Rejections are okay, they are not the end, just a step along the way.
I want to talk about rejection. Specifically about the Query process and query rejections. I have a finished manuscript also known as a novel or book. I have a cover letter called a query letter that outlines the story and me. I have a synopsis prepared, that is an outline of the entire novel in two pages.
With all that ready to go, I research Literary Agencies and Literary Agents carefully. I’m searching for one that represents my Genre and subgenre’s, one that I feel would be a good match for my project and me. Then I follow their personal or agency submission guidelines and send them the materials they want to see. (Never send more than what they list)
Then I wait. I check my email like an addict and hit that refresh button as if I can’t function without doing so. Each time I hold my breath, scrunch my eyes and pray to see a Yes, please send more materials.
The dream is to get a yes and then have the agent fall in love with the manuscript and want to represent me.
This is the road to Traditional Publishing. It is a bumpy road full of rejection potholes.
So what happens when you get a rejection from an agent?
First, the emotional let down is akin to being punched in the gut. They are after all rejecting my heart, soul, and hard work. Oh, and they are rejecting me. It sucks.
Here is a sample of a rejection email I received.
“Thanks so much for sending along the sample pages of Prophecy Ink. I’m sorry to say, though, that I just wasn’t as completely drawn in by the material as much as I had hoped. What with my reservations, I’d better bow out. Thanks so much for contacting me, though! I really appreciate it, and wish you the best of luck.”
As it turns out this one was what is called a FORM rejection. A copy-and-paste response. While we hope and pray for some feedback from rejection, the reality is that Agents are busier than we think and this form saves them time. They already spent time reading the queried material they listed to send. I figure the agents are hopeful when they open a query, “Maybe this will be the one,” and when it’s not, I bet they are crushed a little. Now they have to reject someone and their hard work. That has to suck to do. Even if it isn’t personalized the responses are polite and I appreciate that.
If I have an email to respond to, I will thank them again for their time and consideration. I have no idea if Agents want this or not. Despite crushing my hopes and dreams, they are human too, I figure a nice thank you is appropriate.
Side note: some writers get aggressive at this point. They can become belligerent, rude and insulting to agents that say no. Don’t do this. It doesn’t make you right, better or even a good human. That and agents tend to talk and know each other. Just be nice. Patience is required for Traditional Publishing.
Now I have rejection after rejection coming in. Most are form, and some have a little personal note.
All rejections are hard to take, however, all rejections are a step forward. The advice or message in the rejection can sometimes be helpful. Take this for example:
“After reading your first page, I’m sorry this manuscript is not a good fit for me.” and “I read the first chapter and will pass on this project.”
These both pointed to a potential problem. I paused queries and took a hard look. Did some digging and research and eventually found some other agents talking about story openings that will get an instant “No” or “Pass.” Huh. No scenes where the Main Character is dreaming, waking up, walking around doing mundane chores… the list went on. I’ll get into that another time.
Well crap. My story hinged on the premise that Moira wakes up with a tattoo she doesn’t recall getting. Double crap. The chapter was in need of renewal, a renovation of sorts. So I rewrote the first chapter to have her already awake. Is that enough? Time will tell. If I need to rewrite a different angle, I will. Refusing to bend, adjust or change my work will not help me become published. Some would say it’s a “Pushover” or “foolish” thing to change to fit a standard. It’s not. The entire point is to get by a book published and if agents and publishers turn down something for a specific reason and I’ve used that “Something” you better believe I’m going to change it. It would be like walking into the office wearing a bikini. Sure it looks good, and it’s technically clothing, but if they say “You need to change the clothes to work here” You’re likely going to change into more appropriate clothing. Changing the opening isn’t compromising the entire story or me.
Anyone pursuing traditional publishing will receive rejections. A lot of them. Sure there are the magic few that got signed right away. There are also lottery winners who’ve wone millions. Not many, but it can happen. I’m not holding my breath on luck. I will keep pushing, keep querying and keep trying until I find an agent who wants to work with my manuscript and me.
My advice about Rejections.
Rejections are Okay. Get them, get over them, and keep on going. Don’t let rejections deter you or get in the way. Learn from them if you can and know that eventually when you get a YES, all the rejections, hard work, and time will make that yes, sweeter.