A Love Letter to my Rejections

This is something a lot of you know about me already, but I have a lot of rejections. Need proof? Look down.

Yes, it looks like a ream of paper, but I swear to commas: those are my rejections. From agents.

It’s a lot. It looks overwhelming. It looks like I should have just quit.

Jodi's rejections

But here’s the thing: I’m grateful for every one of these rejections, because they were right: I wasn’t ready. Not writing wise, and not emotionally.

I started querying too early, and the reality was that I needed time to develop my writing skills. While I’m proud of everything I’ve written, I wouldn’t be proud to have all of it published. Especially with those early manuscripts, I needed time to learn and grow. I needed to read more. I needed to be told to step back and keep working.

Emotionally, I was too young. In spite of what I believed, I had no idea how difficult it was to hear opinions — both positive and negative — from readers and reviewers. This pile of rejections helped prepare me for both, because while they were rejections, many were kind and encouraging. The agents I queried wanted me to succeed. Several saw me grow as a writer over the years, and some even sent congratulating emails when my first deal was announced.

For me, these rejections are a lesson in humility and patience. There’s always more for me to learn. I can always be a better writer. Having my books published with a big house was always my dream, and these rejections drove me to work for it.

I was forced to grow closer to the writer I want to be, rather than allowed to believe I was already there. But the truth is, to get to that place, I still have more work to do. I can never stop learning because I’ve reached one goal. Now I’m reaching for the next. There will be more rejections along the way.

When I started writing, I had no idea how many years it would take for me to get published, or how many manuscripts I’d have to write, or how many times I’d be rejected. I used to believe these rejections were shameful, that they meant I’d been eternally judged as not good enough. But what they really mean is I didn’t give up.


39 Responses to A Love Letter to my Rejections

  1. Brooke Feb 7 2014 at 8:23 am #

    That’s some pile! I think it’s great you can look back and know that there was a good reason to have gotten them. At the same time, some of those agents might be kicking themselves now. I love your writing and I’m so glad that I’ve gotten to read it.

    • jodimeadows Feb 7 2014 at 10:47 am #

      Isn’t it a huge pile? I sometimes take it around to local events with me. I need a better way to carry it, though. Maybe I should find some rubber bands…

      You know, I suspect those agents aren’t kicking themselves. Many saw potential in my writing, but they didn’t have time to help me develop it. Many saw that my writing was good — toward the end of that pile — but it wasn’t right for them. And that’s okay. I wanted an agent who got my writing and also believed it was ready to publish. I think many of the agents who sent kind, personalized rejections are genuinely happy for me now, even knowing my books weren’t for them. It’s separating the author from the book. 🙂

  2. Erin Bowman Feb 7 2014 at 8:32 am #

    Jodi, I loved this post. This rang especially true for me: “rejections are a lesson in humility and patience”

    Thank you for writing this!

    • Erin Bowman Feb 7 2014 at 8:33 am #

      Oh, and I should add: I’m SO GLAD you never gave up. 🙂

    • jodimeadows Feb 7 2014 at 10:48 am #

      Thanks, Erin. I didn’t understand why I was going through that when I was in the middle of it, but having come out the other side, I totally see what was going on then. I get it. And getting that helps me get other things I’m going through now, and will go through in the future. It’s not an easy lesson, but it’s definitely worthwhile. 🙂

  3. Kaye Feb 7 2014 at 10:32 am #

    This is beautiful, and just what I needed this morning. I am not querying just yet, but I was having anxiety over my stories, over the fear of rejection, over putting myself out there and just letting things happen. (And I am so very glad you didn’t give up. It was worth it, in the end.)

    • jodimeadows Feb 7 2014 at 10:49 am #

      Thanks, Kaye. I’m glad you liked it.

      Rejections are a badge of honor. Don’t let them get you down. Each one makes you stronger and takes you closer to your book on the shelf, if only you keep going. 🙂

  4. Shannon Wixom Feb 7 2014 at 11:04 am #

    Love this post, thanks! I haven’t printed my rejections, but I think they’d be at least as thick as yours! I remind myself on a daily basis that everyone’s journey to getting published is different, and like you, I wouldn’t have been proud of my work had it been published five or six years ago. So, my journey just happens to be a bit longer than some (cough, cough). But the whole point is, I’m on a journey, no matter where it takes me.

    • jodimeadows Feb 7 2014 at 5:31 pm #

      I’m glad to hear that, Shannon. It’s hard, especially when it seems like everyone else is getting everything you want, but your journey is your own and it will be special and just right for you. I believe it. 🙂

  5. wendylikesbooks Feb 7 2014 at 11:46 am #

    Great post! Are those rejections for several manuscripts or your first book? Well I love your writing and I think we can all agree you are publishable! (Is that a word?) 🙂

    • jodimeadows Feb 7 2014 at 5:32 pm #

      For several manuscripts. INCARNATE was #17, though I didn’t query every single one of the previous 16. (Some were sequels, some were things I realized I didn’t want to continue working on — stuff like that.)

      Publishable is totally a word. 🙂

  6. Alexa S. Feb 7 2014 at 12:16 pm #

    Posts like this are the reason I love and admire you as an author, Jodi! I think it’s great that you’re able to look back at this big pile of rejections and realize that a lot of good actually came out of it. It’s not only a very mature thing to do, but also a very SMART thing to do. I’m worried that, should I get to the point where I’m going to try and get published, rejections will intimidate me — and that’s how I know I’m not quite ready yet. This post makes me think a little more about how sometimes rejection can be a good way for a writer to learn, grow and gain a bit of a thicker skin.

    • jodimeadows Feb 7 2014 at 5:34 pm #

      Thanks, Alexa!

      And you know, you can go into writing and submissions with a mature outlook but it still hurts when your pile of rejections gets bigger and bigger. A lot of times, there’s a part of us that’s hoping to be the exception and that we won’t go through what we’ve seen others go through. That’s normal. 🙂 And it’s normal to be afraid of being rejected. It’s okay! When you’re ready to send out something, just hit send. You’ll be fine. (And if you need someone to hold your hand for it…)

  7. Erin Bartels Feb 7 2014 at 12:21 pm #

    Great post. Two sentences stuck out to me as especially true:

    “While I’m proud of everything I’ve written, I wouldn’t be proud to have all of it published.”
    “I was forced to grow closer to the writer I want to be, rather than allowed to believe I was already there.”

    I feel the same way. I’m still on the road to getting an agent, but I am happy it didn’t work out for me the first time around. Thanks for your words of wisdom.

    • jodimeadows Feb 7 2014 at 5:35 pm #

      Happy to help, Erin. Those two sentences are things I didn’t know several years ago, but now they are so, so important to me.

  8. Dawn Kurtagich Feb 7 2014 at 12:32 pm #

    I have the solution for carrying around your rejections! Sew them into an awesome purse and then when people ask after it, you can open it up and point and say “See! You can do it too!” This was a very kind, wonderful post! Thanks for sharing it, Jodi!

    • jodimeadows Feb 7 2014 at 5:35 pm #

      Oohh, that would be so cool! That’s much better than my rubber band or binder clip idea!

  9. Kelly Feb 7 2014 at 3:56 pm #

    I wished I had a stack of rejections. That means I actually completed my manuscript.

    • wendylikesbooks Feb 7 2014 at 4:08 pm #

      Yes, THIS!!!

    • jodimeadows Feb 7 2014 at 5:37 pm #

      Here’s how you finish your manuscript: turn off the internet for a few hours, sit in your chair, and start typing in a blank document. If someone asks you to do something for them, start yelling and try to look a little crazy. They’ll probably back off pretty quickly. 😉

      But seriously: you can do it. I believe in you. 🙂

  10. Heidi Kneale Feb 8 2014 at 2:02 am #

    I remember you posting agent return times on LiveJournal.

    A rejection from an agent once was a really good thing for me. She’d requested pages, turned down the project, and then asked to see my next one.

    That kind of response told me all sorts of things about how “ready” I was. She believed I had good ideas, but needed better mastery of the craft. She probably saved me from sending out the same ms to many agents and having them all reject me (thus breaking my pore widdle heart).

    • jodimeadows Feb 8 2014 at 11:23 am #

      Yes, those kind of responses are very useful! Glad she was able to help you like that. 🙂

  11. Rowenna Feb 8 2014 at 9:16 am #

    Excellent post, Jodi! Sometimes it really helps to take a step back and realize not only how far you’ve come but how all those difficult moments led up to where you are now. It reminds me that difficult moments now are making me better for tomorrow!

    I haven’t printed my rejections, but I still have them all stashed in an email folder. Sometimes I browse them–and it’s not a downer because it reminds me a) how kind and encouraging so many agents were b) how much I loved those projects and how much fun they were to write and c) why I’m glad they didn’t get picked up.

  12. PJ Darling Feb 9 2014 at 7:54 pm #

    Thank you so much Jodi! This was the perfect post for me to receive this morning. I have recently started querying and received two rejections last week. A part of me would like to howl, but instead I have decided to work on my manuscript further and keep it to myself until I’m really really happy with it, rather than merely happy with it! It’s so easy to fall into believing that rejection means I’m not good enough. Thank you for reminding me that it doesn’t.

    • jodimeadows Feb 9 2014 at 8:59 pm #

      That’s a great attitude, PJ. Keep going. Two rejections stings, but in the long run, it’s nothing!

  13. Jenny Bailey Feb 10 2014 at 10:22 am #

    I so hear you on this! This is something I’ve had to explain to my husband, who is NOT a writer and doesn’t really understand why I “gave up” on a manuscript after having the full rejected by a handful of agents. I have never thought of rejections as failures, only as encouragement to go back and try again. And I don’t think that moving on to a new project is giving up. Like you, I would be horrified to have my published debut be something that wasn’t ready! I’m happy to keep on keeping on until I get it truly right and ready.

  14. Logan B. Feb 10 2014 at 12:10 pm #

    “I had no idea how difficult it was to hear opinions — both positive and negative — from readers.” Why would it be difficult to hear [positive] opinions from readers??!! I don’t understand THAT and can’t identify with it. Hoping not to hear some convoluted logic explaining it. I like her attitude/perspective and enjoyed reading the article. That was the only thing I found a bit peculiar.

    • jodimeadows Feb 10 2014 at 12:20 pm #

      Because positive reactions mean you have something to live up to. When you’re writing the next book, or the next series, there’s a certain amount of expectation. Readers want you to do X again, or top it somehow, and sometimes you’re not even sure how X happened to begin with. Maybe it was an accident!

      Even positive reactions can build a lot of pressure.

  15. Logan B. Feb 10 2014 at 12:36 pm #

    Oh, OK! That explains it! Makes sense!

  16. Nadia @ Nadia Reads Feb 10 2014 at 2:16 pm #

    I’m just glad you never gave up! Great post! Very inspiring!

  17. Kandie Feb 11 2014 at 6:58 pm #

    Your post motivated me all the more. Thanks for sharing. And that’s a great (positive) way of looking at the journey to publication with a traditional publisher. All the best.
    @kankan929 twitter

  18. Phillip Feb 12 2014 at 9:00 pm #

    Oh my word! And I thought my pile of rejections was tall! How did you ever persevere?
    One thing my rejection letters taught me— many agents took the time to write me personal letters of rejection explaining why they rejected— was that my writing needed improving as well. I have a rich imagination but need to learn how to tell a “story” with words. I had the nasty habit of opening up a book with WAY too much backstory, laying it all out there and not leaving a bread crumb trail of details for the reader to follow and make a discovery at the end. It was a rookie mistake.

    We really owe agents so much! They keep not so good novels off the shelves so good ones can be found. Agents keep the rain forests alive by not printing so many books that all trees are cut down to make paper.

    My novels tend to be about strong heroines centered in history. I love historical novels.

    • jodimeadows Feb 12 2014 at 11:16 pm #

      It was hard! There were a lot of times I wanted to give up, and right before I wrote INCARNATE, I did give up trying to get published — though I knew I wouldn’t stop writing. Obviously, I ended up submitting INCARNATE to agents when it was finished, and I am glad I did! But when I wrote it, I was coming out of a pretty dark patch of the Publishing Sads and I wrote it for myself, foremost. That helped.

      I, too, am really grateful for the agents who took a little extra time to encourage me, or to show me where I’d gone wrong. It’s a small thing for a lot of them, but it was huge to me, and it made a huge difference. I’m glad you’ve gotten a few of those, too.

      Good luck!

  19. Logan B. Feb 13 2014 at 9:20 am #

    Phillip: Elaborate about your novels a bit. You say ‘… strong heroines centered in history.’ Specifically? Also, I take it you’re a feminist since you’re more interested in heroines than heroes. I also thought you might be a historian or a history teacher or have some sort of background in history. Excuse me, Jodi, for taking the spotlight off you for a while. I was just a little curious about what Phillip writes and how he thinks.

  20. Phyllis Feb 14 2014 at 12:03 pm #

    If he focuses on heroines, then, yes, he’s a feminist (whether he knows it or not)! I’m like you, Logan, in that I’m also interested in not only what writers write, but their psychological makeup, as well. As for the part about agents’ contribution to rain forests; it’s analogous to saying that sugary drinks improve peoples’ health by not containing EVEN MORE sugar. Faulty reasoning. But he’s probably a pretty nice guy. As for Jodi: very deep and complex! I might buy ‘Incarnate’ one day.

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