by: Joelle Charbonneau
Rejection well and truly sucks. Yep. No matter how experienced you are at this part of the writing process, hearing “No, thanks” or the dreaded “I’m not passionate about the project” stings. I have lots of those kiss-offs sitting in my drawers and somewhere on my hard drive. How about you?
As a professional actress/singer, I have received lots of rejections. (Lots is actually a serious understatement, but you get the point.) Yes, I’m a complete masochist in my career choices. I’ve been an actress, singer, model and now a writer. If there is a career field riddled with rejection, I’ve taken a stroll across it. That bizarre choice has sort of made me an expert in getting rejected. Which is good. Rejection exists at every level of the writing business. You have to develop a thick skin because rejection is never going to go away. Unpublished authors and published authors alike face rejections. Shall we count the ways?
1) The Great Agent Search: This quest for an agent often lands most authors the largest number of rejections because there are a lot more agents who accept unsolicited queries. The saying “finding an editor is easier than finding an agent” is often true. Of course, most editors don’t take unsolicited manuscripts so that door can be closed without an agent. A total Catch-22. Sigh!
2) The Even Greater Editor Search: Once you’ve scored an agent, or you submit to an editor that doesn’t require the agent connection, there are more rejections.
3) The Reviews: The grass always looks greener on published side, but published authors can get rejected over an over again on a published book. Be it major review publications or reader opinions on Amazon.com, reviews can be huge morale killers. I faced these as a performer and am already chewing my nails off in anticipation of the reviews on my first published work….and that is still five months away.
4) The “This isn’t your best work” or “We are going in a different direction” Rejection: Published authors often get these lines from their editors or agents who have in the past loved their writing. Yeah…these really sting.
And that is just the tip of the rejection iceberg. Have I depressed you yet?
Unfortunately, the rejection in the publishing industry is real and often very painful. But I’ll tell you a couple of secrets. The rejections can be great motivators to prove the naysayers wrong. I found that each rejection made me more determined to improve my writing and submit my best work and I became a much stronger writer as a result.
Rejection secret number two: often the rejection you receive isn’t even about you. If you are busy querying agents, I’m guessing that your ‘dream’ agents are the ones representing the big names in your genre. They have deals listed in Publishers Marketplace every week. They are awesome. They are also not looking for new clients…not really. Sure, they take queries from new authors and say they are looking. They might sign one new client a year. Often they don’t sign any. So they are looking for you to be a writer that they just can’t turn away for any reason…and they are going to look for reasons. Executive editors – same story. Sometimes the low person on the totem pole, who doesn’t have the flashy author, is the one you need to be querying. Even then, sometimes you just don’t have the marketing hook. You can’t help those things. All you can do is write the best book you can and wait for the stars to align.
And not to depress you further, but that alignment might take years upon years to happen. If you are going to survive in this subjective business, you have to learn to roll with the punches. And when the rejection is starting to get to you – bump off a character in particularly compelling and gruesome way. It’s cheaper than a therapist. Trust me. That’s what I do.