Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Adventures in Writers Rejections

Adventure?! You say, almost shriek at me.  Where's the adventure?  It's frustrating, depressing, demoralizing.  

Rejection isn't anything but bad, bad, bad.

Well hold on there a minute, partner, I respond.  I disagree and I've been published and rejected many times so I do have a platform from which to spout forth my opinions.

You just have to look at it the right way. It's hard to swallow at times, the feedback you might get from a publisher, editor, agent...and remember, Editors are busy people and most of the time don't send any real response so if one of them did it could be because they see potential in your work, or because you're so out in left field they're trying to help you fix your mistakes. Either way, they're trying to be helpful. Stop a moment and appreciate that. Learn from it.

For example, if you do your homework before submitting you'll avoid such form letters  as, "too short", "too long", "we don't accept unagented material", "we don't accept simultaneous submissions", "this is outside our genre". I mean why waste your time and theirs by not following the instructions they provide for authors?

You can prevent a response such as "numerous grammatical errors" by proofing your work thoroughly or hiring someone to do it for you. If you're going to do it yourself you better find some online grammar help or take a few courses to polish up your skills. This isn't like the 'old days' when some famous author or another tossed a haphazard heap of paper on an editors desk and strolled off leaving them to fix all spelling, grammatical, etc. errors (if that ever even really happened at all). That's your job.  Do it and do it well.

If you get a response from an agent such as "we aren't accepting new clients at this time," it could mean a lot of things.  The agency could be overwhelmed with clients.  It might be restructuring, deciding anew on what genres to represent or even about to go bankrupt and fold (I was repped by an agency that went belly-up many years ago and it wasn't fun).  This kind of response doesn't mean much, especially about the quality of your work, just move on and try another agency.

A response such as "This type of story has been done to death," doesn't mean that particular publisher has done it to death, but rather they perceive the market to be saturated. Not much you can do about this but go back in and rewrite; find a new angle to your story; make it fresh.  Yes, you can do another vampire book, but find a whole new way to do it. Get away from the 'same 'ol, same 'ol'.

If you're a blogger or you tweet about your writing or anything else that gets you out there and builds you a following you'll impress a publisher or agent, especially if you're doing it well.  There are lots of small publishers out there who can't afford to promote new authors, so if you do the promotion, let them know in your query letter that you're set up and ready to move should they chose to publish your book. If your writing is good to begin with, this could be the nudge that moves your book to 'sold.'

Remember these days too, self publishing is an option.  It's still frowned on by traditional publishers, but little by little it's expanding, especially on the Ebook front. It may not be for you at all, but it's worth giving some thought to. But remember, should you chose this route, it doesn't excuse you from good grammar, good spelling and good writing. If you don't put out a good book people aren't going to come back. And a truly bad (in the sense of loaded with typos, misspellings, punctuation and grammar errors) will make your name stick in people's minds for all the wrong reasons. 

Whether submitting to publisher or agent or considering self publishing, a well-written, well edited piece of work is a must. No short-cuts. 

Now get out there and remember to enjoy the adventure.


  1. I liked this post. My first real rejection - the one that that actually took the time to point out all the things 'horrible' about my ms was a huge turning point in my life. It spurred me on to make the changes needed, to research queries properly, and to basically grow as a writer. I'm grateful for that now, although at the time it hurt.

  2. Thanks Tracy for that comment. I know what you mean. My first rejection with comment pretty much did the same for me. I think we writers really find a turning point once we can focus on the learning and not the hurt.

  3. Nicely written post. Rejections are always a turing point for your self as well as for your writing. I take them positively and try to learn from them. In fact, this is what every writer should try to do. And yes, you're right that editing in the best manner is essential.

    1. Thanks for the compliment on the post. Yes, learning from rejection is imperative and good, clean editing is paramount.


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