning for a favorite role, or a single guy with a crush on the woman in the next cubical, no one likes to get rejected.
So, you want to get something published? Prepare yourself for a slew of rejections.
Dear Sucky McSukington,
I’m afraid there is no way in hell I can represent your lame-ass novel. What were you thinking? Your query has all the interest of a moldy dish of milk toast, and your main character acts as if he is infested with fleas. I tried to read the chapters you included, but your narrative style made me throw up in my mouth a little.
Please refrain from sending me any of your future efforts, and hang on to that day job for dear life, I beg you.
Agent Awesome from The Best Literary House
Ok, you caught me. I made that up. I have racked up an impressive amount of rejections so far with my novel, Ghost in the Park, but they have all been very polite. The thing is, when you get a rejection, no matter how nicely written, it feels like that example I just made up.
“My book sucks! I am the most horrible writer east of the Mississippi! I should burn everything I ever wrote immediately!”
We’ve all been there. I bet even Stephen King has the odd moment when he thinks his writing is atrocious. It’s part of the beast, so get used to it, and remind yourself that it’s ok to feel that way. Speaking of Stephen, he got a slew of rejections before he got published too. Yes, the King of horror reportedly had so many rejections that he put up a spike on the wall to hang them all up. I keep asking my fiancé where my spike is, but he thinks I’m joking.
I have had enough rejections that I’ve lost count, and don’t have the will to count them all up for you. Many are form letters, but the ones that aren’t don’t say the same things. For example, one respected agent called my writing “poised and polished” while another suggested I hire a professional editor and then they might be willing to take another look. Most were form letters which stated that it wasn’t their cup of tea, but that I should keep trying and maybe it would be someone else’s cup of tea. So, what do I do?
“My writing sucks so I should burn it in the parking lot! Wait, it’s on my computer…I’ll burn my computer!”
No, of course not. What you do is you keep trying. Don’t change anything in the book unless you are getting the same crit from more than one source. Do polish up your query letter if it isn’t getting enough action, and take a good look at the first chapter as well. That query and the first chapter may be all an agent sees, so it has to shine like the sun.
I rewrote my query. The first was decent, I’d studied and done my homework. The new one, with the help of the brave souls at Absolute Write, got two full requests from a test run of five queries. One was eventually a rejection, the jury is still out on the other. Much better action from the new query and I wish I’d known about the critiquers at AW when I started. Then I had to face the fact that my first chapter sucked rabid wombats. It also got a major re-write.
When rejections are getting you down, remember that you are in good company. J. K. Rowling got many publishers telling her to shove off before a small publisher decided to go for it based on the advice of his 8 year old daughter. Chicken Soup for the Soul, a mega-seller, reportedly had 140 rejections before it got published. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is said to have had 121 rejections. And Stephen King’s Carrie? The story goes that after 30 rejections he threw it in the trash, and his wife fished it out. He went back to rejection-land and eventually got it published.
What do you do when the rejections are rolling in fast and furious and you want to throw your novel in the trash? Write the next book! And by next, I do not mean a sequel to the first. Write something completely different, and then query that book. If you get an agent for that, you can then say, “Hey, I got this other book in the trunk of my car…” Carrie was not the first book Stephen King wrote, it was the fourth, from what I hear.
I am half way through my second book, and if I don’t get an offer for Ghost, then I’ll start peddling the second. And if necessary the third.
If you want to be published then you cannot let rejections get you down. Sure they hurt. I’d rather have weasels nest in my underwear than open one more rejection. You put your time, your brain, and a little piece of your soul into your writing, and when someone rejects the book, it feels like they are rejecting you. Let it hurt. Cry into your beer for a moment, and then evict the weasels from your underwear and carry on.
Am I published yet? Yes, actually. Since my mission to get published started last September, I’ve had two short stories published, and I got paid and everything. Is Ghost published? No, but I’m not done yet.
Never give up! Never Surrender! By Grabthar’s hammer, by the sons of Worvan, Ghost shall be published.
Thanks for the encouragement… I was headed down the wrong road, but write I will!!
Good for you!
Hey, congrats on having two short stories published! At least you are writing, and you have a completed novel and more. Have you considered self-publishing?
Hi June! Yes, I can always self publish, but I’m not in a hurry. My plan is to give it at least a couple years trying to get trade published, then look into digital houses, then consider self publishing. It’s a slow process, so I’m trying not to get impatient.
Yeah, you need skin as tough as a rhino and the persistence of a dog with a bone. I shopped my manuscript for a year before I managed to land an agent. He shopped it for another year without success. I pouted and licked my wounds for a while and then began again. Lo and behold I sold the thing. You just gotta keep at it.
Good for you! The ones who succeed are not the ones who never falter, they’re the ones who get up and never stop.
Great advice. I am glad you aren’t giving up. I think that is what really leads to success. I too am a Hoosier writer and am just now getting serious about sending submissions of my creative writing and am working on a book. In other words, I’m building a thick skin. 🙂
Good for you! Make sure you head over to the Absolute Write forums. Their “share your work” section is great for getting both advice and skin thickening.
My English professor always introduces famous authors to the class and what they all have in common is rejection. Like you said, the important thing is to keep trying. I’ll do my best to keep that in mind.
Never give up! Never surrender!
This post made my day 🙂 I love writing and want to get published someday, but the idea of having to throw my heart out there, calling attention to something I have produced, has been freaking me out a little xD I’m used to being in more behind-the-scenes kind of roles, like doing stage crew for school plays. Your post makes it seem less scary, and I even laughed a few times. Good luck with your book!
Don’t panic! You get used to the “no-s” and your skin gets thicker. Then when you get a “yes,” it’s even more exciting!
So much agony, so much ecstasy! I am fascinated by the pains that writers put themselves through, and grateful. No writers. No books to read! Good luck.😀
It’s horrible and wonderful all at once. There are certainly times when I understand the saying, “Writers write because they have to, not because they want to.” Why else would we put ourselves in the path of so much criticism and rejection?
And also, the shitty thing about sales if you don’t believe your product like 100 % stand by it take a bullet for it vouch for your soul for it, you’re probably not going to make the sale. I am only saying that from my own personal experience where I was forced to go to business to business peddling energy contracts. I knew they were ripping people off so I never made one sale. I feel you would take a bullet for this book. keep fighting the good fight!
Too true. If you don’t believe in your product, you don’t stand a chance, regardless of what that product is.
I was wondering if you’re a pisces too? I am not good at fudging some details for a 401k, I’d rather sell second hand items from a flea market bought from a thrift store, lol.
I used to work in Sales and I was a Theatre major. For someone as sensitive to criticism as me… I have no idea why I kept going back for me. Not the sales, that was stupid gig. But, we’re still all pushing a product. We’re pushing ourselves. So, yeah it hurts when it sounds like they’re saying you suck because it feels like you’re selling you. But, when I first saw a play at Miami University I was with my mom and I wasn’t even a Theatre Major yet I said to her, Mom, I am going to be on that stage. My first didn’t go so hot but my friend so what? Just keep doing it over and over again. A year later I was up on that main stage. It’s feeling of great glory, especially when you’re saying suck it to the ones who made you feel so small in the first place. Thanks for your inspiration. You’ve got a new fan.
I was also a theatre major. It seems to me that auditioning and querying a book are both geared to make one feel personally rejected, even if that isn’t really the case.
Yeah, I was a creative writing major first and their criticism was like day care compared to theatre. Shit. Where are you from btw, you don’t strike me as american, Am I wrong?
Thanks for sharing this. I’m always re-invigorated and encouraged when reading your posts. I haven’t queried a novel yet, but I’ve had my share of rejections on short stories. Most of the time they’re the form, standard rejection letter and that sucks the worst because I feel like it’s so bad didn’t even merit someone typing in a criticism or encouragement or anything, but occasionally I’ll get some encouragement or even an acceptance and that keeps me going. I figure the more I write, the more stuff I can submit and thus the better odds I have of getting anything published. I wish you luck in your query process. Thanks for sharing.
You’ve got the right attitude. Try to remind yourself that these people get so very many queries everyday, that most don’t have time for more than a form letter. Heck, many don’t respond at all.
Reblogged this on Message in a Blogger.
Thanks for the reblog!
Thank you thank you thank you thank you. Thank you for the encouragement/kick-in-the-pants. Thank you for introducing me to Absolute Write. I shopped my first book around to a handful of publishers 20 years ago and then gave up. Having kids was a great excuse to put my writing ambitions on the back burner, but I’m back in the game this time. I’ve just finished another book, and I’m not going to be so easily defeated this time.
Absolute write is a great place for advice, ideas, and just the companionship of other writers. Their “Share your work” section, especially “Query letter hell” is invaluable. Congrats on being back in the game! It’s never too late!
I always enjoy your writing! And I hope to someday write something worth reading, Until that day, I will take your words to heart! Never Surrender!!!
Good for you Tina!