The Truth About Rejection: Part 2 (It Aint Always Pretty)
I used to take it personal.
I say that like my Vulcan heart is now calloused and impervious to rejection, but that is simply not true. Rejection hurts, in whatever form, whomever it comes from, and with whatever it entails. Unfortunately, part of being human is caring what other people think of you and our creative work is largely an extension of ourselves.
When I get a rejection, usually in the form of an email, I get bummed for a few hours, distract myself with some activity where success is assured (cleaning the bathroom), then work on an entirely unrelated project. But to give the range of experience I put out an APB on Twitter and received some reactions from my writer peeps.
When asked how they cope with rejection, none of these writers said “Rejection? I’ve never been rejected.” Nor did they say they give up. Nor did any of them act as if rejection was an uncommon phenomenon.
Now here’s the truth about publishing. It’s a business. The publisher’s job is to take your creative work and package it into a product they can sell. And like all businesses, publishers exist to turn a profit. In every major publishing house and in the small ones too, there are folks in the back room crunching numbers, conducting cost-benefit analysis, and doing number things that are generally foreign to us creatives who believe literature is a sacred art and the only thing a book needs, is to be well written and compelling in order to thrive. Agents, by extension, need to sell your story in order to make a living wage.
What this means is that if an editor doesn’t think that your book has either bestselling or award-winning potential, even if they loved it, they may not sign you. Or, if the publisher has titles that are similar by authors who’ve been with them longer, they may not sign you. Or, if they think your work is too controversial, cutting edge or nuanced, they may not sign you.
The point I’m trying to make, is that when rejection happens, it may be for reasons that are entirely out of your control and quite frankly, have little to do with your actual story.
Rejection might also mean that your story’s not ready for publication. If an editor gives you real feedback that you can incorporate into a revision, thank them genuinely. Some editors and/or agents will offer to do another read after you’ve revised. Save those contacts and revisit them later. Clearly, they saw something promising in your work and are interested in continuing the conversation.
Rejection generally falls into one of these categories:
Vague and somewhat disinterested: This rejection offers no real feedback or promise of future dealings. This rejection is the easiest to discount because the rejection is so nebulous that you can’t even be certain that the editor/agent read your project.
Pointed, detailed and constructive: Gold! This is free advice from a professional and can be used for future revisions. These rejections are especially useful if they include an invitation to resubmit later.
Mean-spirited and/or snarky: Save these for future laughs when you’re sitting on a pile of money and accolades. These folks are either burned out by the biz and in need a vacation or they’re frustrated creatives who receive pleasure by tearing others down. Don’t bother querying them again and warn your friends.
Crickets: Silence is a rejection of sorts, but the truth is that editors and agents receive exponentially more queries than they can accept and sometimes even respond to. Therefore, make sure you do your homework and take the time to really hone your pitch and query to specs so that yours is not easily dismissed.
Now that we’ve explored some methods for dealing with rejection, stay tuned for the last installment, The Truth About Rejection: Part 3 (Now What?)
Laura Lascarso is the author of RACING HEARTS, an e-novella series, which tells the story of two star-crossed lovers set in the world of competitive car racing. Her debut YA novel COUNTING BACKWARDS, which deals with mental illness, won the Florida Book Award gold medal for YA literature in 2012. Laura lives in North Florida with her two children, darling husband and a menagerie of animals. Follow her on Twitter @lauralascarso