Guest Post: The Realities of Publishing (And What Rejection Has Taught Me)

Hey guys! It’s Sooz. Today we have a guest post from Meredith McCardle about rejection.

We’ve all heard the stories. There’s the girl who sends out her first batch of queries, only to get an immediate deluge of full requests and wake up the next morning with eight offers of representation waiting in her inbox. Or the debut author who goes on submission, only to find himself fending off several six-figure, multi-book, preempt offers the following week.

Well, here’s Reality Check #1: That’s not going to be you. (Ok, I guess if you play the odds, it might be, but I’d posit you have a better chance of getting struck by lightning. Just saying.)

Oh, please don’t look at me like that. It’s not going to be me either. As much as my ego (and my mom) likes to tell me I’m the greatest thing to happen to the publishing industry since forever, my journey to publication has been long and winding, and pretty typical of what most writers experience. I received form rejections to my query. Dozens of them. I got partial and full requests, only to then get form rejections on those. After months of ups and downs, I signed with an agent … only to have my first book fail to sell. There’s been heartbreak and insecurity and even some anger, but along the way I realized I’ve learned a lot from the harsh realities of this business.

Reality Check #2: It is possible for an agent or editor to love your book and not offer you a contract. Maybe you write in a genre that’s already saturated the market. Or maybe your book is just a tad too commercial for an editor looking to build a more literary list. You can very well find yourself reading a rejection letter that reads something like, “I really enjoyed this … but I’m not buying it.”

Lesson learned: Publishing is a business, just like any other. When an agent or editor rejects your work, it’s really not personal. Most of the time, it doesn’t even have anything to do with you. It has to do with trends and sales figures and market projections. Sometimes you’re caught in the middle of that, and, while it hurts, you can take comfort in the fact it’s the way of the business, not you.

Reality Check #3: Rejection letters can be blunt. As much as an agent or editor might try to let you down softly, you probably will feel the sting of words like “weak,” “nonsensical” or even “failure.” It will make you feel like you are a terrible writer and you can’t imagine why you ever thought otherwise.

Lesson learned: Once you get over the initial shock of a harsh “no,” you can cull through rejection letters and pull out nuggets of wisdom. My rejection letters for my first book were sort of all over the place, but when I looked back through them as a whole, there were a couple themes that kept cropping up. A main character who needed more strength, a setting that needed more richness. You can bet that I focused on those weaknesses when writing my second book, only to now find them praised as strengths. Every book—every rejection—is a learning opportunity, if you choose to see it that way.

Reality Check #4: If you cannot accept rejection, you will never make it in this business. This one might be the harshest of all, but I also think it holds the most truth. Even if you beat the odds and land a great publishing contract, there’s no guarantee the critics will love you. Or that readers will buy your book. And you’re pretty much certain to have a bunch of scathing, one-star Goodreads reviews waiting for you in the future. So really, rejection never stops.

Lesson learned: Rejection is good for you. Yes, I said good for you. You need thick skin to be a writer, because if you buckle under the pressure and talk of throwing in the towel, you’re never going to make it. (And that’s true of all things, not just writing). So keep your head up. I mean, go ahead and have a good cry once in a while or get together with fellow writer friends and complain. But then leave all the baggage behind and push through. Refuse to take no for an answer. Visualize success. And above all, keep writing.

Having read Meredith’s books, I (Sooz) can attest that they are AMAZING. If she’s getting rejection, then it’s safe to say: we’re all in for some rejection.

And it’s thanks to Meredith that I’ve managed to wind up where I am today—she was one of my first crit partners and writing friends. To celebrate that, she’s giving away an ARC of Something Strange and Deadly.

All you have to do to enter is leave a comment telling us how YOU deal with rejection, and we’ll pick a winner next week!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

MEREDITH MCCARDLE worked as an attorney for many years before she decided to follow her heart and give full-time writing a try. She’s represented by Rubin Pfeffer of East/West Literary and lives in South Florida with her husband and daughter. You can learn more about her on her website or on Twitter.


46 Responses to Guest Post: The Realities of Publishing (And What Rejection Has Taught Me)

  1. ellen levy-sarnoff Jul 5 2012 at 4:16 am #

    Yes, you have to keep your head up high, your skin thick and your nimble fingers going at the keyboard. The worst cast scenario, you can always self publish and perhaps you will become the next Amanda Hocking. If you really dream of becoming a writer, never give up. Like Meridith says: above all, keep writing.

  2. Raven Jul 5 2012 at 9:35 am #

    Go buy a pint of ice cream, curl up into a ball, and cry?

    I’ve never really queried before so I don’t know anything about rejection but I think if I received a rejection I would feel bummed out about it for a little while, then move on. There are plenty of authors out there who were rejected more times than I have fingers before they found their agents, so there’s always hope.

    Thanks for the giveaway! 🙂

  3. Lea Krnjeta Jul 5 2012 at 9:42 am #

    I usually sulk for a few days listening to angry music but then I start over because I dont like to accept defeat.

  4. Tracey Anne Berry Jul 5 2012 at 9:48 am #

    Everybody deals with things in lots of different ways – Privately I’m devastated – I usually 2 go to a local car park late at night and drive round in circles 4 hours then go home, go 2 bed and tomorrow I’m over – what can you do? I’ve given up dwelling, wondering, pondering because you don’t know what another person is actually thinking/wanting/requiring. Outwardly I’d be confident that I can do better, improve, change etc (especially the next day when I ask for feedback – I ALWAYS ask for feedback – now that makes me feel better when it’s all put into words where you went wrong, where it could be improved, tidied up and then there is the praise for things that you did right and should not change – swings and roundabouts – such is life ) xx

  5. Jean Giardina Jul 5 2012 at 9:52 am #

    Solid advice. Looking forward to reading Something Strange and Deadly.

  6. Jordan Erika Smith Jul 5 2012 at 9:58 am #

    I definitely don’t deal with it well at all at first, but I’ve got one of those personalities that gets over things really quickly whether I want to or not. There are so many times in my life I honestly wish I could just be mad and seethe over things, but it passes so quickly. I know it’s a good thing in the end, but I sometimes really hate it. It does leave a tiny sad memory, but if you try hard enough you’ll replace it with a good one. Just staying positive.

  7. Megan Duff Jul 5 2012 at 9:59 am #

    I’m usually more scared of the prospect of rejection than the actual rejection itself. Sad to say that a lot of the time I have an “expect the worst” policy 🙂 Which can be good or bad. I am trying to be less afraid of rejection because that often culminates is me holding back or procrastinating or rationalizing putting my dreams on hold.

    I think when it comes to querying I am going to try to learn from the rejections and celebrate the requests. As little stress as possible I say 😀

  8. Leonicka Jul 5 2012 at 10:07 am #

    There is SO much wisdom in this post. You are so right. Writers put so much of their heart and soul into their work that it hard to remember that publishing is a business; it’s not about your feelings.

    I deal with rejection by putting it out of sight. Minimize the window. Put away the letter. Then, when I’m calm, I write a standard polite thank-you note and put it all out of mind. THEN, when my ego finally heals, I look it over again and try to learn from my mistakes. (There is a lot of ice cream and reality TV involved in this process.)

  9. Monica Jul 5 2012 at 10:09 am #

    Thank you so much for writing this! I’m currently swimming in the land of rejection letters, and while it sucks, I know that this is just one of those things I have to keep sticking it out if I’m serious about wanting this next part of my writing aspirations to take shape (which I am). So far I’ve only gotten form letters, having no requests for partials or fulls yet, and I am almost looking forward to getting those so I can get a better sense of what my novel currently lacks so I can work on it in other projects. How do I handle my rejection? I print out all the ones that I get and tape them to the wall. I like the reminder that even though it isn’t fun that this many people have said “no”, I have to keep believing that someday, someone will say “yes.” So I do that, and then go back to whatever my current WIP is. =)

  10. Stephanie Jul 5 2012 at 10:40 am #

    I inwardly want to cry while telling myself and everyone else i never expected to do all that well and that i will work so much harder and so much better next time …

  11. Rissa Jul 5 2012 at 10:51 am #

    Rejection is a hard pill to swallow, not just in writing, but in many aspects of life. Especially if it’s something you worked so hard on, pouring blood, sweat, tears, and really a large amount of your life.
    This is a good post, realistic and wise. It’s important to remember that rejection and failure can hurt, but you need to rise up and just keep pushing and work hard on what you love.

  12. Erin Bowman Jul 5 2012 at 11:01 am #

    An honest, realistic reminder for all of us, no matter what stage we’re at in the game. Great post, Meredith!

  13. Chihuahua Zero Jul 5 2012 at 11:18 am #

    I’m yet to send out a query letter to an agent or an editor, so…I’m not sure. Other types of rejection? I just brood for a few moments and then move on.

  14. Dani Nguyen Jul 5 2012 at 11:35 am #

    How do I deal with rejection? Not very well, so you probably shouldn’t take advice from me lol. I’m a perfectionist, so rejection always hits me really hard. I would recommend copious amounts of ice cream though. Thanks for the thought provoking post!

  15. Emilia Jul 5 2012 at 11:37 am #

    I cry like a baby! Well actually not, it depends from whom the rejection comes… But usually some tears are shed, some deep thought is in order, and, after analyzing, if the thing is not worth it, I pick up myself and keep on walking, if not I may go into a lousy mood for a while until I forget it or at least put it in a drawer where I cannot reach it…

  16. Amity Jul 5 2012 at 1:28 pm #

    Haha, I deal with it by having a baby… Of course, I didn’t have the baby explicitly for this purpose, but it’s worked well. When I started going on subs, I was pregnant — and twenty weeks of morning sickness meant that I didn’t have the energy to haunt my inbox or really care about responses. The next time I went on subs, I had the baby — and really, I don’t have time to spare more than a few minutes of mourning whenever my agent sends me a pass. All my time is dealing with Miss Cuteness or, if Daddy has her, writing like a madwoman in my free time.

  17. Myra Jul 5 2012 at 1:35 pm #

    I deal with rejection by binging on chocolate and ice cream, and hiding in my room and feeling sorry for myself. 😀 Thanks for the giveaway! I can’t wait to read SOMETHING STRANGE AND DEADLY. So many good books coming out this year. 🙂

  18. Millie Dixon Jul 5 2012 at 4:30 pm #

    I guess I can’t say I take it like a pro, because I certainly don’t. There may be some sulking and moping aronud the house and possibly a chocolate binge, depending on how bad the rejection is. Most of the time, after a reasonable amount of mourning, I look on the brighter side and won’t give up on my goals. You know, build a bridge over it all philosophy.
    Thanks for the giveaway, and a lovely rejection post!

  19. Stephanie Allen Jul 5 2012 at 4:52 pm #

    I had to learn how to deal with rejection recently during my student teaching. I’m pretty sure sitting there, having people list every single thing you did wrong, TO YOUR FACE, is the worst feeling I’ve ever experienced. But…it really did help me. I mean, yeah, the first few times I ended up in the bathroom after school crying, and then I’d come home and watch Grey’s Anatomy and eat Ben & Jerry’s…but it does help, because even though it feels like a complete slap to the face, and you want to question why you’re even trying to do whatever it is you’re doing, anyway – no matter what field it is – it really is the only way to make you stronger and to help you improve. So, as much as rejection sucks, you should still savor it, because it means you tried.

    I’m going to have to keep telling myself this when I start querying later this year 🙂

  20. Sigal Tzoore Jul 5 2012 at 4:57 pm #

    I always wonder if I’m just too sensitive for this business — rejections really level me to the ground. But I have to write. If there’s one thing I know about myself, it’s that I’m a writer. So I plod through. Slowly. Carefully. Taking risks, but maybe less than I would if I had a tougher skin. And maybe publishing will never happen for me, or maybe it will. I know I need to deal with rejections, but it will probably be in my way — the hiding under the bed for days way. Then again, maybe one day I’ll discover rejection’s not that bad. Or not. Either way.

  21. Yuanting Jul 5 2012 at 8:26 pm #

    I’m quite a stubborn person, once I face rejection, I tend to work for the same goal again until I achieve it.

    Sometimes it’s laborious and sometimes it is just impossible (it takes time for me to realise that) so it does sap much of my energy but that justification you get when you succeed the second time… priceless.

  22. Emily (Ed and Em's R Jul 5 2012 at 9:33 pm #

    To be honest, I don’t handle rejection well.
    After rejection, more often than not, I cry and go book shopping, because nothing makes sadness go away like a good book!

  23. Meredith Anderson Jul 5 2012 at 10:36 pm #

    How do I deal with rejection?

    First, it gets to me. I curl into a ball, cry and sometimes stuff my face with chocolate and ice cream. Then I get up, do something that makes me happy, like read a part of a favorite book or even a recent book. I go out and take a walk. I think about what was said to me and how I can do something about it the next time around. I make myself look on the bright side. (and then the Monty Python song comes into my head and I skip around a bit.)

    In short, I have to let the rejection hit and let the emotions roll through me. I’ve always found it’s best to cry when I feel like I need to, even if I don’t necessarily have a reason for it. (I’ve done this before. Wonder Boy knows to comfort now and ask questions later). Holding in emotion never works for me. If I get rejected, I have to feel the sting before I can get myself on the mend. But I always feel better for it.

    Great advice Meredith!


  24. Jaime Loren Jul 5 2012 at 11:12 pm #

    I’ve always viewed rejection as a way to learn and make my writing better. If we’re never criticized or taken down a peg, how are we to learn and grow? I guess I’ve been lucky in that one rejection has usually been followed by a request from another agent, so I haven’t had that much time to feel sorry for myself!
    But it certainly helps if you have awesome CPs. If they’re honest enough (and mine are definitely honest!), you’ll have thick skin BEFORE you start querying. 🙂

  25. Jaime Lester Jul 6 2012 at 1:48 am #

    There are different reactions to different rejections, but one thing they always have in common for me is that they light a fire under my butt. I take a good look at myself and make sure that there is absolutely nothing that I could have done better, and if I realize a mistake then I will do what I can to rectify that mistake before the next chance at something approaches. After that, I call my mama, have a really good girl fest with her, and then go about my day and keep my head held high.

  26. Nhi Jul 6 2012 at 2:56 am #

    In terms of manuscript and all that writing jazz, I think the question would be rephrased for me as: “How WOULD you handle rejection?” But I think I would initially feel really dejected and take it personally (even though that probably won’t be the case), and then stalk them and demand to know why won’t they love me! I mean, if I were auditioning for a remake of Fatal Attraction or something…

    I like to think that I would just put it away and after awhile, I can look back on it and understand why they didn’t accept it, and even take their advice on how to improve my draft (if they do provide it) and just accept it. Of course, that needs to be aided with lots of junk food, Jane Austen and lots of 80s song to cheer me up. *shrugs*

  27. Adaeze Jul 6 2012 at 3:45 am #

    I’m not going to deny it, I was full of some of those starry-eyed misconceptions about the publishing world, but I’ve come to realize that it is indeed a business. However, knowing rejection is almost imminent (and will probably be frequent) I won’t be discouraged. Thank you so much for your advice, particularly the part about learning from your rejection letters. I’l definitely bookmark this post and refer to it whenever I’m discouraged (which will probably be often). Thanks again for the words of wisdom!

  28. Jenelle R. Jul 6 2012 at 7:00 am #

    Hmm… Deal with it in my head. Sulk a bit, but accept it sooner or later. Move on and start new! Though rejection DOES suck, big time. :/

  29. Laura Kolar Jul 6 2012 at 10:03 am #

    This was a great post!

    I keep form rejections in a separate file from others that may have been more specific. That way when I’m making revisions I can refer to the ones that are most pertinent. I also live by the knowledge that publishing is subjective and there are just going to be people who don’t like what I write, whether it’s agents, editors, or (eventually) the general public.

  30. Soumi Roy Jul 6 2012 at 10:30 am #

    First I become very upset and then let myself to think when he doesn’t care for me, why should I care. I refrain control of my heart and never let it loose for someone who doesn’t deserve me

  31. Ghenet Myrthil Jul 6 2012 at 12:02 pm #

    Great post! I’m about to query for the first time this summer, so while I haven’t received a written rejection yet, I’ve pitched agents in person and felt the sting when they said they weren’t interested. But I agree that it helps toughen your skin, since it’s part of the process. Taking a day to sulk is fine, as long as you get back to writing/querying the next day. 🙂

  32. Reflecting Bookworm Jul 6 2012 at 12:25 pm #

    I deal with rejection by munching on some sweets and telling myself that I have to get a bunch of No’s before I can get a Yes!

  33. galena Jul 6 2012 at 1:30 pm #

    I’ve never queried, but I’ve helped a friend both with alpha reading their work and in prepping their query letter. It got rejected by every agent it was sent to, so my friend decided to self publish as he didn’t really expect it would get much of a commercial market anyway.

    I feel that as long as you go in expecting to be rejected, and just keep writing things, it’ll help when you get the inevitable rejection letters (or possibly even no responses at all). I’ve heard that quite often you don’t sell your first work, or even your first few. The point is to keep writing and improving your skills.

  34. Adrian Jul 6 2012 at 1:40 pm #

    I’ve never really queried before, but I have such a clear picture of where I want to be in my head that even if I get multiple rejections (I know it’s gonna happen), I’ll still be okay with them. Sure, I may be just a LITTLE devastated… for a LITTLE bit… but after that I’ll get my butt back to writing.

  35. Alexa Loves Books Jul 6 2012 at 11:43 pm #

    Thanks for the the thoughtfully written and very insightful post. I think it’s a great reality check on what the publishing industry can really be like. Despite how discouraging it can often be, I can’t wait to put myself out there and experience it for myself.

  36. alicia marie Jul 7 2012 at 5:32 pm #

    I’m not a writer so I don’t have to deal with the same type of rejection, but I figure most all rejection feels about the same, right? I’m usually angry when I’m first rejected, but then I accept it and it just motivates me to work that much harder to get what I want so that hopefully the next time will be different. Also, having some chocolate or cookies to ease the pain doesn’t hurt : )

  37. Shelver506 Jul 8 2012 at 1:37 pm #

    Rejection over important things? I tend to fume a bit, then I go to my room and read a book of Foxtrot or Dilbert comic books. I usually just need time to regain my equilibrium.

  38. Tiffany B. Jul 9 2012 at 7:04 am #

    Well, to be honest, rejection hurts me a lot more than I show. On the outside, I probably look as if I couldn’t care less, but on the inside, my insides are all jumbled up, my head is pounding, and I feel like I just want to curl up into a ball of shame.
    But rejection HAS taught me to correct my mistakes and for some reason, criticism just makes me want to do better. So overall, I guess the long-term effects are better than the short-term, which are just silly anyway.
    Rejection is always inevitable and I guess I’ll have to accept it as a part of life. I can’t do anything about it.
    I CAN however, strive harder and focus on my weaknesses so that I’ll do a whole lot better.

    Thanks for this post! It helped me a lot. 🙂

  39. Hayley G Jul 9 2012 at 11:28 pm #

    I’m terrified of rejection, I avoid it as much as possible haha

  40. Jasana Jul 10 2012 at 3:58 pm #

    I have cycle in which I deal with rejection. First stage is sadness, this is where I get incredibly depressed and think that I’m a horrible writer and all the praises I’ve gotten were all just lies to make me feel better. The second stage is where I hate the reject-ers and think they have horrible taste for not liking my writing. The third stage is where I’m angry at everyone for no reason at all. And the last stage of the cycle is where I finally come into terms with the rejection and see it for what it really is. I understand that my writing may have been bad or my story is not the people were looking for, or whatever situation applies. I come into terms with the rejection

    Then, I write more stories, completely forgetting my rejection.

  41. Katie O'Shea Jul 10 2012 at 9:01 pm #

    Great post! I just try not to get discouraged, and vow to keep going and learn from it as you suggested. You can learn something from every experience if you have a positive attitude about it. 🙂

  42. Daphne Jul 11 2012 at 10:02 am #

    Thank you for the great article and your candidness on the subject. I try to take rejection well, and use it as a learning experience, instead of taking it too personally.

  43. Hwa Sun Jul 11 2012 at 3:48 pm #

    Well, I don’t know about the publishing business, but when I get rejected (for anything) I try to not take it personally and move on because if I keep thinking about the past, I’m not going to have much time for the future.

  44. Rick Johnson Jul 16 2012 at 6:25 pm #

    I have learned to laugh at rejection letters. I still take my work serious, and I take the rejection serious, but I laugh and move on.

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