More on putting rejections in perspective

Current word count: 14,322

Words written today: 1,183

Words to goal: 25,678 / 347 words a day til end of September

After two days off, I got in a good couple hours on my new book this morning, and it feels so good. The story is there, but the writing’s not great. But that’s what revisions are for.

On Monday, I wrote about things to consider when we get rejections from agents. Rejections can sting, and can make us feel insecure about our writing. Of course, we would love it if every person in the world thought every sentence we write is the best thing since slice bread, but we have to be realistic. Art — and writing is art — is subjective, after all.

So it’s really important to keep rejections in perspective. Mystery and thriller writers’ blog The Kill Zone has a great post from agent Anne Hawkins, of John Hawkins & Associates, in which she talks about why good agents turn down good books. Anne reinforces what I said on Monday about personal taste and an agent’s need to really love a book to take it on. She also adds a few more: saleability of a book, because, of course, publishing is a business; length; author; timing; and conflicts of interest with current clients’ work. It’s a great look into the considerations an agent must give every project they’re offered.

For the writer getting the rejection, we often won’t know what the reason is. Most of the time we’ll get the standard “it’s not for me” form letter. Sure this can be frustrating, but as agent Janet Reid pointed out this week in a post called A Reminder That No Means No, it’s not an agent’s job to tell writers why their work isn’t right for them. And when they’re reading hundreds of query letters a week, plus requested manuscripts, clients’ manuscripts and contracts as well as selling and negotiating for their current clients, it’s understandable that they don’t have the time to give personal feedback to every query they receive. Think of how you would feel if your agent delayed getting your book out because she was writing personalized emails to every query she received.

So what’s a writer to do when we get rejections: First, don’t let it get us down. Keep things in perspective.

Have you sent out 10 queries and gotten no requests for the material? If so, rework your query letter. Are agents asking for fulls or partials but not offering representation? If so, consider your work. Is your opening the best it can be? Is your book the best it can be? Does it need another revision? If you can look at your work and say you’re truly happy with it, then you’ve just not yet found the right agent. Continue to research agents and send out your work. If you persevere, you’ll find the right match eventually.

But most important of all, don’t let a rejection stop you from writing. The best thing you can do to combat a rejection is to write something else. Agent Rachelle Gardner suggests this in her recent post entitled Write Another Book!

If you don’t attract an agent with your first project, you will with your second, or third. Nowadays, agents don’t have the time they once did to take on books that need a lot of work. So your manuscript has to be at a higher standard. The more you write, the better your work will get. And once your writing has secured that agent, there’s nothing to say those earlier works might look better now.

So, keep rejections in perspective, and remember author J.A. Konrath’s quote: There’s a word for a writer who never gives up — published.


4 Responses

  1. beth says:

    I’m a big believer in Rachelle’s advice: I always just write another book! 🙂

  2. Christopher says:

    I just received my first agent rejection on my new book. I will admit that many years ago I gave up writing because of the rejection (despite the fact that it wasn’t always a form letter).

    The desire to write never left me and I did most of my writing in journals for myself. This last year I decided that I would regret it forever if I didn’t get off my backside and give it another go.

    My wife was worried about the rejection but I couldn’t really get fired up. It was based on a query letter and two pages of manuscript.

    I have decided that I am going to keep writing this time. If it never happens I will know that I spent my life doing what I love.

    Now if that second agent would just respond.

  3. Thanks for the post. Those links you added are helpful and interesting – thanks!

  4. Too true, Beth. I’m on my second while my first is making the rounds. It definitely helps get my mind off agents.

    Christopher, thank you so much for this comment. This is exactly what it’s all about. I truly believe that the more we all write, the better we all get, and that one day, we will be discovered, so to speak. But it’s not about money or prestige. It’s about the journey of being a writer. It’s about living in your character’s worlds. It’s about doing what you love even if you never get anything from it. I’m thrilled that you’ve decided to keep writing this time. You’re an inspiration, Christopher. Keep it up.

    And Owlandsparrow, you’re most welcome! Glad you think they’re helpful.

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