The Art of Rejection

Writing a book is hard. Revising it is harder. Sending it out for potential representation is deceptively easy. That’s because getting it back is the most difficult part of the process.

I actually enjoy looking for literary agents. It’s kind of like buying a house. You get to do research, see if it fits your needs, and tell others about your book. The best part is the fantasizing. If you’ve ever looked at a house before (or a car, I suppose), then you probably know what I’m talking about. You imagine yourself living there, thinking about what the living room will look like after you decorate or how to make the most space out of the kitchen. I’m not particularly handy, but I know people who can do this with broken down homes. That’s because what they see is that magic word: potential. To me, looking at possible literary agents is just like that. It is finding the potential.

Okay, admittedly this is not healthy. I know I am only opening myself up for disappointment, especially in the beginning stages. The best thing that can happen at that early point is they will ask for more manuscript. The worst is not to be rejected. The worst is to get no feedback at all.

The thing about rejection is that often times, even with an official rejection, you don’t necessarily get much feedback at all. It makes you start to wonder what you did wrong. I’ll tell you: it doesn’t matter. If they reject you because your writing is bad, take it as an opportunity to improve. If they reject you because they are not interested, take it as an opportunity to find someone who is. Agents and editors don’t reject you to spite you. They have better things to do with their time. And they don’t want to see you fail. They are agents and editors, not just because they are good at it, but because they love books. They want to see you succeed so you can populate the world with more beautiful writing. That is why I have come up with my Rules For Dealing With Rejection So I Don’t Get Discouraged:

Rule #1: Remember that most agents read your query, don’t charge a fee, and respond, even if it is in a form letter.

That’s it. That is my only rule. There are people out there who want you (and me) to succeed. They don’t have a job without writers. So they read what I am sure are dozens of queries a day, hundreds a week, perhaps even thousands a month. Often they reject. And that sucks for us authors, but they also have to deal with writers who don’t take the news so well. I saw a tweet from a literary agent specifying not to pitch to agents and editors on Facebook or with physical queries sent to their homes. He did not say this just as a friendly reminder. He said this because people do it. I even know of an agent who got pitched to in a bathroom!

My point is that rejection sucks. Dealing with rejection sucks. Fearing that you will never be an accomplished writer sucks. Thinking that you are worthless as a writer sucks. I know all of this because these thoughts go through my head each time I get a rejection. The thing is, I don’t fight it. I allow myself to feel bad for no more than five minutes before I remind myself of the most important thing to remember when writing to be published: Everyone’s been rejected. Stephen King put a nail on his desk that fell out because it was weighed down with so many rejections. John Green has been rejected. Hell, even J.K. Rowling has been rejected.

Those writers, and many more, have something else in common as well. They never gave up. And you writers who read this, I hope you don’t give up either. I won’t. I am not going to look at the eight rejections I’ve gotten, but rather at the six responses I haven’t gotten yet. And I am going to fantasize. And write.


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