Thursday, July 01, 2010

Does It Get Any Better?

I’m not sure if you can answer this, but I thought maybe some of your readers could. I’m just curious if you ever get past the rejection part of the query process.

I sent my first queries recently, and I have received four rejections so far. I know that’s not a lot (yet anyway), but those four have had an overwhelming negative effect on me. I’m really surprised it affected me so negative, because I read hundreds of post that informed me prior to sending the queries that the majority will be rejections.

My dilemma is this; I seem to have lost the joy to write anything. When I was writing my novel, I was divinely engrossed in doing so. I was so eager to see what was going to happen myself that I stayed up till 4am almost every morning writing (even though I had to wake up with my 2 year old and go to work). I continuously did research on writing, querying, etc. I loved it. After I sent my queries, I was excited every time I saw the light flashing on my blackberry. Then with each passing rejection, it felt like someone was twisting a knife in my gut a little more each time. Now, I literally hate opening my e-mail. I still have several more responses I’m waiting on, and I’m dreading them. It's like these rejections are pretty much a slap in the face. That I need to wake up and realize that I’ve never been any good. I feel like one of those singers on American Idol; you know the ones who sing ok, but still don’t make it to Hollywood. Because no matter how good they sound to themselves and their loved ones, to the world they just weren’t good enough to win.

So is this normal? Does every writer go through this when they are trying to get published? I just don’t understand why I literally can’t find the enthusiasm to write anything. I think I need the electronic form of Zoloft to bring me out of this writing depression. I would assume that electronic form would be an e-mail from an agent, in which they would tell me how much they loved my work. Something tells me though that FDA hasn’t approved that OTC yet, so until then, I’m in rejection hell.

I’m so sorry to hear about what you’re going through. No one said this business was easy and I think that in publishing there is definitely something to the saying “only the strong survive.” You’re right. I don’t know if I can really give you the answer to this. As an agent I have seen my share of rejections and I have definitely had days, weeks, and months where I wondered if I would ever sell anything again, if all editors were laughing at me and my submissions, or if I was better suited to vacuum sales instead of book sales. That being said, the work I was submitting wasn’t a work of my heart. Sure I loved it, but I wasn’t the one who wrote it. There’s no doubt that there’s a distinct difference between what an agent feels when getting a rejection and what an author feels.

I hope that a lot of our readers, both published and unpublished, pipe in today to lend their advice and support. What I can tell you is hang in there. Try to find a way to separate yourself from the submission and find the joy in writing again. Rejection is inevitably a part of this business and you’ll experience it at all stages of your career. You’ll get rejected before you ever find an agent, you’ll get rejected again before you find a publisher, and almost every author gets rejected once again, in some way or another, after publication. What you need to remind yourself is that these rejection letters have absolutely nothing to do with you. Heck, they might not even have anything to do with your writing. Instead of thinking of these letters as letters of rejection, think of them as part of your journey to publication. Each rejection is one step closer to achieving your dream. Go on to your next book and find that joy in writing again. Focus on your writing, not on what others are saying.



R.S. Bohn said...

I haven't submitted any queries. I have submitted a very large number of short stories, flash fics, etc to lit mags, online zines, and reviews. I absolutely have been where you were, afraid to open my email. One weekend in particular, I received notice of two contest losses, four rejections, and received a bad review on something that had been published. That was all during a two-day period.

It's just come down to numbers and time, for me. At some point, I had submitted enough and had enough rejections/losses that, while they still sting, I am able to move on pretty much immediately. I analyze the piece with a fresh eye to see why it might've been rejected, try to polish it if I think it needs it, and either re-submit it elsewhere, scrap it, and then I'm on to the next piece.

Also, getting out, taking a walk -- sort of cliche advice, but it works every time. A good half hour, at least. You'll come back ready to tackle the publishing world once again.

And also, those acceptances -- because they do eventually show up in your in-box -- will come. Like I said, time and numbers.

Good luck.

Anne Gallagher said...

I've been rejected 71 times, 16 of those with partial requests. In the beginning I had those same feelings you do. I couldn't write, couldn't find a coherent thought if it was thrown in my face. It took me a long while to realize I'm going through post-partum depression.

I just sent my 'baby' out into the big wild world, unsure of what would happen. I was nervous, anxious, depressed, had incredible mood swings when the requests for partials came in and then the darkest despair when they too came back rejected.

There is no magic pill. Somehow you just have to let it go. Put the queries out there and take them as they come. The best suggestion is to start another book. As hard as that sounds, it's really been, for me, the life saver in all the query madness.

I'm still getting rejected but at least I'm working on something else that may, in fact, be better than the last book.

Chin up. You'll get through this.

Barbara said...

Considering that you have spent your nights writing instead of resting, it could very well be that you are so worn out you cannot even FEEL the difference between exhaustion and frustration. It happens to me sometimes after a period of intense work that I feel insecure and/or weepy and all I need is a lot of rest, friends, family &c. to take my mind off things. Try my approach: go on a mini-holiday, meet up with good friends, celebrate that you have come this far. And once you feel like it, get back to writing. Send out another batch of queries when you feel like it. No pressure. There's plenty more where the first book came from. The race is not always to the swift but to those who keep on running. All the best from Germany, Barbara

Joely Sue Burkhart said...

Hugs to the writer asking this question. I think a lot of us have been at this point. It's sometimes hard to separate your "worth" as a writer from the query process for each individual book. Don't let the rejection/partial/full process become your validation as a writer, or you will be disappointed often. Find a support group of other writers who know what it means to sweat over a book, think it's your absolute best work, and get nothing but no after no. It happens to us all, and I guarantee when you look at this book in six months or a year, you'll be astonished at how much you would change in that "perfect" book.

The most important thing you can do right now is start writing the next book. If you love brainstorming and research, have fun with it. Do what brings your joy back. Don't allow yourself to dwell on those e-mails you're waiting on, or it will drive you nuts.

If you're writing the next book, you'll still be learning and growing. Sitting around waiting on queries for the other one gets you nothing but ulcers.

Jane Lebak said...

One of my college professors told me, "Most rejections boil down to 'I can't make a ton of money off this.'"

Later one he said to me, "Sooner or later you'll wear the folks down." :-)

Four rejections is not a lot. If you query ten times and get only form rejections, look at your query and ask another writer to look at any accompanying material you're sending. Sometimes it's as simple as fixing formatting problems that are making your work look unprofessional but which are invisible to your own email program.

In the meantime, try to write other things. Write short fiction or short articles and submit them to smaller markets, first to have a stream of little successes to buoy your spirits (it's lovely to get a check in the mail, even if it's for $5, because that translates to "I don't suck!") and secondly to have a little list of credits you can append to the bottom of your query letter. Try the Chicken Soup for the Soul and similar anthology markets, for example. They're a fast write (1000 words max) and they pay and at the end of it, you have a good writing credit and a book to hold.

Don't let the query process flush the joy from your writing. You're writing because you love your characters. Publication is a sweet extra.

Unknown said...

Yes, it gets better! In the beginning, it feels like every rejection is an informed and absolute judgment on your talent, the viability of your project, and indeed, your worth as a person.

But they're not. They're SO not.

I think on some level we always think we're going to be the exception. That as soon as we send our work out, someone will jump out and say THIS ROCKS! Instead of the much more common path of rejection and disappointment and, in many cases, a long hard slog.

Chin up. You'll figure out how to deal with it. In the meantime, if you haven't already, think about joining an online writing community like Absolute Write or Backspace where you can establish a support work of other writers dealing with the same issues you are.

Jenna Wallace said...

Rejection is never easy. It does get easier, but only as long as you accept that this is a business -- the business of writing. Each query you send is simply asking: Do you want to represent this book? And each rejection is a polite (usually) 'No, I don't'. It is not a judgement on your ability as a writer, or on your worth as a person. It is a business decision.

The simplest way to not get rejected is to stop writing. Would that be better for you?

I know this sounds harsh, but I have racked up my fair share of rejections. And yet I keep going, because it is my job and I love it. The alternative is to not do it at all and no pain is bad enough to make me stop altogether.

The best thing you can do is read the agent blogs that tell us over and over again that this is a subjective business and that the only way to get a 'yes' is to keep going. And then keep going.

B.E. Sanderson said...

I think rejection depression is something all writers have to go through early on - unless they've already grown rhinoceros hide some other way. What helped me was when someone asked me who I was writing for - them or me. Was I writing strictly for publication or was I writing because I had to get the stories out of my head? Publication would be awesome, but in the end, I learned that I write these stories for myself. And that's awesome, too. Rejections still occasionally throw me down and stomp on me, but they don't stop me from writing anymore.

I hope that helps. Maybe it won't right now because sometimes when you're in that place, nothing seems to make it better. Hang in there.

Jill Wheeler said...

Yes! Every writer does go through this.

What helped me was starting a new project, one I was excited enough about to take my mind off the query process. It also helped me feel like I didn't have all my eggs in one basket.

Megan Burke said...

As everyone has said, rejection is never easy, but its a part of the game.

Don't take it personally - maybe your project just isn't right for that agency.

One of my friends had a book considered by a publisher, but in the end was rejected because they were already publishing a similar title that year and didn't want two.

Another friend was rejected because her YA series had five MC's and the publisher's wanted a series with only one MC.

The point is, just because your project isn't right for that agency doesn't mean its not right at all.

Keep trying - its a fickle business but if you are meant to succeed you will.

Pieces of a Sometimes Extraordinary Life said...

I'm going to link you to a guest post I did for BookEnds a couple of years ago, titled Luck, Talent and Perseverance:

The gist of the post was that rejection is gonna happen if you submit your work, but in many cases it isn't a reflection of whether your novel is publishable, just means that you haven't yet found the right agent to submit to. I papered my walls, literally, with rejection slips, and tried not to let them bother me because really, I was writing because I loved to write. I knew if I was never published I'd be disappointed, but I also knew writing was my passion, and immersing yourself in your passion is never a waste of time.

And, several years later, after all those rejection slips, my first book was published and became a USA Today Bestseller. The only thing that got me there was persevering, trying not to take the rejections to heart. Yeah, of course they hurt, because our books are our babies, and to have someone say our babies aren't good enough is a horrible punch in the gut.

But the only way to get past that hurt is to get back up on the horse again and start something new while you wait for the next responses, immerse yourself in the writing rather than in the queries, enjoy the worlds you're creating without thinking about whether anybody else will ever see them. I realize this might sound glib and cliche, but in my mind it's true...The people who fail are the people who give up.

Darrell B. Nelson said...

I've found that there are more factors going on than just the rejections.
First, You've spent months with your characters you know them more intimately than almost anyone in real life, now they are gone. So you've lost friends who were with you everyday for months.
Second, If you love your novel you feel you've hit a perfect voice and tone that you'll try and duplicate but be original on your next novel. This can't be done. Every novel needs its own voice. Try writing something like a short story in a completely different genre to get the juices flowing the new voice you will need to give the piece will break your mental block. That's what Nora Roberts/J.D. Robb does.
Third, You have to know that post-postpartum depression is a part writing it happens after every book, I purposely don't write for two weeks (it's awful) after I finish a novel two reset my brain.
Finally, as far as rejections I've come to point where I don't care. I'd love to have more books in print but if nobody else ever sees my books I still had fun writing them.
I hope that helps.

Kimber Li said...

Hmm, it's been so long.

I just sent my fourth novel through Queryland a couple of months ago and I can say I hardly felt the rejections at all.

Experience, I guess, teaches you it's all part of the game.

I think the thing that helped me the most in getting to this place is to

*immediately start a new novel as soon as the first one goes out.*

This is very hard, because it takes an enormous emotional investment to write and polish a novel. My imagination is so entrenched in that novel's 'universe.' However, once I'm able to emotionally move on I can put it all in persepective.

My novel is not my baby.

I have real babies. One of them died. That's real pain. Having someone dis a few words I wrote is nooooo big deal compared to that.

So, send all those queries out and

start writing something new!

Because, if you keep writing and querying, one day your dream of publication may come true.

But, if you don't keep at it, your dream certainly will not come true. No one's gonna hunt you down and beg you to let them give you millions of dollars to publish the unwritten story locked in your head.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Hire a babysitter.
Have a steak dinner.
Get drunk.

Oh, don't forget to pick up your 2 year old.

I have been published many times and I still use the list above but I don't need the babysitter anymore, my 2 year old is 25.

Karen Collum said...

I've been submitting for just over 2 years and have learned to accept that rejection is just part of the process. I love words and I love to write - that's why I'm a writer. Of course I want the validation of having someone else say, "Hey! This is awesome!" but that's not the reason I write. I write because it's part of who I am.

I've also come to realise that rejections aren't personal - it's a business decision. There are many reasons why an agent/editor might not want your work, many of which are totally unrelated to you. Maybe they've filled their quota of that particular style of book for the year. Maybe they've just taken on something similar. Detaching myself from my work has been difficult at times but it does get easier.

My advice would be to actively seek ways to upskill yourself and improve your craft. Focus on the process of writing. Gain confidence in your ability to write. You're right - you might not be one of the ones that 'make it' but if you're writing because you have a passion for it then your life will be enriched nonetheless.

If you really want to be a writer then rejection is something you're going to have to learn how to handle. If you let each rejection destroy you then it's going to be no fun very quickly. I keep a file for each of my rejection letters mainly because I don't want to forget how hard it's been. I've now got a couple of contracts on picture books (only one with a trade publisher, however) but I'm having success with getting some freelance articles out there.

In all honesty, I really think you've got to get to a point of deciding whether you want to play this game of publishing or not. Rightly or wrongly, this is the nature of the beast. Sure, I have my moments of being down, but I do try and stay as detached as possible. It's not easy, but the publisher/agent is not rejecting you as a person - they're just deciding that your work is not for them right now.

Good luck and I hope you find the joy in writing again soon.

Rick Daley said...

Jessica nailed it with this:

Go on to your next book and find that joy in writing again.

I queries my first novel, had dozens of rejections, and finally had an agent request a partial. The he declined the full. I did get great feedback, though, and it helped me hone in on the craft of storytelling (the issue was not with my writing, per se, but how I chose to tell the story).

That made me realize I needed to re-write the novel. A pretty hard pill to swallow when the first draft took me over two years. But swallow it I did, and I soon realized that the second version was 1,000% better.

Then I dusted off another MS I had worked on in the past, and queried with it (different agent). She rejected it, but gave promising feedback and said that I could query again with a revision. I did, and she offered representation.

That book was revised again, and again, and again, and is now on submission. I've had many publishers pass on it, but the feedback has still been good and my agent (and even an editor who passed) is confident the book will find a happy home...eventually.

In the meantime, I wrote another book, and I enjoyed every minute of it.

I will find success if it doesn't find me first.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Ms Trite says:

Writing is like the lottery.

No matter how daunting the odds, for the lottery, or getting an agent or for whatever, it's always 50/50. You either win or lose.
Those are pretty good odds.

Do everything 'write' and remember you can't win if you don't play.

Unknown said...

I feel so bad for the person in the letter. :-(. I've been there, have a stack of rejections over 100 deep...but that probably won't make her feel any better. What might cheer her up is that there is life after rejection. I self-published. I thought I'd be sad, but I'm not, and in fact, started quite a large indie author contest today. I'm stoked! More importantly, I've recovered my enthusiasm for writing.

My route might not be the OP's route, but she will find something to get her going again. Maybe it will be a nice shiny full request in her email today. :-)

Anonymous said...

I don't even consider rejections on queries to be real rejections anymore. It's just not right for them. Wait'll you get rejections on your actual material. Those are the real rejections.

Jaymi said...

My advice would be to take a good look at your query.

A year ago, I sent a query out to twenty or so agents. I received responses from some, all rejections. Yes they blow.

This year I submitted my query to evil editor and had someone basically ask a bunch of questions about my ms then changed my query. Guess what. I have had several requests for partials and full’s.

If you think query rejections suck, wait until you get a rejection on your actual ms.

Chin up. You will numb up!

Phoenix Sullivan said...

Getting a request only validates the idea, not you as a writer. Wait till you start getting requests and agents tell you how much they love the writing and the story but in the end pass because the genre's too tough a sell in today's economy or they don't think they have the connections to sell it or that you don't have enough of a platform (yes, for fiction!) because they're looking for established, proven writers. Those are the real gut wrenchers. Or when you get revision letters from different agents that contradict one another or, worse, contradict the revision letters you're getting from editors.

When the idea and the writing have been validated and you're *this close* and it isn't a matter of coming up with a killer concept (because you have one) or becoming a better writer (because you're already there), and you're still waiting for that one person who connects with the work or for the market and trends to change or for the total eclipse on the second day after a stray meteor shower rains down on Pakistan or whatever the sign must be, THEN you'll understand what rejection really means.

Yeah, you gotta be dragon tough. And you've got to be ready to do it all over again with the next book.

Those first rejections are some of the hardest because they are reality checks and dream crushers. But after you get over the hurt of them, you should be better able to move on to the business side of rejection.

Lydia Sharp said...

I write both novels and short stories, and I have received more rejections than I care to keep track of (one of them, in fact, was a form rejection from Jessica for a women's fic novel I queried earlier this year).

At first, the rejections nearly crushed me, simply because I didn't know what the they truly meant. But at some point, I stepped away from the emotional side of it--the writer's side--and viewed the business side of it as much as I could. That's when it started to make sense, and I realized that the only way to stop getting rejections is to a) keep improving, and b) keep submitting.

That's it. As long as you keep trying, you never truly fail. It's the only motto that has kept me from giving up when everything/everyone else around me seems to be screaming that it isn't worth it.

Susan Colebank said...

Coming from the published author angle and 10-years-as-a-journalist perspective (a job that thickened my skin with the almost hourly rejections I got there), I think your expectations were really high for this first batch of submissions. I think in your subconscious, you were like, "I put all my passion into this book while waking up hella early while dealing with a Toddler. Can't you see that in my writing, Mr/Ms. Agent?"

The rejections never go away, by the way, even when published. You feel rejected after each bit of bad feedback from your critique group, you feel rejected after a story idea is shot down my your editor, you feel rejected after your agent tells you the story you absolutely love has no place in the current market.

Embrace this time for what it is--thickening your skin for the ultimate in bad rejections...a bad review.

And in the meantime, remember that these rejections are not about you. It's not about the girl who got up at 4 with a toddler feeling passionate. It comes down to the agent and the market and the black words on that white paper.

In the meantime, look into getting some merciless critique partners. They'll toughen your hide in no time. ;o)


Saundra Mitchell said...

I used to hang my rejections on the wall. In 15 years, I collected 1104 rejections. I didn't take them down until I sold my first book.

What matters is not that you get rejected, it's that you keep going in the face of overwhelming odds.

brendan mcnally said...

Babydoll, you absolutely have to develop thick skin and if you continue writing, believe me, you will. It's a part of the writing life.

What you're going through right now, is what they used to say, "separates the men from the boys," but you should now properly say, what separates the writers from the wannbees. It just happens to sound better the other way. Part of you career now is as a salesman, er, saleswoman. Rejection goes with the territory. If you can't handle rejection, you have no business trying to be a real writer.

Force yourself to get your fricken groove back. get back and write, love the moments the same way you used to. You can do it. Learn to laugh at the rejection, because the more you learn about what's rejecting you the less likely you are to feel much pain from it.

keep at it babe, good luck.

Kathleen Peacock said...

Honestly, I don't think I have a single writer friend who doesn't dread their inbox. It got to the point where I was worried my face would permanently become disfigured because of the funny, squinty face I'd make when I opened my mail (similar to the faces I make during horror movies when I don't want to look but can't help looking).

If you've been running on no sleep, it's probably even worse. Try getting some rest and then start thinking about a new project to work on while you query. Writing is the best distraction from query hell.

Elizabeth Bramwell said...

oh honey I know how you feel, and it is perfectly normal. I loved writing my first novel, adorec the proces, the story, the research. I also have a baby (now 18months) so would sacrifice what little free (see: sleep) time to finish the book.

Then the rejections came.

I quickly realised that I wasn't in the right place to be submitting. Sure, I knew logically this was a normal part of writing and publishing, but it felt a little personal, and I didn't want to turn into one of those writers who end up committing literary suicide by slagging off all agents / publishers in apublic forum.

This is what I did:

my novel is in the bottom drawer for a while. Ive been promising a family member for months that I would write her a novella as a present, as she knows exactly what she wants but can't find an author she likes. This process has given me back a real sense of joy in my writing, because its "success" is based only on one person enjoying it - which she is! I'm nearly finished with it, and I'm getting it made into a little book for her for christmas.

Once I've finished this project, I'm heading back out into the world of writing for publication and submission, because now I'm in a better place. I write for the love of it, and the novella proved that to me. Sure, publication is the ultimate goal, but don't forget why you picked up the pen in the first place. Go write something that is just for you, or just for someone you care about, and fall in love with it again.

Good luck xxxxxx

150 said...

I don't know whether this will be true for you, but for me, rejection absolutely got easier. My novel was rejected some three dozen times before I decided it really wasn't ready; they became easier and easier to shrug off.

In short fiction, I've had 134 rejections in the past year and a half. A few have stung; not very many. They become dull in such vast company.

Here are some things that might help.

1) Treat them playfully: stick them on a nail, like Stephen King did, or hang them on a Wall of Shame or keep a folder labeled Rejection Collection. In my email folder, I label the sales "Sold" in muted green, but I tag the rejections "REJECTED!" in bright pink.

2) Have an action plan. Always know where you're going to send your query or story NEXT. You'll start to see rejections as a milestone, not an end marker.

3) Remember that losing the game means you're PLAYING the game. Many people never reach that point. Dying on safari kind of sucks, but it's also way cooler than sitting home.

Good luck!

Patty Blount said...

Gasp! I thought this only happened to me.

I'm writing novel #5; its predecessors are unpublished and I'm still unagented.

I've stopped counting the rejections because it's too daunting.

I frequently go through 'flat line' spells where I have zero interest in writing.

Here are the things that work for me:

1) Don't give up, just take a break. Agents are people, just like us. Their taste is subjective and their experiences are not all identical, so what seems like nonsense to one is often gold to another (Twilight, anybody?).

2) Read! Reading is what inspired my love of writing in the first place so when I need to recharge, there's no better way to than to return to where it all began. I mix things up; I'll read a favorite novel and then buy a new Master the Craft how-to book for inspiration.

3) Turn to twitter and other social networks to find writers in the same boat. THIS has worked wonders for me. I was so relieved to learn even the writers with several published books under their belts still feel the way I do.

4) Remember why you want to write. Is it really "to get published"?? Yes, that's a great goal, but don't let it become your only one. Tell your story. Let that be your goal. Tell the story you need to tell, your way, your words. People ask me all the time if my WIP has vampires in it. Hell, no. I won't write vampires just because they're "in".

Hope this helps and thanks for making ME feel less isolated.

Debra Moore said...

I’ve been in that place myself lately. Lot of rejections, wondering if this writing thing is an enormous waste of time. And it does take time...a lot of it. I’ve gained weight from sitting so much, I miss most television shows everyone is talking about and I don’t participate in whatever the family is doing. And for what? A dream of writing full-time...a dream that very VERY few ever realize.

Some weekends I clean out closets instead, organize the house, or vacuum. I feel productive on those days, but I wouldn’t say it is especially fulfilling. I work Monday through Friday at my “real job” and think I should spend my time going back to school, get my MBA, focus on moving up the corporate ladder.

Then I get up at 4 o’clock in the morning, fire up the computer and try again. It occurred to me recently that over the years, I’ve developed a habit of writing, good days, bad days...really crappy days. I keep writing. At many points along the way, especially when the words simply will not come and I have no idea why I’m doing it, I do it anyway.

The only answer I can come up with is I truly love the writing part. The work with editors and the publishing process is tedious. The promotion is work and not very interesting work at that. The submitting and submitting over and sucks bad. Even meeting readers who like my stuff can freak me out a little.

But the writing, making up stuff out of nothing...that’s where the satisfaction comes. Sometimes I’ll write a scene that just WORKS on every level, and I vibrate with that excitement. I don’t see myself getting that kind of elation over an MBA after my name.

I’d love to say that even if I never sold another story, I’d keep writing. I imagine I would. I comfort myself with the knowledge that if it weren’t hard, everyone would write. Truth, though? Hard or not, there’s nothing more satisfying than closing the MacBook at the end of a writing session and knowing that the story will be there again later, waiting for me.

Debra Moore said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Janice Campbell (NAIWE) said...

Despondency over first rejections is very normal. This is your baby, after all, and you've birthed it and sent it out into the world and no one is loving it as much as you do. I'd guess that you're exhausted as well, and that doesn't help.

You've gotten wonderful suggestions from so many others, but the essential thing to remember is that is very normal. Finding the right agent or editor is almost as easy for a new author as plugging the oil leak was for BP. It just takes time, time, time-- plus a dash of good fortune.

If you're not involved with other local writers, it might be a good idea to find a group where you can swap stories, critique one another's work, and generally be supportive of the process. It does make life easier.

Also, you may want to consider volunteering to help a non-profit with its newsletter or something of that sort. It would give you something different to write, a ready-made, appreciative audience, and a bit of confidence that you are indeed a writer.

I wish you well.

Erika Marks said...

I hope it can give you a modicum of comfort to know that we've all been there.

I can't count the number of queries and rejections I gathered over the last twenty years of writing and submitting and then last year, I received my first book contract.

Before that, the process for every manuscript I finished and rewrote and submitted seemed like an all-too-predictable movie. I'd send out a flurry of queries, feel elated at the requests for partials, then crestfallen at the rejections. When the last of the responses came in, I'd wallow like after a break-up, so sure I'd never write or query again.

Then, sure enough, just as dependable as my wallowing, I'd find the desire to write again returned eventually and I was back on the horse. You will get there too. I'm glad these blog communities exist for the very reason that they provide great support for what is usually a very solitary experience.

Best wishes,
Erika Marks

Sarah J. MacManus said...

I think what you're going through right now is pretty natural. Heavens knows I been there. It really can suck the joy out of writing, and you know what. Even if you keep the perspective of "it's just a business", it's still demoralizing. Because not finding rep means not selling means failing at "business" too and that's just as demoralizing as failing at "art". So, I'm sorry, the whole 'be objective - it's a business' line doesn't really help all that much.
The only advice I can offer is to 1) start on a whole different project fresh and then revisit your other project after a couple of months, or 2) just get completely away from writing altogether for a while.
And then there's the passive-aggressive approach - continue to query, query as many agents as you can find, the complete deluge of rejections will make them all seem less significant.
And you may even get a couple of bites, you never know.

Kate Douglas said...

Oh, on rejection here! I'm really NOT exaggerating when I say it took me twenty years of rejections from NY before I finally signed my first contract, and Jessica was my agent for a number of years before she was able to get it for me. (Not the whole twenty, obviously...she's much too young!)

The best advice I ever got was to believe in myself and to realize that the rejection was not of me, personally, but that particular work.

It might be that the editor/agent was merely clearing their desk on the particular day when yours rose to the top. It might be the fact you named your hero Farkle and the agent/editor's boyfriend Farkle just broke her heart. There are myriad reasons for rejection from an editor or an agent, and they have nothing to do with you as an author.

My advice is to keep writing, keep submitting, and never give up. For me it was a twenty year journey from first submission to signed contract with a large publisher. I'm at the stage now where, in the past five years, I've written 25 books and novellas under contract, but I've also had numerous proposals rejected and, what I think are brilliant ideas, turned down--by both my agent AND my editor. It's part of being an author--not the best part, obviously, but still a big part of the job.

Learn to work rejection. Stick that project aside once you've made certain it's your very best work and isn't going to sell, and then write something better. I can assure you that you will improve--what you think is golden, when seen from a distance, often needs a lot of work, but even if if IS perfect, you can still write something fresh and new. If you wrote one book, you can write more. A story teller is just that--someone filled with ideas that need to get out. One of those ideas will be the one that launches your career, but if you don't write it, you'll never sell it.

Red Boot Pearl said...

Take a creative writing class...My sister and I are in one and it's re-lit my spark for writing.

I'm still in revision hell for my WIP, but I've gone through rejections with other pieces... you just need to take a deep breath and get involved in your next amazing project. When I got my first rejection letter I was actually super excited because I finally felt like 'I'm a writer, someone's rejecting me!'

You have to take your turn in rejection land so you can be inspiring to the next generation of writers...

Kate Douglas said...
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Magdalena Munro said...

Imagine how you would react if someone told you they didn't like your prized jambalaya. You're from the New Orleans area and this recipe has been in your family for generations. You KNOW it's out of this world and simply divine. You make it for a dinner party and invite people from Chicago, NY, Detroit, Portland, and Minneapolis. Unfortunately, not a soul likes your jambalaya. In fact, it's unsettling to their stomachs and the combination of sausage and shrimp is simply weird to their palates.

Do you stop making the dish? Do you see it in a new light? I would hope not. Have confidence in your craft. It is YOUR art and you are doing it a great disservice to allow a business decision affect your soul's livelihood.

There is nothing personal about getting published. In fact, Jessica Faust recently rejected my proposal. I don't mind an agent's rejection one bit because a.) I chose to query her because she is good b.) since she is good, I have no choice but to respect her business decisions. Respecting her decision doesn't mean I scrap my project. It means my project isn't a good fit for her.

It's a business decision and not personal.

Don't give up! The world needs writers! (and cooks) :-)

Mark Siegal said...

Good timing: I'm in the short window after first starting to query agents for a novel, yet before receiving any rejections. That's only because it's been about twelve hours. Even in the best case scenario, rejections will be here soon.

Try turning it around. It's seriously awesome that you're getting rejections. You had the courage to query agents! You kept writing, polishing, researching, and dreaming.

The world is filled with people who say they'd love to write a novel but never get anywhere near querying agents. I'm proud to finally be among those who query, no matter how many dozens or hundreds of rejections are between me and trying to become a published novelist. Feel proud!

If you haven't seen it already, the agent Rachelle Gardner also has a helpful post about seeing the positive side of rejections: "When you get rejection letters, let them fill you with gratitude that you've learned something; at the very least, you've learned that this particular agent or publisher isn't for you at this time. Be aware that somebody took the time to look at your work and respond - and let it make you smile."

Justin Holley said...

No worries...everyone gets rejected. Even King was rejected a multitude of times before publishing his first book (Carrie I think). Hang in there.

Kate Douglas said...
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C.M. Villani said...

Given the length of these comments I'm gathering that you can figure out it does get better.

For my first manuscript I got rejected 45 times. It sucks. I won't lie. But you get into a habit of knowing that if a reply comes too fast that it is a rejection before you even open it! And then you move on to the next one.

In all honesty though, I took a break from writing myself after the querying period (about 6 months and I missed it dearly). But that's when I had to decide something. Was I only writing to get published or was I writing because I love crafting stories?

For me I loved writing for the sake of writing. I love seeing it unfold before me. So I sucked it up and started on a new manuscript. And now that I'm back into the thick of things I'm loving writing once again.

Rejections suck but its a part of a writer's life (unfortunate as that is). The good thing about going through an unsuccessfull query campaign is that when you come out on the other side you will be battle tested. Ready to put up with anything and keep going.

If you're a writer, its only the story that matters in the end. Chin up! :)

Kate Douglas said...

My apologies for the multiple deletions--first Blogger wouldn't post (rejection, again!) and then it posted me three times! Sort of like my career...

Sommer Leigh said...

There is sort of a two part response to this. One of them is nice, and the other is not as much. But I think they are both valid and important.

1. Writing is a business. Your novel is not your baby, or your soul, or your heart. All of that is still inside you, waiting for the next time you sit down and begin to create. Just like any business, some people will hire you and some people won't, only in this business you're competing with thousands of other applicants and the interview is being conducted in a language you don't speak. You've had very few rejections and you really need to take some time and think about whether you can rack up 100 more and be ok with it. You also need to think about whether you'd be ok with an agent shopping your book out to every editor they can think of and be told it's not selling and it's time you wrote something new. And you need to think about the negative reviews you will get when you have published. Rejection is a part of the game, but it isn't about YOU. It's not even necessarily about your writing.

2. Finding an agent is sort of like dating. You've put yourself and the very best that you can create out there to be judged by a whole slew of people. These people are going to try to make a connection with you and if there is no spark, they move on to the next. If they don't love the idea or the writing, if they don't think they can sell it, if they don't think they could put their all into this thing you've put your all into, they are going to pass. And while it might not feel like it, it's probably a good thing that they did pass. Because you don't want just any agent to represent you, you want the RIGHT agent, and just like dating, you've got to wade through a lot of rejections before you find the right one.

I think the person who wrote this letter needs to take a vacation, get away from writing, and the business, and blogs, and spend some time with themselves. They should think about what they want to do with their writing, what getting published (or not getting published) really means to them. They should think about what the business is actually like and if it is for them. And they should think about why they love writing, what other stories they have inside, and spend a lot of mornings sleeping in. And once they have recharged, come up with a few ideas, and had a nice long talk and cry with themselves, then they need to get back to work.

Aimlesswriter said...

First of all YOU ARE A WRITER. So do what writers do and write. Rejections are just notches in your writer's belt.
John Grisham recieved over 100 rejections for his first novel. Until you hit that 100 rejection mark then you've only just started.
Also, writer's are constantly honing their craft. Get involved in writer's groups, critique groups and even book clubs. (I've found book clubs give me the readter's perspective which can be very enlightening)
Someone once didn't like Stephen King, Karen Slaughter and Kristen Hannah but look where they are now.

Aimlesswriter said...

A man is not a success because he has never failed, but because failure has never stopped him.

Simon Hay said...

Rejection and criticism should never be taken personally. One foot in front of the other. Sit down, write! Every query is one query closer to a yes. There's no magic number.

When I feel overwhelmed I ask myself, "do I still love writing?" Yes I do. It's not about hating rejection; it's only about the writing.

Good luck, and I hope you get your mojo back.

Katt said...

Gee, I wish this group of commenters had been around when my rejections began!

Without writing industry support, I decided that to heck with all those silly agents, I'd just write my books for my friends and family who were always badgering me for the next book. And I'd never let myself forget the bottom line...

I LOVE WRITING. remember that part.

So now that I've taken a break and I'm starting to submit again I can look back at my first, second, third, and fourth books and see that number FIVE, the one I've just finished, is clearly better than the others. Each one you write is a step toward success.

so WRITE and enjoy writing, and when you're ready to submit again, remember that each rejection brings you closer to publication!.

Anonymous said...

I did the same thing. I sent 3 or 4 queries out and recieved rejections. I stopped sending right then and there, and I had that horrible "I am no good feeling", but I was wrong (I am good, haha). Then I spent the next year and a half learning and editing my MS. I am not sure that I improved my MS, but I definitely did my query letter. Just KEEP TRUCKING (and learning).

Adam Heine said...

The only way you can possibly NOT get over it is if you quit.

Otherwise you'll be fine. Just keep moving forward.

Anonymous said...

I haven't had as many rejections as to make me an expert. However, the first couple sent me into a state of shock, leading to utmost depression. The thing is, I was completely certain that what I had written was pure genius. After I put myself together, I re-read my texts and saw that there was a lot of room for improvement. Nowadays I take rejections not as a hint to stop writing altogether but as a wake up call to keep improving.

So far I've only had a couple of extremely obscure publications. In the end, publishing is a nasty business; it's a game of numbers, etc... If your impulse for writing is to become the author of the next big best-seller, chances are you'll be horribly frustrated. Furthermore, even if you succeed, it is likely you'll go out of fashion quickly. But that is no reason to become bitter.

The joy of writing, whenever I can find it, gives me solace. To stay up, late at night, imagining worlds, personae and stories, has charm enough to make my life colorful and satisfying. I do think that everybody should read what I write, as most would-be writers... And as rejections build up, my sleep hours dwindle and my pages amount to unsightly heaps in the living room, I do wonder form time to time: am I mad to insist upon writing? Certainly not.

Buffra said...
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Unknown said...

Most people go through life without ever feeling that 4am buzz. That's the prize. Don't down play it. Find it again.

ryan field said...


Just step away from the computer and do something you love for a while.

You'll feel so much better.

Susan Adrian said...

It absolutely will get better. It's just hard the first few times because you'd convinced yourself--as we ALL do--that you'd be one of those people who hit it out of the park on the first pitch. You're not. That's okay. You have to realize that rejection really is just a matter of finding the right match, or the right book.

The only way to make it is just keep trying. Take a little break if you need it, and then hop back on the horse again with a different book. Trust me, it's all just a cycle, and the enthusiasm will roll up again.

Kay Hardy Campbell said...

Definitely connect yourself to other writers and get them, or even one of them, to help you with your query letter. The art of the query letter is something that needs to be learned and it has to reflect the uniqueness of you and your project. Good luck - you can do it!

Also, may I quote a wonderful bumper sticker I saw last week....

"Calm down and carry on."

Jocosa of the Earrings said...

Rejection letters are no picnic. I've pinned up a wall full. At first, especially after a full was given a thumbs down, I was under the bus. But I'm still writing. I've completed three manuscripts and am ready to send the first one out again. It has seen major rewrites and I couldn't be more thrilled. I think of rejections now as silent partners to my writing process. A rejection is like a nudge in my gut, which had been trying to tell me all along to go deeper--but sometimes when you're in the midst you can't see. How did I get to this calm acceptance of rejection? Conferences. A strong writing conference reconnects the writer to their passion and the writing continues.

Jessie Mac said...

How Do Writers Deal with Rejection are my thoughts in a post. I think all the comments above have. It doesn't get better if you take it too personally. You will feel it no matter where you are in the process. Agents feel it for you when it comes to selling it to editors so you are buffered slightly but then you may need to make some changes and that in itself will feel like rejection because you'll wonder what was wrong with your idea. You'll get rejected once your book is in print by publicity people, readers, critics, reviews all the way until your next book and it continues.

The rejection is always going to there. The only way it gets better if you change your mindset, the way you're perceiving these rejections. Rejection is not failure but a filter. Have a read of the post above and let me know what you think.

A.L. Sonnichsen said...

I call this feeling a "query funk." I make sure I'm working on a new project when I start querying a polished one. It doesn't completely cure the funk, but it helps a lot!

Best of luck!


Jessie Mac said...

Here is the post in full as the shortened URL doesn't seem to work.

Anonymous said...

Only 4? Even Twilight had a dozen or so rejections. I'm at 40--with a few close calls--but holding out for the agent who "gets" my novel like I do. One of my favorite authors had over 60 rejections before their first novel got published, so that's my magic number. It's like finding a want just the right fit.

Kathleen MacIver said...

Yes, how you're feeling is VERY normal. Like you, I expected the rejections but was still surprised by how hard they hit me.'s a necessary part of becoming a writer, I think. This is the real test of how badly you want to write. If you give up and months from now still feel as you do, then writing is simply not for you...and you'll be okay with it by then. But if, on the other hand, the desire to write those stories (even if they are never published) creeps back in, then you're in the same camp as the rest of us.

And if it prompts you to discover ways to make your writing even stronger, then you've passed test #2, which is more of a test over whether being a published author is really the career for you.

I went through what you're feeling three times, so far. The second time wasn't as rough as the first, and the third time wasn't as rough as the second. Then I quit querying because I realized that the book I was querying would never be strong enough to sell, and I needed to move on to Book #2. I didn't just decide that because I thought a few dozen queries meant it, because that's not always true. I realized it because I learned so much more about good strong plots that I came to see that my book simply didn't have one. And trying to re-write it for the fourth time would have been like trying to resurrect something that had already been murdered twice.

So now I'm writing book #2 and learning, learning, learning. This stage of learning is so much different than the up-late-at-nights euphoria of having a story pour out of you, but it's enjoyable in it's own way.

I suppose I might go through what you're feeling all over again when I query this book...but...oh well. That's the writer's life, and so far I've been unsuccessful at staying away from it!

Thomas Sinclair said...

I'm right there with you. I had a day where I got my manuscript rejected on top of some query rejections. I had to take the day off from thinking about the publishing industry.

I think it's really important that you not let it affect your writing, though. You're done with the first, get started on the next. For me, the writing is its own reward, and a few rejections aren't going to take away my love of writing.

Joseph L. Selby said...

The best advice on the query process comes from Rocky Balboa: "It's not about how much you can hit, it's about how much you can get hit and stay on your feet and keep moving forward."

shawn smucker said...

In the words of Seth Godin,

"If you have a book to write, write it. If you want to record an album, record it. No need to wait for someone in a cubicle halfway across the country to decide if you're worthy."

Validation is over-rated, but we all want it. Writing is one thing you can keep doing while waiting for it.

Unknown said...

My two cents and my opinion/advice:

The best thing you can do is reconnect with your work and why you love it, why you do it. Take three days and don't try to write. Let it build some pressure in you (this is how Milton worked). Then sit down to write without any goal of publishing. Rap out something silly, pointless, and entirely personal. Turn off the internal editor for a bit. Then send the internal career writer on vacation for a week. Remember why you love writing, why you started doing it in the first place. If you're still not ready after three days, take three more and do something artistic that has nothing to do with writing: paint, go the museum or the symphony. Take pictures in the park. Let your writer self rest a bit, but not so long that your muscle-skills atrophy.

Don't give up on querying, but try to let go of the pressure you put on yourself to race to the top. We feel such an immediacy in querying, checking our email 80 times a day, feeling so despondent when rejections come in. Take a week off querying until your skin has healed up, and hopefully you'll find it's thickened too.

Regardless of when you succeed, you're not alone. We all go through this. A lot of us, myself included, are going through it with you right now. Make sure you have a community of writers you can talk to when it really gets you down. Listen to them and you’ll realize they’re right there with you.

After you've rested, get back on the horse. With every rejection remind yourself that this is a marathon, not a sprint. You’ll get there by perseverance, patience, and professionalism.

Hope all these comments help,

Loree Huebner said...

You really haven't lost the joy, it's still there. It just stings when we are rejected. The trick is not to let your nose get out of joint. Let it hurt and go ahead and feel the pain for a few days or a week. Have a good cry or a pout, but then stop the pity party and take from the experience and get back on the horse.

If and agent/editor suggest something in the rejection letter, re-read and look at what they are saying. If they didn't make any comments, move on, don't dwell on why they didn't comment.

I saw a show a few years back with the top three women writers. They all told stories about queries and rejections. One had so many rejections that when she finally got published, she wallpapered her bathroom with all the reject letters...which was many, many. And the other talked about almost giving up and having a bonfire of rejection letters on the curb while crying hysterically. It eventally came for these writers, they didn't give up. It can come for us too.

Take it, feel it, fix it, and move on.

For the record, seven years ago, I wrote a book, got a full request from one agent, and then got a reject. I didn't send it out again. I put that book on the shelf, wrote another, got rejected, re-wrote, got full request several times, got rejected. Put that one on the shelf. Started and finished a third and haven't done a final revision on it yet...but in the meantime, something told me to go back to the first book. After seven years, I have been taking all the advice I received in rejections over the years. I am revising/editing that first book and now believe I have a book that will be ready to query soon. I am so excited and glad I didn't give up years ago. I also have two other books under my belt now.

If you are meant to write, you will, and you will not let a rejection or 2, 3, or 44,...stop you.


A few words of advice:

1) Realize that rejection is a part of the process, and that you may receive many more of before finding an agent. Persistence is the key.

2) It's not necessarily a reflection of your work. There are a variety of reasons why an agent might reject your work, from being a genre they simply can't sell, to having a client whose book has a similar premise.

3) Look at it this way: finding an agent is like speed-dating. They have to literally fall in love with your work. Some might like certain aspects of your work, but not enough to feel enthusiastic enough sell it, and really, that's a good thing. After all, don't you want the person who represents you to love your work just as much as you do?

4) Many of the top selling authors were rejected, and in some cases hundreds of times before finally finding someone to represent their work. I remember reading that it took Karin Slaughter more than two years to find representation. Stephen King was repeatedly rejected as well. And there are plenty more. You can read about them here:

5) Think of it this way: Every "no" gets you closer to a "yes"!

joanQ6 said...

The first rejections are the hardest, but they are an important part of the process. Painful, but important.

Here are two strategies that help me through the query process. First, I don't try to write and query at the same time. If I'm sending out queries, I give myself a break from the daily creative routine. I use it as thinking time to let my left brain plot and research and edit. Then when I return to writing, I'm ready to be productive.

But, perhaps more important, find an online support group of writers, such as Agent Query Connect. It really helps to have the support of other aspiring writers.

MAGolla said...

{hugs} Sweetie!
Been there, done that with five manuscripts and about three hundred rejections over a six year period. I've been writing for nine years.

This year was the first year that it hasn't bothered me. My stories just aren't to most agent's tastes. It happens.

If you really want this, then you need to realize this is just the beginning of the game. Rejections don't stop--even for published authors--they come in different forms: lousy reviews, hateful Amazon comments, publisher not renewing your contract, etc.

Stephanie Faris said...

Eventually it does get easier, believe it or not. Not only that, but forcing your way through all of those tough times actually prepares you for what you go through once you get published -- having to write in the face of bad reviews, reader expectations, nasty comments about you on the 'net...that sort of thing. There's not a writer on this planet who doesn't have a detractor somewhere who would say something hasty about his/her writing if given a forum to do so.

I've been writing since 1995. I took some time off during/after my divorce, so don't be alarmed at the length of time it's taken me so long and I just now got an agent! I'd say my toughest years were those first few years. Rejection barely touches me now. It just doesn't bother me at all. In fact, it makes me MORE determined. I think you build up a sensitivity toward it over time.

Kristin Laughtin said...

I've only submitted one short story and it was on a lark, so I don't have a ton of experience with rejections, but like you said, it's a normal part of the publication process. Even knowing that rationally, I think it's OK to be down about it a little. If we never allow ourselves to experience sadness, we wouldn't appreciate the happy times as much.

That said, if this is a career you really want, at some point you do have to get back on the horse. How long has it been since you received the rejections? Sometimes it can take a few weeks, or even months, for that love of writing to return. Start thinking about your next project. Maybe as you think about it more, your enthusiasm will return. (I hope so at least, if only because I've had a bit of writer's block while trying to plot my current project. I keep hoping that thinking about it more will encourage me and get the ideas flowing.)

Or perhaps this experience was meant to teach you that publishing isn't the route for you. That may sound harsh, but I don't think it's necessarily wrong. In any career, there are people who think they want it, but then once they experience it, discover it's not what they'd thought it would be and choose to pursue something else. But if you do decide not to pursue publication anymore, let it be because it's not what you want, not because you feel defeated or rejected.

I hope your love of writing is what matters in all of this and that it will come back to you. Best of luck.

And you never know--one of the letters you've sent out might come back with a request for more. Chin up. If it helps, I've started posting the rejection stories of bestselling authors over in my blog. You might want to check it out. It's pretty amazing how long it took some of them to get published.

Rebecca H said...

I think all writers feel that. My first novel got nothing but form rejections. No requests for partials. I think I got over thirty in the end. It was hard, but what got me through was making myself learn from it. I learned how to craft a better query letter, I learned to come up with a strong premise before I started writing, and most importantly, I learned how to finish a novel.

I know the project I'm workihng on now has very little chance of being published, though a better chance than the first one. But I've accepted it and I've learned even more from this one.

Keep writing, keep learning. Look at each project not as your one shot at publishing stardom, but as a step in the learning process. And sooner or later those acceptances will start showing up.

Anonymous said...
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Prettypics123 said...

I received 75 rejection letters from as many agents. I poured my heart and soul into the book - a childhood memoir - for nearly a decade. I thought it was perfect. I did have success in opening the door with my query letter. Many agents asked for sample chapters and a book proposal. But still the rejections came. Regardless, I consider the process to have been a success. Now several years later, I see that my work was not ready. It needs some reworking. The rejections were bad but with 75 I got use to it. I was extremely happy when an agent that I really respected said even one sentence of something personal and encouraging - like - you're a good writer but this isn't resonating with me enough to represent you. Write again after you've experienced enough of the grief process over the rejections. What you're experiencing is normal. You'll get back to it. And it isn't over yet either. You may be picked up by an agent yet. You sound like a true writer and one with great potential.

jjdebenedictis said...

They are not rejecting you.

They are not rejecting you; they are not rejecting your talent; they are not rejecting your dreams.

They're rejecting the words on the page, and that is NOT YOU.

You are still the same talented, smart, intensely precious human being you were before you started querying.

As for your insecurities, it's entirely possible your book isn't publishable in its current form, but that does not reflect upon whether you have talent. There is no such thing as a child prodigy when it comes to writing novels; we all have to learn how to write effectively.

So give yourself permission to fail; failing doesn't mean that you aren't good at this--it only means you are actively in the process of improving yourself.

This fight is the very thing that will make you good enough to succeed someday.

Anonymous said...

I have very supportive critique partners who have said "When we cross that bridge, we'll have a look at your manuscript." So having strong crit partners is a must.

Richard Warren said...

Hang in there. I receied over a dozen form rejections before getting a request for a partial. Still waiting to hear about that.

A friend received 49 rejections (mostly form) before landing an agent with the 50th query and subsequently signing a four book deal with Simon & Shuster. said...

Querying is one of the toughest ways to go about this business. Personally, I avoid it. Instead, I attend conferences and meet face to face with editors and agents and come home with a stack of business cards and yes replies.

That being said, I need to finish polishing 3 manuscripts so I can get them finally sent off...

Hang in there, gal!
And thank you, Jessica, for such a warm, human response in a dog-eat-dog business!
Regards, The Editor Devil

HWPetty said...

I think we all just find coping strategies. You have to. (And hopefully yours won't involve peanut butter, a spoon, and a jar of mini chocolate chips. (Don't judge!)

The first time I queried a project, I pulled out after sending only ten queries and two partial requests that turned into rejections. I sent my ms off to a couple of writer friends and decided the project needed rewrites. I was right. It did. And there was no use blowing through a bunch of potential agents with an unready project.

On this SHINY NEW AND AWESOME project, it took me six months to find an agent, and in that time I accumulated 81 rejections. But then... a miracle. I got an offer. And then another one. AND THEN ANOTHER ONE.

I went from dry barren wasteland of form letter doom to talking on the phone with six different awesome agent types in like two weeks. And then I signed with the Brilliant and Beautiful Agent of my Dreams. (Also, she's a ninja.)

Now I'm on submission to editors, and back in the wastelands. (FOR NOW.) Sometimes there's a glimmer of good news, sometimes it's all of the rejection variety. And having spent time with people who have book contracts, they still have ups and downs. Even people who have multiple books out in the world craze themselves over marketing and reviews.

The best advice I can offer is this:

1. WORK ON SOMETHING NEW. Seriously. Open a brand new file and start writing your next idea. My deal with myself is that I would query my first project until the next one was done and polished. If I didn't have an agent, I'd shelve project 1 and start querying project 2.

Get some people in your life who will read chapters and tell you how awesome you are. They don't replace a critique group, but sometimes you just need the ego boost, and I'm not ashamed to seek that out when needed.

Being rejected means you are in the game, girl! And there are a lot of people out there who are too afraid to query or even too undisciplined to FINISH their book in the first place.

Getting return mail from actual agents is a big deal. Live it up!

(And if semantics is important to you, start a file in your inbox for "Agent Responses" and "Agent Requests". That way a "rejection" just becomes a "response" in your world. See! TRICK YOUR MIND. <-- I'm all about being tricky.) ;)

Kate Grace said...

So many have left such wonderful and encouraging posts, I doubt I can add much more to the conversation beyond the few things that helped me when the rejections started pouring in:

1. Kept writing... start another project. Journal. Whatever you need to do to keep that muscle going and keep the joy of it alive.

2. Find other creative/joyful outlets. Find yourself creative hobbies that you truly enjoy that you don't intend to take professionally so you can keep that artist's spirit strong.

3. Look at it from their perspective. Just as you wouldn't want to have the task as a writer to work on something that wasn't your voice, your style, your love, the same goes for an agent. They need to fall in love with it, as you will definitely WANT them to before that match is made. It's never personal. Often it's not about your idea or your writing. Sometimes it's not even the agent that looked at it.

Continue to be professional and graceful in the query process (never let frustration come out in this arena), but feel it and let it out in a healthy manner like so many have suggested above: writing, drinking and remembering to pick up the 2-year-old (that one particularly cracked me up), singing, laughing, venting to friends and then brainstorming your next baby to be born.

No matter how, find a way to keep the "FUN" and "JOY" alive in this process for you. Don't let the business of publishing injure the love of writing. They are two separate things.

"Write hard, die free."

Melissa Sarno said...

I feel terrible you have lost your joy for writing. When I got my first rejection after putting my writing out there, I cried for 4 hours straight. 4 hours! After the 2nd hour I told myself I was fine and then had to step out and not return to a work meeting because the tears kept coming. For some reason, since I got that 4hour purge out of my system I have been okay. I keep thinking, this will only get better, even if it gets worse for a little while.
Remember how excited you were when you finished and began query-ing? That's because you accomplished something amazing. You wrote and finished a manuscript. So few people can say that. I think we forget how huge that is. Best of luck to you.

Kate Larkindale said...

Rejection is an unfortunate part of the writing process. But you have to remember that it is not personal. It is not YOU being rejected, it's your work. And I know that can sometimes be just as painful, but you just have to learn to roll with it.

When you get one, get sad, get angry, but don't let that stop you from doing what you love. Take an hour or so to wallow in your misery, then pick yourself up and use some of that emotion to fuel your writing. Or cooking. Or anything else you want to throw yourself into.

Then when you're ready, just send it out again. I've had stories that have racked up 6 or more rejections before finally finding a home, and I expect to get 4 or 5 times more than that before any of my novels do.

Make it a mantra: It's not me.

X K8

Anonymous said...

To the author of the original question:

Jessica is so right in her response. Rejection is a part of the business. Nobody likes it but, trust me, it does happen to everybody. And it sure as heck doesn't stop when you get published, either. LOL.

I was talking to a friend the other day, another published author who is on the agent hunt, just as I am. Now, my friend is a NY Times bestselling author and she is getting rejections, too. Not because her work isn't good, mind you. No, it's because the agents in question don't connect with it. So, the point here is, please don't take it personally because it really isn't.

And on another note, if anyone is planning to be at the RWA national conference, please drop by the workshop that Christie Craid and I are doing (with an assist from Rose Hilliard of SMP and Kim LIonetti of BookEnds) on surviving rejection. Christie will be doing her famous "suitcase o' rejections", which, I guarantee, will inspire anyone with the rejection blues.


T. M. Hunter said...

It gets better with time, and the more projects you work and submit. If it doesn't get easier to take the rejections by the time you get your first acceptance (and from then on), then maybe writing isn't for you...that's my advice. It may be cruel, but writing is a cruel business. :-\

Rachael said...

Been there, felt that. We all go through it. I had one book that got all rejections. About sixty of them in total before I trunked it. Just remember that even the greatest writers have been rejected many, many times.

Find the joy in writing again. And remember, submitting is NOT a requirement of writing. You don't have to submit everything you write. Some writers write for their enter lives and never submit a novel.

Also, I'd suggest chocolate. Or ice cream. Or your comfort food of choice.

Delia said...

Everyone else has already told you how common rejection is. It happens to all of us, no exceptions.

My advice is to write. Even if you don't feel like it, write. It doesn't matter what, it doesn't even matter if it's good, just write. The act itself can be more inspiring than anything.

Proof your query, check your formatting, make sure your work is the best it can be -- then write.

Nicole said...

Ignore the rejections and visualise the acceptence :) you are what you see!

Jeannie Ruesch said...

Wow. By all the comments, you'd think writers get rejected a lot or something... ;)

Truly, I look at those first rejections as when a toddler learns how to run. Those first steps are exhilarating, the world has opened up and suddenly, the possibilities are endless. Until you trip, fall flat on your face, scrap the skin of your nose, knees and realize that this running stuff is hard. And the potential for falling flat on your face has increased exponentially. But you get back up, wipe the dirt off your knees, have a good cry and start running again. Because eventually, you'll get to your destination---even if means scrubbing your knees a few dozen times.

And even after you get the first sale, there are other stages to conquer - riding a bike, driving a car. The bigger you get, the higher the stakes.

But don't give up. If you love writing, it's as much a part of who you are as the fingers on your hands. But also don't forget to give yourself that big cry first, too. It's just as important to acknowledge that the falling sucks as it is to pick up and move on.

Reena Jacobs said...

When I first starting querying, I never expected a rejection. Honestly, I thought my work was art. I only had to sit back and wait for the offers to roll in. Oh my goodness. How would I chose amongst the many agents who'd want my work?

Then I got my first rejection. My thoughts were more on the line, oh bummer. That's odd. Oh well, they must have a full plate. No matter. That's just one.

Then the rejections started rolling in one by one. I couldn't believe no one in my first batch of queries wanted my work. It hit me that maybe my work wasn't as spectacular as I thought it was. I had that moment that maybe I sucked as a writer. (haha maybe I do, for real and it's not maybe).

Regardless, I had to make a choice. Either I'd get back in there and try again or I wouldn't. Simple as that.

I hear the phrase "writers write" so often. Yeah it's true. However, even you're favorite food gets old after eating it everyday for a year. Sometimes writers need a break from the writing lifestyle. Most people don't work 7 days a week 365 days a year. So, why is there that expectation for writers?

Take a step back and refresh. Let the excitement bubble back in you again. Then hop to it. Learn more about the industry, improve your writing style, and accept that your first work may need a bit of tweaking before sending it out again.

Start that next project. Remember all the ideas which popped into your head that you didn't have time to write because you were focused on the now completed work. Time to put those to paper. Surely you expected to write another book eventually, right? Now's the time.

Durango Writer said...

To combat rejection depression I've decided to treat myself every time I receive a "no thank you." I've put little slips of paper in a basket. On each is listed a treat like an espresso, a piece of fine chocolate, a walk to the park, a call to a friend. If you put in enough ideas for treats, each one will always be a surprise. And the key is compassion. Have compassion for yourself!

S. Spann said...

As a publishing attorney and a writer, I can assure you: this one gets filed under Things I Will Never Get Used To, Period.

If you wish, you could also file it under:
- Things That Make Me Eat Far Too Much Sugar
- Things My Family Listens To When They'd Rather Be Watching "Last Comic Standing"
- Things That Make Me Cry On The Cat.
(Note: the cat doesn't like it, he's asked me to tell you he'd really rather you used a Kleenex next time.)

Seriously...every author gets rejected multiple times, and every author hates it. Creative people, by and large, deal poorly with rejection and learning how to accept it (please note that I didn't say like it) is part of the game.

As for the little voice in your head telling you that you'll never amount to anything, I refer to that as "The Voice We Do Not Listen To." That voice, you must learn to ignore. We all have it, and much of the time it doesn't come from the honest part of your mind and soul. It comes from the part that would rather you ended your life a miserable failure, having quit every difficult thing you ever attempted.

That doesn't mean your writing can't use work. Even the best writer on the planet can always improve, and you should continue to hone the craft until you die. But don't give up. No single rejection letter, or even a pile of them, can take your aspirations or your writing career from you.

Tell the voice what I tell it: "You can have my writing career when you pry it from my cold dead hand. In the meantime, I'll be at Starbucks, writing."

Sheila Cull said...

It's not that it gets any better, it get easier! You get used to them! And you keep writing and you keep collecting them. You get to a point where you say, "so what," and you keep writing. And you continue to get rejections. And it gets easier to get them! And then your "so what" becomes, "so the ____ what!" And you keep writing...

Anonymous said...

The pre-pub rejections are nothing. The real rejections happen once you're published, in the bookstores and on Amazon. Not on the NYT list? That's a rejection. Not on ANY list? More rejection. Not reviewed by PW? REJECTED! Website getting no hits? RE. Jec. Ted.

Get used to it.

CFD Trade said...

This is it! You're in. I am waiting to get in as well and feel the roller-coaster ride of rejection...rejection...and rejection. At least you have started the ball rolling.

Robin Allen said...

Right Book + Right Agent = Representation

There's love at first sight, and then, more commonly, there are months or years of kissing frogs. When you're kissing frogs, the law of averages kicks in, so give up on love at first sight and start kissing a lot more frogs.

The Writers Canvas, Author Elaine Calloway said...

I'm late joining the comment stream and from the looks of things, there has been some amazing advice offered here.

It's helpful to find some writers who understand. Join a local or online writer's group; they know what it's like to be rejected and it is part of the business. They can help cheer you up when you're down and offer insight on things when you have questions.

Faye mentioned Christie Craig's seminar on rejections. If you're going to RWA Nationals this year or you have the chance to *ever* see Christie's presentation, I HIGHLY recommend it. She does an amazing job and it makes everyone's jaws in the room drop at how she survived rejection for so long, but she did and now she's published and doing great!

Keep writing. Keep falling in love with words and telling your story. That passion will shine through as you keep moving forward.


bmcdowell said...

I realized I was internalizing the rejection and pretending I was fine, but the accumulated effect was really pulling me down. So I decided to build a China Garden. Went to Goodwill and bought a bunch of cheap china plates.Then I "planted" two giant rocks in the backyard. Every time I get a rejection, I go outside and break a plate. I'm saving the pieces to make pavers for the pathway. Don't know what the neighbors think, but I feel better!

A friend asked if she could break one when her boyfriend dumped her; another came over when he didn't get a job he wanted. There's something really cathartic in the act of breaking things. I highly recommend it.

Raven Corinn Carluk said...

I started thinking of my rejections as little tokens. I just collected them, holding them close, waiting for the day I succeeded, so I could basically claim "Aha! I WAS worth it. So nyeh!"

That, and having a very supportive fiance made a big difference.

Amy said...

This happens to be my original e-mail. I’m very surprised to see how many people took time from their busy day to help a fellow writer (Yes, I said writer) in trouble. I want you to know, I read each of your submissions, and they were great. I laughed at many of them (like crying on the cat, breaking the plate, and the Rocky Balboa quote, LOL-too funny!), and I was relieved to see that everyone goes through this.

So here is an update-

I sent out 15 queries. I got one request for the first five pages, and one request for a proposal. The rest were rejections, or no replies (which are rejections). Unfortunately, those two requests were “no’s” as well, but I learned something from them: I wasn’t ready to submit. My writing was all over the place, and took finding an awesome critique group to point that out to me (which is what many of you just suggested). So you clearly have great advice.

Someone also mentioned-feeling depressed after finishing the novel, because you lose these great friends (characters) you’ve been spending so much time with. I think this comment was dead on. While I was in this slump, I decided to work on finishing my outlines for the two remaining books in the trilogy. Once I returned to my characters, things felt right again. So, I finished the outline, but I’m not going to start on those books, because there’s no point while I’m back to editing the first one.

However, I did start this hilarious mommy book, and I’ve been cracking myself up. I literally have to stop, and pull out my blackberry during the day when I remember funny things for the book, and it clicked with me-‘This is why you started writing in the first place’. It was about making me happy, not Agents (sorry Jessica, lol).

And to the person who mentioned a vacation-I have a two week vacation planned this month. Yea! Although, I’m not going anywhere and I already know I’ll be writing away most of the time (well at least as much as my daughter will allow me, lol). So thank you all again for your kind words and I hope to take all your advice to heart and keep doing what we all love: Writing. 

Amy said...
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Amy said...
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Amy said...
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Amy said...

Sorry for the removed post, but my blogger was messing up.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Ms. Trite says,
104 comments, rejection gets a lot of ink, or key strokes.

In love, jobs, writing...rejection is a four-letter word.

Here's an assignment.

Go watch fireworks this weekend.
Write about it.
Put it in your childs baby book.
You will love writing again.

Cassandra said...

Congratulations. You are in the writers' club. You've survived -- okay, are surviving -- the rite of initiation, sort of like the Klingon pain ritual. The shock will fade.

You've received lots of truly helpful comments, and I agree with all of them. Nevertheless, let's have just a moment of tough love.

You're in, and you've earned your place by finishing a book and submitting it. What you, you alone, have to do now is decide whether you really want to *stay* in this game. Because there will be more times like this -- when your full gets rejected by agents, when your dream editor says no, when you get an awful review on Amazon, when your next book gets rejected. So ask yourself:

If you knew, absolutely, that it would take 20 years to get published (it's happened to lots of people), would you still want to try?

If you knew you would never make much money (it's said that more than 80% of published books never earn out their advance), would you still want to write?

If you knew your work would *never* be published, even though it's wonderful, just because all the stars would never align (which, sadly, does happen to people), would you still write? Would it be worth the sacrifice, not only of time with your family and friends but of whatever else you might do with your life?

Can you stand the thought of going through all this again with your next book?

Do you feel confident that the satisfaction and fulfillment of being a professional published writer will outweigh the undeniable sometime misery of the process?

If you find yourself secretly whispering "no" to any of these questions, then go ahead and re-examine your goals. If you find that you *can* stop, or want to stop, then do it. It's okay. It would not mean that you were a failure, or that this project was a waste of time, only that you explored an avenue that turned out not to be the right road for you. It may be that you're meant to take a different place in the book world, maybe working in a bookstore, or as a reviewer, an editor on whatever scale, or an agent.

BUT: If your answer is "I can't help it, I can't stop!", if you try to walk away but can't stop looking over your shoulder, if your characters won't leave you alone, if the thought of never writing seriously again brings not a wash of relief but a surge of grief, then you don't have a choice. You are a writer. It's not what you do, it's who you are. If you're never published, you will still be a writer (just a frustrated, undiscovered one). It doesn't matter how you feel; you *will* drag yourself back up and send your stuff out there again and write something new and send that out and on and on until something clicks. You'll do it because you have to. And on the day that you don't have to, you'll know it's time to let go.

This post is not meant to be discouraging--quite the opposite. It's meant to say that whatever you do will be the right thing for you. So if you answered "yes" to those questions, then reread all the fabulous advice in the other comments, and have at it.

Welcome, and good luck!

Sara said...

There's been so much awesome encouragement and advice already, but I just wanted to add my support as well.

First of all, congrats for finishing your MS at all. I recently read that less than 1% of books are actually finished by their authors. So you've already beat those odds and that's fantastic! Secondly, thank you for being brave enough to share how much rejection can hurt. I haven't undertaken the scary query process yet , but I feel like there's so much pressure to act as though we're "fine" after rejection in any form (whether it's losing your job, getting dumped, or having your MS rejected). It's as though everyone around you wants you to just be OK and act like these things don't hurt as much as they do. So I think your courage alone in admitting that it DOES hurt (a lot!) deserves kudos! Seriously! Thank you for being so honest and raw about it. I really respect that.

Lastly, I read in "Entertainment Weekly" that the author of THE HELP was rejected 65 times before finally getting picked up. And that book was on the NYT Bestsellers List for how long?! Exactly! Hang in there :)

Anonymous said...

I recently finished a manuscript, not my first, and sent out the first round of queries.

I too am depressed and I haven't even received my first rejection yet.

The feeling I have is a sense of loss. After working so hard and so passionately on my project, waking up one morning with nothing to do but wait for rejections hit like a ton of bricks.

It's sort of a postpartum depression for authors.

Only thing to do is start outlining the second project and put the first as far out of your mind as possible.

Mira said...
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Maya said...

First off, sip some champagne! You should celebrate the chance to get rejected. It's a rite of passage. At least you've accomplished writing a novel. That's something to be proud of on its own.

Second, there are tons of articles about how XYZ famous author got rejected so many times. Meg Cabot has said she has a suitcase full of rejections which she has saved as part of her journey. Read about other authors and it's sure to make you feel better.

Third, try getting your query critiqued on an online forum or at a writing group. Writing a query is a whole different skill than writing a novel, and it's possible that is where you need work. (Though 4 rejections really is not that many).

Finally, I would recommend that you use an email address that does not get sent to your Blackberry. Check your email when you are mentally prepared. There is no reason to get a rejection when you are at a nice dinner or barbecuing on July 4th.

Hope any and all of those help!

Amy said...

That's an awesome suggestion about not using an e-mail address that comes to my blackberry. I don't know why I didn't think of that before. LOL...I was just walking around with a ticking mood destroyer in my purse. When I'm ready to query again, that's a suggestion I'll definitely incorporate into the process.

Sara said...

Jessica is right. Rejection is part of the process.

I've been rejected many times. But you can actually buy books that talk about how many times successful authors were rejected before they got their break.

Luckily, my father has a highly competitive streak and insatiable need to find every fault that my skin had gotten thick over the years. Although rejections still sting, it just proves that I'm a writer. I'm stubborn, so I'm going to keep trying.

You are a writer. So many people say "I could write a book." and never do it. You actually did it. You are in the small percentage of "writers" that have finished their book.

Have you edited your book? If you have and are satisfied that it's in the best shape possible, then move on to writing another book. To quote Walt Disney, "Keep Moving Forward"

Martha Ramirez said...

Well said Jessica! Very well said.

I have an encouragemnet page on my website dedictaed to this. Just click on my name and go to the page.

Yes, it's a long windy road and that is why so many writers quit. But don't let it. If the passion dwells wnough in your heart nothing will stand in your way. I always say if my first book doesn't sell then it will be my second. If not my second my third...I will write until one sells.
Hang in there. You're in good company.

"Rejections are often gifts of direction"

--Paul Young

Cindy Nord said...

Print the following line and tape it to your computer.


And congratulations, sweetest, you are now packed with the necessities needed to begin your journey toward publication. Serenity, courage and wisdom also belong in your suitcase of success.

The world of writing is full of hard knocks. What you do from here, and how you knock back with even better understanding, knowledge of this industry, and motivation toward creating tighter, crisper prose is what defines your future as a writer.

You are well on your way. And one day, you'll look back on your angst-filled words and smile. I promise. Never give up on your dream! Only you define one else.

Good luck!

Cindy Nord

arbraun said...

You just have to suck it up and keep hashing it out. A writer in The Writer's Chatroom said he'd had countless rejections before he finally found an agent. I know it's hard, but if you give up, how can you ever succeed?

I spent a year and a half reading rejections before my short stories started getting published. That says it all.

Bee Magic Chronicles for Kids said...

That letter has expressed my feelings exactly. Writing my novel was such a pleasure. Then the rejections. I got so down about it that I let a whole year slip by without doing anything. Now I've regained my confidence, am learning more about the craft of writing and I've joing a writing critique group. Their feedback is proving to be invaluable... wishing agents would at least give us that much. Even on Idol you can trust Simon to tell you not to quit the day job, you can't sing.

Karen Cioffi said...

Nicely put:

What you need to remind yourself is that these rejection letters have absolutely nothing to do with you. Heck, they might not even have anything to do with your writing. Instead of thinking of these letters as letters of rejection, think of them as part of your journey to publication. Each rejection is one step closer to achieving your dream.

There isn't one writer who has received rejections. Jack Canfield of Chicken Soup for the Soul received 144 rejections from publishers before hitting pay dirt.

I love commenter Cindy's adage:


These are words to live by.

Anonymous said...

By now, with the many agents who are kind enough to blog, you should know that the agent's job is not to teach. That's what your writers' group, your professors, your workshops are for. Use your beta readers to give you notes to tell you what isn't working.

An agent's job is to sell the work of their clients. They read submissions that seem promising because they might take them on as new clients, IF they feel they can sell their work. The slush pile process is a tedious and time-consuming one. If they were to try to give notes on why you were rejected, they wouldn't have any time left in the day for their real work - talking to editors, negotiating contracts, discussing the next project with a client, etc. These are the things you will want your agent to be focusing on when you are finally signed.

Agents who have tried being nice and giving some small feedback typically find they are sucked into a lengthy and sometimes bitter email confrontation. It really is better to accept that they are not your teacher, your mommy or your daddy. Accept that fact and you've taken a first step to being a pro.

Your job is to write the best manuscript you can that makes more than one agent want to sign you so they can sell your work and make money for you, for the agency and hopefully for the publisher.

Anonymous said...

Not sure if anyone mentioned it, but S.King put his rejection letters on his wall as a badge of honor. I think he started when he was a teen.

Gladys Hobson said...

I can add little to what has been said already.
However, I have been getting similar feelings — after 8 years of trying! It has been a long path of false agents and others of similar ilk. I have no regrets for paying out for good editing, that has taught me to write better.
However, success comes in different guises. With the help of my son, I have my own 'publishing house' and seven books in print. One book with an E-publisher. Others could be but I'm hanging on first.
I have a self-publishing company in the USA publishing some of my books (but I do not pay for the privilege as they are happy to have them on their list).
My books get excellent reviews but not from top reviewers. They only review books that are readily available in bookshops throughout the country. A chicken and egg situation.
I have lots of starts for new novels but not the will to complete them. Having said that, I have decided to rewrite one of my books to give it a wider audience appeal. I will start the submission round again. I think this is the way for me to go.
Self publishing is okay if you have great connections and an ability to sell yourself as well as your books.
If you have a love of writing, you will find it impossible to give it up. Rejection is part of the course. Most best selling authors had many rejections (Harry Potter would still be confined to paper had Rowlings given up so easily!)
I believe the book I am now rewriting was 'before its time'. A lot has happened in the six years since it was published (by me). Much more in the years since it was first written. So with writing again, my enthusiasm is beginning to return.
For me, Writing is an addiction.I can tear out my hair and scream but my fingers return to the keys!

April said...
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LivelyClamor said...

I just read through the huge pile of comments and realized I probably mentally processed them the way an editor or agent might do it. When dealing with a huge pile of material, focus on what jumps out at you. That was an eye opener!
So, I could give all you commenters a comment back but...narrowed my focus!

Kimber An: Your loss of a child puts all this in perspective. I don't know you, but I am very sorry. That was the "screeching halt" reaction.

150: Have a plan for what comes next. Thank you!

Patty Blount: Yes: when I approach burnout I need to read!!

S. Spann: Yes, my real life career is attorney. And I have cats. They appreciate your cat's input not to cry on them. Sometimes, though, ya just gotta.

All the comments were great. I am (still) nowhere near anything finished but am listening most carefully.

zororiver | babysitting games said...

I'm no writer. But if i lost inspiration on my work (which is also important) then it's traveling time for me ;). Well, a little bit of vacation won't hurt