(Sorry, Game of Thrones is on my mind. I miss it so.)
Rejections suck. Let’s just get that out of the way first, because there’s no other way of putting it and no amount of sugar-coating that will ease the pain of those little white envelopes (or, in this day and age, little formatted emails). I have no idea how many mugs of hot chocolate I’ve bawled into over the years while I accumulated stacks and stacks of those things. Nothing new here—we all know this. We lament it constantly!
However, a while ago, I attended a writer’s conference where another author shared the fact that she had never gotten rejected in the traditional publishing process. She wished she had. Why? Well, her answer made me think about rejection from a completely different angle:
You are going to get rejected at some point in the process, so it’s best to build up your defenses early.
What she meant was this. Most of us aspiring writers have a chance to build up a thick skin. We write that first manuscript, we send it out, and we get back a quadrillion rejection letters. Some are standard, while others are personalized–and in some ways, the personalized ones hurt even more. We cry over them, we get over them, and then we move on and write something better and start the carousel all over again. When you do this enough times, you eventually become so used to rejection that by the time you finally do get your feet in the door, you can handle pretty much anything that comes your way. Bad Kirkus Review? Angry parents? Unimpressed teens? Skin of rhino. (Okay, fine–these all will still sting a little, but you eat some chocolate and then you usually move on.)
The author at the conference, however, didn’t get to take this path. In fact, up until her advance copies started coming out, she had never gotten a rejection in her life. Her first manuscript got picked up right away by the dream agent that she wanted. Her agent sold it right away to the perfect publishing house. Along the way, not a single rejection letter. Yes, I know. Green eyes of eeeeenvy. However, she went on to say, once she actually did get her first “rejection”, which came in the form of an early review, the rejection hit her HARD. She had absolutely no chance to prepare for something like that, and it hurt her something fierce. She said that, in hindsight, she would actually have preferred getting rejected earlier in the process, so that the scar tissue would protect her later on in the game.
Because you know what?
No one will reject you in the way readers will.
No agent or publisher will ever write you a rejection as blunt as some readers will write. No publishing professional (er, I don’t think) will ever send you an email that says, “I rly hated ur book why does ur main female protagonist act like an idiot? And she’s so mean I hope she dies.” Or “God I hated everything about this book. The characters are weak and annoying, the plot is as cliche as a red-headed best friend, and the writing sounds like it came from my 2nd grade journal.” Or “Does this author know anything about romance? Bc obviously she’s never made out with a boy in her life.” Readers have the right to say anything they want about your writing, and there’s nothing you can (or should) do to stop it. Readers are king. They are the end piece of the publishing puzzle, and they hold All The Power. You might get a rejection like the above every day. FOREVER. O__O
I find it oddly comforting that rejection is simply a part of a writer’s (or any creative’s) life. It’s also a part of life for every person in the publishing profession. Agents regularly have their hearts broken when a manuscript they love goes to a rival agent. Editors lose their favorite manuscripts to other editors, or when their publishers don’t let them offer. Publishers frequently have things like covers and titles (and books) rejected by buyers. And buyers are at the mercy of readers. Readers are the only piece of the puzzle who Never Get Rejected.
So when you get that rejection letter from an agent or publisher, rest assured in the knowledge that they are merely preparing you for what’s to come. (I know, I’m so comforting!) No matter how awesome your book is, you WILL get rejected by some readers. But if you’ve already built up your skin, you’ll be able to handle them with the brawn of a Spartan.
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