Monday, July 12, 2010

We're Just Not That Into You - Why I've Stopped Obsessing Over Rejection Letters

One of the first and hardest steps on the road of a writer is getting used to the idea of rejection. Getting that first rejection letter can be considered a milestone though, an event to celebrate. When you really think about it, the first taste of rejection gives you more in common with every other successful writer on the shelves today. You should feel proud. Giddy.

Then comes that second rejection and Kapow!!
Those thoughts aren’t comforting anymore and get replaced by more scathing ones…

You suck.
Your writing sucks.
And gee, are those crow’s feet around your eyes getting deeper or what?

My experience with rejection has been much like that. I’ve gotten form rejections and good rejections. Rejections that have made me want to work harder. And rejections that have made me want to go on a margarita and dark chocolate binge. And a little known fact about me – most of my rejections have come to me on a Friday. Usually after an inspiring critique group meeting or day of writing. Just when I’m feeling at one with the whole crazy publishing biz, the rug gets pulled out from under my feet. Thudding door stop snail mails. Quiet, stealthy e-mails. Reject. Eject. No matter how they came to me, the effect was the same – ouch.

Of course, now that I have an agent none of this should bother me, right?

Excuse me while I spit take.

Oh sheesh, it sure has! But as with any life experience once you get past the sting, surprising feelings bubble up.

On my recent trip to NJ, I had the privilege of meeting face to face with my agent. On a very hot, hazy early afternoon in NYC we chatted over salads about my writing career. A week prior to our meeting I’d found out we had FIVE passes (a much nicer word than rejection, btw) on my manuscript. I was glad I’d had a week to get used to that idea. It sure was a doozey of an e-mail to open, and while I didn’t collapse into a chocolate binge to numb the sting, I sent out a few e-mails to writer pals who I knew would tell me everything was going to be okay. A week later, I was able to look at it, somewhat objectively.

My big question to my agent was when should I go back to the manuscript and apply some of the suggestions. Her answer: it was way too early to concern myself with that. And while my jaw didn’t drop, my inner critic was stymied for the moment. What do you mean? It questioned. See, if I’d gotten a rejection letter on my own, I would have instantly sent out an e-mail/snail mail thanking said editor for their consideration and if I tweaked, would they reconsider? In my experience, I’ve never gotten a “sure, send it on back”, which leads me to believe, comments, however helpful or complimentary, are really just a pubs way of saying “We’re just not that into you.” And that’s okay.

As I ventured back to the ferry port that day through the manic, thumping streets of Manhattan, I had a revelation. My work will find a home. Those pubs that passed were just not that into me. Someone, somewhere will be into my work. Will fall in love with my characters. Will believe this story can stand on its own and that people will want to read it. A kind of peace came over me then.

Or maybe it was just delirium from heatstroke.

I’m not saying that I’m looking forward to another pass, but that I believe I’ll be able to keep it in perspective. And keep writing.

What are some of your revelations about rejections/and or the publishing biz?

*Photo Credit: Me, right after my agent lunch, on the Jersey side of the river, trying in vain not to melt


  1. When I'm browsing through the bookstore or the library, I find just as many books I don't want to read as ones that I do. They just don't appeal to me in particular. But someone out there really loved them, and they will find readers, too.

    If I was an agent or an editor, I would have a difficult time representing those books, because I couldn't be their biggest cheerleader. I couldn't support them the same way I would with a book I really love. (you know, the one you can't help recommending to everyone?)

    So I really understand "Like the writing, but this is just not a good fit for me." You want your agent, and later your editor, to be your biggest supporters, too.

  2. Great comment Lily! This business is so subjective.

  3. Blogs are so informative where we get lots of information on any topic. Nice job keep it up!!

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  4. I enjoyed your blog post very much.

    Congratulations on getting an agent and getting to meet her. Those are huge steps. The right publishing company will come too. You're well on your way.

    Sometimes, I have a hard time convincing myself I am worthy to attempt writing books when I can't seem to sell anything but activities for Christian magazines and teacher guides. Still, I keep trying.

    What a crazy but fun-filled life.

    Linda A.

  5. Crazy. I get all my rejections on Friday too! Just got 2 more last Friday and had one slip into my inbox yesterday afternoon. *sigh*

    Congrats on getting an agent and waiting for that publisher to fall in love with your work. It will find a home! And please keep us posted so we can all live vicariously through you????

  6. After seven years of rejection letters from publishers, I am now looking for an agent to help me navigate this crazy business. And I'm finding those agent rejection letters much harder to take! As I wrote on my blog, I think it's because subbing to agents feels like trying to find a friend. What? You don't want to be my best friend? :)
    Thanks for your post.

  7. Thanks for the great comments everyone.

    Marry - There are so many great blogs out there - I have to limit my time or I'd be surfing instead of writing all day.

    Linda - All we can do is keep trying. It's worth it.

    Ammie - The Friday thing is crazy, right? Whenever I got an eject on a Friday I figured it was because said editor or agent was cleaning up before they left for the weekend!

    CL - I totally understand what you're saying. And you're right, an agent is like having a camrade, someone on your team, a friend. But we all have to keep it in perspective that there are many reasons for an agent or editor to take a pass - I think that's one of the hardest parts about this business!

    Keep writing everyone!

  8. Robin, you're singing my song.

    But I do agree with you. The same book usually doesn't hook everyone. SO while editor A may just not be into you, or editor, B, or editor C -- just wait until you get to editor LMNOP!

  9. J.A. - I'm definitely trying to look at the glass as half full. Some days are easier than others.

    I think seeing how nonplussed my agent was about five passes helped - I'm sure she wasn't jumping up and down, lol, but it helped me put it in perspective.

  10. Robin: Seems to me your revelation--that someone, somewhere will be into your work--has already come true. You landed an agent, goshdarnitall. Now, it's just a matter of time before the rest falls into place.

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