Children’s author Jill Corcoran posted a great quote on her blog on Wednesday, a tidbit of advice from editor Alvina Ling. Alvina reminds us of Julie Andrews’ quote that “perserverance is falling 19 times and suceeding the 20th.” Alvina goes on to say that many authors went through a number of rejections before they were published: Dr. Seuss, 28; J.K. Rowling, 8 or 12; Kate DiCamillo, 470!
So, don’t give up. Every time you get a rejection letter, file it away and think, I’m one rejection closer to being published.
You might go through 10 rejections or 500 before you’re published. But the important thing is that if you perservere, keep writing and keep working hard, your chances of being published increase.
Some tidbits on how to cut down your rejection letters:
- Don’t send out your work until it is the best it can be. We all want to rush to the goal, get the touchdown and start our new lives as “authors.” But if you send out your work prematurely, you’ll get sacked. (Light football references in honor of the upcoming Super Bowl.) I have read more than once in interviews with editors and agents that if they reject a work, they don’t want to see it again, even if it has been revised. (Some say they might look at it again but only if it has been substantially rewritten, but usually, if they’re willing to take another look, they’ll say so in their rejection letter.) So, if you have done lots of research for your favorite agents who you want to work with for a lifetime, make sure the work you send them is your absolute best. If they still reject it, it wasn’t right for them and that partnership would not have been right for you. But slim your chances of rejection by making sure your work is top notch.
- Do your research. Don’t open up your agent/editor list and submit alphabetically. Not only will editors and agents be annoyed to get submissions that are clearly not for them, it will waste your time and money and make your work get more rejections that it should. Check the agent/editor guidebooks for ones who work with books that are similar to yours. Then research them to see if they will be people you think would like your work and would be good to work with. You will have to trust this person for the relationship to work best, so make sure it’s someone you can trust. There are numerous places online to research agents and editors. Many have their own websites listing their submission guidelines. (Always check their websites before you submit; never go off what the guidebooks have listed because the submission guidelines might have changed since the books’ publication.) And if they don’t have a website, call the main number at the publishing house and ask the assistant. A search on Google will often bring up interviews with the person, and those can give you an insight into their working habits. Also, go to conferences and meet them in person. You can build up relationships that way.
- Don’t get dejected. Getting a rejection letter does not mean you suck, you should give up, you can’t write, etc. We all think this when we get a rejection letter, but it’s not what it means. It simply means that the person sending it didn’t feel that he or she was passionate enough about the work to continue with it. This could be because it’s not quite ready for publication yet (see the first tidbit) or this could mean it doesn’t resonate with the person (see the second tidbit). So, accept that rejection letter as a step forward and keep going. Sometimes the rejection letter will include a nice note saying why the work is being passed over. Consider those notes — you don’t have to take them to heart, but at least consider them. If they say things you’ve heard a lot, then maybe it time to make some changes to the work. Do that and send out again, this time to new agents and editors.
- Keep writing. Most importantly, once you’ve written and re-written your work until you think it’s the best you can do, you’ve put it in a drawer for a couple months, then looked at it again, given it to critique group friends, gone over it with a fine-tooth comb looking for spelling and grammatical mistakes, and then you’ve submitted it — don’t wait! Move on to your next story idea. Start writing something else — immediately. Often a writer’s first book isn’t published, but their second or third might be. Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones was not her first book, but it was the first to get published. So, don’t stop writing. Keeping moving on to something else. And don’t give up.
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