Reading you under the table since 2012

Rejection Is Coming

by

Marie Lu

(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. :)

(And with that, here’s a chance to win a critique from me of your query letter. Fill out the Rafflecopter form below to enter!)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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54 Comments

  1. Gwen Cole
    Posted January 15, 2013 at 6:18 am | Permalink

    Sci-fi!! And it probably always will be XD

  2. Posted January 15, 2013 at 6:57 am | Permalink

    This is something I’m actually grateful for as well. Just like my characters, I’ve grown from the rejection and failure and become stronger and more interesting for it. Being rejected as a writer has taught me so much about life and made me even more empathetic.

    An excellent post that every writer should read.

  3. Posted January 15, 2013 at 7:10 am | Permalink

    This post came just in time for me. Working on that rhino thick skin with each submission of my darling manuscript to my critique group. I try to man up and take their criticism seriously, but it always stings to hear that my thoughts didn’t translate right, yet again. I know that rejection is par for the course though, and that means that eventually this sting, will gradually wear off right? Sort of like the way that after high school, getting shot down by a guy I really liked didn’t feel like the end of the world. It hurt, but not as deeply, and I recovered more quickly. Thanks for the encouragement.

  4. Posted January 15, 2013 at 7:20 am | Permalink

    My favorite genre is fantasy and then dystopian. This is a great post and so timely for me. I’m planning to rework my query and then start querying soon for the very first time. Thanks for the giveaway. I’d love to win a critique from you.

  5. Posted January 15, 2013 at 8:05 am | Permalink

    I love Dystopian so much. I’m sad that it is taking a down turn in popularity, but I know there will always be readers who need to know what would happen should society fall apart.

  6. Posted January 15, 2013 at 8:36 am | Permalink

    It’s so hard to choose just one! If I HAD to choose, it would be Fantasy. Anything can happen!
    Thanks for this giveaway and insight on rejection. riter’s have to have tough skin to take all the reviews, rejection and critiques. But, as the cliche’ goes, what doesn’t kill you, makes your book better :P

  7. Antonia
    Posted January 15, 2013 at 8:45 am | Permalink

    Historical fiction :)
    I’m lucky in that I have a wonderfully blunt beta reader who doesn’t pull his punches about my work. Getting his edits are ruthless and at first felt like the rejection of a harsh review. But I love getting them, every last nit-picked criticism, because what he doesn’t tell me pre-publication will get hacked out by reviewers, and I feel genuinely excited and happy at the chance of making my book better.

  8. Heather
    Posted January 15, 2013 at 8:48 am | Permalink

    My skin has definitely been toughened, although a reader saying they hate your book has got to hurt.
    My favorite genre to write is fantasy. I love reading fantasy, contemporary, historical, and dystopian, too.

  9. Lucie
    Posted January 15, 2013 at 8:55 am | Permalink

    Contemporary and fantasy – I know, cheating :)

    • Lori
      Posted January 15, 2013 at 9:13 am | Permalink

      Favorite genre is tough for me. I will try anything and read almost all genres but especially have been into YA contemporary lately.

  10. Posted January 15, 2013 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    That’s a really good point of view that I hadn’t considered before. I also like the point that readers are the only part of the puzzle that never face rejection. Maybe that’s what makes them so cavalier in their reviews – they’ve got nothing to lose.
    I love magical realism and fantasy.

  11. Kristin Baldwin
    Posted January 15, 2013 at 9:40 am | Permalink

    My favorite genre is psychological thriller!

  12. Posted January 15, 2013 at 9:42 am | Permalink

    Sci fi and fantasy! I like some historical and a few contemporaries, but, honestly, I really need a dragon or a space ship or magic or superpowers to hook me into a story.

  13. Posted January 15, 2013 at 9:58 am | Permalink

    Great post! Rejection has helped with so many areas of my life. Your post is a great reminder not to let rejection define the writing. Thank you.

  14. Michaele Stoughton
    Posted January 15, 2013 at 10:06 am | Permalink

    That makes sense. It has definitely gotten easier with each rejection. Of course, it still stings, but I know that when IT finally happens, it will be that much sweeter.
    My favorite is fantasy.

  15. Jordan Hamessley
    Posted January 15, 2013 at 10:07 am | Permalink

    Such a fantastic post, Marie! Rejection comes in so many forms in this business.

  16. Posted January 15, 2013 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    I was talking about my writing to a friend I hadn’t seen in ages the other day and I mentioned something about “when I get rejection letters” and she thought I sounded really negative thinking I was definitely going to get rejected. I had to explain to her that it is normal! I was told that Shannon Hale came to the school I’m working at and had some kids help her stretch these pieces of paper from end to end in the gymnasium where she was speaking. They were laughing and everything and she said “yeah, those are all of my rejection letters!” I’m so glad you wrote this post because it helps me look on the bright side of those rejection letters that I’m sure I’ll get and seeing the silver lining is SO important for me. Because that’s how I cope with rejection. I try to find something good from it!

    Mer
    <3

  17. Posted January 15, 2013 at 10:34 am | Permalink

    I love this post so much. It’s just the confirmation I needed.

    Thanks for showing how other departments in the business are rejected too. We don’t think about that too often, so it’s a wonderful eye-opener or reminder to us all.

  18. Posted January 15, 2013 at 10:54 am | Permalink

    Excellent post! I think the key word here is business – rejection is common in this business. Not personal – business. Writers put so much emotion and so much of themselves into their books that sometimes, especially the first time, it’s hard not to take rejection personally. “It’s not personal, it’s business” is a mantra that’s helped me a lot over the last few years.

    (Which is not to say that I didn’t sob wildly on numerous occasions during the querying/submission days.)

  19. Posted January 15, 2013 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    My favorite genre to read/write is definitely sci-fi!!!

    As for rejection, I usually handle it with a cupcake, ice cream, cookie, or whatever dessert thing I’ve got in my apartment (but that’s also how I celebrate the good things, sooooo, yeah. make of that what you will)! My skin has definitely been toughened by rejection, though!

    I also lean a lot on my writer-friends when I’m feeling down! They’ve been so encouraging when I get all self-doubty and amazingly supportive when I have things to celebrate! I couldn’t do this without them, and I’m thankful for them (and the rejections) every day!

    Thanks so much for the post AND the Game of Thrones reference :)

  20. Posted January 15, 2013 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

    I’ve had so much rejection by now that I’d *like* to say I’ll be well prepared for what comes beyond the first stage…. but I know that’ll still sting no matter what ;) Amazing post that was a pleasure to read, and a comfort to know that I’m never alone in the world of rejections! I know the rejections so far for me have really helped sharpen my eye and pushed me to improve in so many ways. (Although it’d be nice if I could start getting some good news for, for a bit ;)

    And my favourite genre has always been fantasy :)

  21. Megan
    Posted January 15, 2013 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    I handle rejection by doing an activity that takes my mind away from the initial sting of being rejected (Cleaning, running, shopping). I then go back and try to look objectively. Maybe I can learn something from it? Also, I share my rejection with a loved one, somewhat talking it out or getting their opinions. This process helps me. I haven’t developed a thick skin like everyone else!

    My favorite genre is fantasy ^.^

  22. Nora
    Posted January 15, 2013 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

    Lots and lots of chocolate!

  23. Posted January 15, 2013 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

    I’ve gotten so many rejections that actually getting a yes scares me. No joke. But the waiting is always horrible. I usually handle that by baking.

  24. stephanie garber
    Posted January 15, 2013 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    Thanks so much for such a thoughtful blog post! I don’t think you could have said it better. I don’t handle rejection very well, I’m a big crier, but I’ve found that if I watch reruns of Chuck, after getting a rejection, it is impossible to cry!

  25. Posted January 15, 2013 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    I can only hope I get one of those rejections one day, because it will mean I’m published!

  26. Posted January 15, 2013 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

    I write middle grade, and I love what you said about (more or less) getting the first manuscripts and rejection out of the way. I, too, commiserate over a cup of cocoa. Thoughtful post. Thank you!

  27. Posted January 15, 2013 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    I have a folder in my inbox where I put my rejections.

    Fav genre to read/write is def epic fantasy.

    Thanks for the giveaway!

  28. Posted January 15, 2013 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

    This is so refreshing and timely! I’m querying my YA novel now and have had some bites, but a lot more rejection. It’s hard to know how to take it! I just keep reminding myself that it’s likely I just haven’t found the right agent fit.

  29. Rosie
    Posted January 15, 2013 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

    Over the years, with so many rejections behind my back, I’ve developed the following philosophy: “Well, at least now I know this isn’t the right agent for me. If they don’t believe in my book and are not passionate about it, then I certainly would not like to work with them, would I? I keep going until the right one pops up, one way or the other.

  30. Posted January 15, 2013 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

    Reeses peanut butter cups and lots of ‘em! That’s my initial response to rejection, along with some bad TV to escape reality for a bit. Then a pep talk for myself and the next day I can usually put it into perspective. Querying is around the corner for me, and I’m nervous, but I like your approach above–I’ll bookmark this to read over my Reeses in a few months.

  31. Sarah Marie
    Posted January 15, 2013 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

    I get something sweet and take it up to my room. I eat and hole myself up in the corner until I am ready to face the world enough to watch go watch TV. I don’t dwell on it until the next day or the day after (or the day after) when I can go back and look at my rejection and try to find out why.

  32. Posted January 15, 2013 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

    I love this post! I think it’s something I’ve never really thought about, mostly because rejection makes me nervous or fearful. It’s pretty tough to say, but I hope I develop a thicker skin as I continue to pursue writing ;)

  33. Posted January 15, 2013 at 8:22 pm | Permalink

    Yeah, rejection still stings even though I’ve lost count of all mine. I think it stings less and less though as time goes on.

  34. Posted January 15, 2013 at 9:33 pm | Permalink

    Well…. I haven’t sent out any queries YET but for all the little rejections in life, I just move on. Not make the basketball team? Try out for soccer. Not get in the play? Take dance classes, and so on and so forth. :) As for my favorite genre, I’m loving Gothic YA!

  35. Katelyn
    Posted January 16, 2013 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    My favorite genre is Fantasy, far and away.

    Also, I loved this post. It’s a great point and really lets us see the positive (even if it’s just a tiny sliver of silver lining) in rejection.

  36. Posted January 16, 2013 at 10:48 am | Permalink

    When I get a rejection that really stings, I go back and read some of the super positive stuff someone has said about my writing. It’s easy to dwell on the negative, even when there is so much good.

  37. Posted January 16, 2013 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    I have filed a few lovely emails from CPs, beta readers and agents. When I get a rejection that hurts, I read one of them and it makes me feel a bit better about my writing…

  38. Posted January 16, 2013 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

    I think YA scifi and fantasy will always be my faves because I love getting lost in the world of the story!

  39. Posted January 16, 2013 at 10:53 pm | Permalink

    Rejection is a part of life. You ask someone out, they say no. You apply for a job, you don’t get it. You send a query out, you get a no. It’s all the same, and it does sting some, but I don’t know why but rejection in the querying sense has yet to really hit me in a bad way. It aches for a moment or two when I get a no, but nothing life ending. I don’t need to curse, eat chocolate (though that’s always tempting) or feel devastated. I’m glad about that, really. A request/partial rejection hurts a bit more so — if I’m lamenting about it too much — I’ll go exercise. It helps exhaust me in another way.

  40. Posted January 17, 2013 at 7:25 am | Permalink

    My favorite genre is fantasy (mostly high fantasy)

    I was in the query trenches last year and couldn’t understand why so many agents rejected my query so that bit me.

    After a year, I understood the problems with my query and I have revised my query and manuscript during the past year.

    I wouldn’t mind having a final set of eyes for my final query :)

  41. Posted January 17, 2013 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    Mostly I just sigh and move on, although every once in a while I cry to my roommates about it. I got a form-style rejection on my ms once, and I kinda lost it – but my friends are awesome and they helped me get over it. :)

    Also, historical fiction is my favorite.

  42. Amy
    Posted January 17, 2013 at 10:31 pm | Permalink

    Coming from acting, I am used to rejections. I used to cry for days, then hours, now I tear up for a minute or two (much chocolate eaten in the process). But for the really painful rejections – I head to Disneyland!

  43. Katrina
    Posted January 18, 2013 at 6:07 am | Permalink

    Rejection letters push me into another writing class so I can keep improving. It’s not easy to handle, but I have an awesome CP to lament with.

  44. Posted January 18, 2013 at 7:39 pm | Permalink

    Oooh, this is such an interesting way to approach rejection. Looking back I realize this was something I actually sought out when I was younger. I started writing in fanfic forums, where anything half-decent was met with cries of “this is soo good! You should get it published!” and part of me knew that wasn’t realistic. So I went to lengths to get constructive criticism because that, along with flat-out rejections, gave me a more-balanced idea of how I was doing.

    Certain rejections do really hurt–like when I thought a given person would really like it. But at this stage rejection doesn’t bother me so much. I think most people in the pub industry really do love books, and they pass on projects because they have to, because their enthusiasm wasn’t as high as it could be. Which makes sense to me. I want to work with the people who really love my books! If they didn’t love it enough to pick it up, they probably weren’t the right person anyway.

    -Mandy

  45. Lori T
    Posted January 19, 2013 at 10:45 am | Permalink

    Good to know I’m not the only one who’s cried into many, many cups of hot chocolate while reading a rejection letter. I find it also helps to just do something else for awhile; take a walk, go play with the animals, read a book, watch a movie. Anything that’ll distract for awhile, then go right back to writing and give it another shot.

  46. Posted January 20, 2013 at 12:43 am | Permalink

    I’m always lured in by the hint of a great dystopia – if I had all the hours in all the days, I’d read every YA dystopia – and consider the adult ones too.

  47. Posted January 21, 2013 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the opportunity for a query critique!

  48. Posted January 21, 2013 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

    Oh, there was a question! Fantasy, I suppose, is my favorite genre. :) And as for coping with rejection, chocolate, yes, but good friends are even better.

  49. Jessica Capelle
    Posted January 21, 2013 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

    I’m going to cheat and lump my favorite genre together as SF/F! I love sci-fi and fantasy, especially when it’s grounded in reality. My critique partners save my sanity from wallowing in rejections. They really know how to put it in perspective for me. A glass of wine and some chocolate helps too :-)

  50. Posted January 23, 2013 at 10:47 pm | Permalink

    This was a nice post to read–not because I’m currently trying to get something published, but I’m just venturing out into the world post-graduation, trying to get a full time job. Ohhh, it’s brutal. This post applies more than just rejections for your manuscript, but rejections from jobs as well. You HAVE to learn not to take it personally, otherwise the rejection letters will destroy you. Hopefully, if I ever get to the point where I’m ready to start sending out queries, I’ll already be trained to taking rejection like a CHAMP.

    Anyway, nice post :)

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  1. By Friday’s Round Up – January 18, 2013 | Calamus on February 3, 2013 at 9:48 pm

    [...] Marie Lu at Pub(lishing) Crawl on dealing with rejection as an author. [...]

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