Wednesday, June 23, 2010

More Notes on Rejection

My apologies, meine Autoren, but the quantity and the quality of your guest post submissions have made it impossible for me to narrow them down to five finalists by this morning. I'm truly sorry to delay the results, but they'll be ready (for real this time!) on Friday morning. Scout's honor.

Unrelated news: rejection is hard. It's hard when you get a form rejection, it's hard when you don't get a rejection and have to follow up to get an answer, it's even hard when you get a nice, personalized "almost, but not quite." My record is four rejections in one day; I'm sure some of you have had even more discouraging high scores. All told, I've probably received hundreds of rejections in the short time I've been submitting work for publication, and again, I'm sure that those of you who have been looking for represenation for years (whether or not you've since found an agent) have had more than your share of the same.

Keep at it.

Because here's the thing: if you're truly horrible, agents will auto-reject you faster than you can say "form letter." If after thirty years and a million rejections you still haven't gotten beyond the query stage, it may be time to consider a new direction (hint: you're either a terrible writer or simply unsalable). If you're pretty good, you'll start getting personalized rejections and requests for partials, and so long as you keep reading and writing and learning, you're going to get better. And if you're good and you know it, keep on keepin' on: all it takes is time.

Sometimes more time and sometimes less, but if you're getting personalized rejections from literary magazines for your short stories, or three or four agents have told you they loved the writing but the project wasn't for them, or you've been a finalist in a couple of contests, you're at least on the right track. Do your research, keep submitting, and don't get bogged down by rejection. Everyone who has succeeded has been rejected at some point, and even the best and most successful authors probably, all told, have far more rejections to their names than acceptances.

You need a thick skin to work in this industry. If you want to be a writer, you'd better get working on it now.


  1. And rejection is the perfect excuse to eat extra chocolate.

  2. Eric - I'm forwarding this to my blog Sisters. Thanks for this!

  3. Eccellente. :) Il mio pensiero esattamente.
    (Forgive me, I'm in Italian mode today. I blame Laurel.)

    Form rejections are more frustrating because you don't have any kind of feedback to help you improve. But personal rejections (like the "almost, but not quite" variety) are sometimes harder to swallow because... it's like being the front runner in a marathon only to collapse mere inches from the finish line and then watch everyone who had been behind you place ahead of you.

    Yeah. Something like that.

  4. I normally don't talk about rejection other than one of two things: "It's hard, keep your chin up" or "The more you get, the harder it is to stay positive, but keep pushing forward."

    I will share one story. When you start delving deep into querying and the rules seem overwhelming, you may forget some important ones. I forgot the "don't query in character" rule, but was reminded of it quickly. My rejection came in only 10 minutes.

    I call that the kick in the nuts rejection.

  5. Aw, c'mon, Terry. Any reason is a good reason for more chocolate.

    And Eric, thanks for the pep talk!

  6. Rejection is part of the process, but that doesn't mean it's any easier to stomach. I agree with Lydia that the "close but no cigar" letter is dreadful, but in truth? I'd rather have that to let me know that the process is actually evolving from the form rejection (they make lovely wallpaper!) to something closer. If there's actual movement, if I actually GET closer, one day, I'm going to arrive.

    'Til then...yeah. Ben and Jerry's just about sums it up ;)

  7. I've gotten six "not the right project" rejections thus far and one personalized one. I've kept them all but when I have an utterly crap writing day I pull out the personalized one and read the encouraging words: "You're fully capable of success as a novelist, if you learn the framework. Putting emotion on the page seems easy for you."

    Then I pull my keyboard back in front of me and continue on. That's what motivates me to slog through it again and accept rejection if it comes.

  8. I've only submitted one short story in my writing career (Can I call it that yet?) so far, and that was mostly to see if I'd get any nibbles so I could judge where my writing stood at the time. I got two personalized rejections from literary magazines that were quite encouraging. I was thrilled that my first rejections went so well. But I also got two form rejections in one day and had to resist the urge to mope.

    Got to have a thick skin. I'm sure I'll need it when I start submitting novels, as I'm generally more attached to them than to my short stories.

  9. Hello Eric. First of all, awesome post. I always tell fellow authors that if you get rejections, find out why and work on it. I've learned so much in the many years I've been writing.
    To date, I've contracted four singles and two series (a total of 21 books) and continue to learn and grow. I still listen to my editor(s) and am constantly seeking out opinions. You should never stop learning.
    Thanks for the great blog. Would you mind if I put you on my website blog list?
    Franny Armstrong-ParaNovelGirl

  10. Thanks for a hope-inspiring post. I see so many people getting rejected, it's discouraging.

  11. thanks, Eric! Great pick me up post~ :o)

  12. Awww thanks for the post!

    I've actually been rejected by a magazine, well make that two writing magazines. I wrote a flash fiction story titled One Romeo, Two Juliets (whose plot was far odder than the one today), the editors told me to wait 2 months.

    I did, and they told me something "Thank you for submitting this manuscript." and they said something about the writing market, and told me that therefore, I could not have my story posted up on that online magazine.

    I submitted a short story to another Writing Magazine numerous times, and somehow it got rejected. The maximum word count is 5,000, mine was around 2,000. I still never figured out why for this magazine that this certain story was rejected....

  13. Hi Franny,

    Not at all; please do, and thanks!


  14. Reject rejection and persevere!

  15. So very encouraging! Thank you. We silly authors are sometimes so in need of a little pep talk, reassurance, or ego stroking.