For those of us who have tried our hand at traditional publishing, rejection is a major source of angst, crushing blows to self-esteem, explosion of rage, and it is a pretty common occurrence.
Let's face it, there are how many of us versus how many of them?
Don't answer that. The number is depressing. Consider: One agent will receive over a thousand emails a month from different hopefuls. For one agent, in one niche, that's some 10,000 to 12,000 hopeful writers competing for attention from the same person or business. Honestly, this little fact is one of the major points that made me realize that business is business and it isn't personal. Unless, of course, you're stalking the agents, harassing them, and otherwise making a pest of yourself, then it likely is personal.
Or you've been blacklisted, blocked, and no one ever sees your emails anyway.
How do you react to rejection?
There are a few ways I react to rejection. Normally, my feeble attempts at an arched brow — unfortunately, I can't actually arch my brows, and I can't usually do more than get both to twitch upward — are matched with a huff.
Then, back to work. Business as usual. Why? Traditional publication is a business. Self-Publishing is a business. Rejections to queries happen in business, just like contracts fall through, advertising campaigns get cancelled, profits aren't high, you know, the normal crap regular salary workers deal with daily.
Sometimes, the rejections get to me and I have my private fit. These are funny. I usually laugh about it later.
By later, I mean, after someone peels me off of the ceiling and I stop chewing on the stucco.
Some of us are better at handling rejection. We're used to it. After all, there is a certain threshold that people reach before they become numb to the inevitability of a thing. My threshold for pain and suffering is pretty high. I started freelance writing over ten years ago, and rejection is a daily part of business as contracts are pursued, work is found, and clients are dealt with. Things need revision. That same thing needs even more revision. Bids for contracts are denied. The client thought I was too cheap or too expensive. I didn't live in India, Pakistan, or another place where pennies equal dollars.
I didn't carry the exact specific degree they wanted for someone to do SEO copy work or editorial. You'd be surprised at how many people believe a master's degree in English Literature is required to write text that makes search engines and readers happy. There are other reasons I've been rejected, including the fact that I am a woman.
Rejection is what it is. How you react to it is a part of the growing process. Most people have thrown fits about it, have needed pried off the ceiling with a crowbar, and some have been pretty vocal about the fact they've been rejected.
So you think you have a masterpiece. You think your masterpiece shouldn't be rejected. You shouldn't be rejected! It's wrong.
I've had those thoughts before. They were usually wrong, but I've definitely had them. The reality is? There is a lot of things that go into a rejection. The agent (or publisher) simply isn't interested in you. They like some elements of your story, but it just isn't perfect to them. That doesn't mean your story is or is not a masterpiece.
It just isn't a masterpiece to them.
Traditional publication, in particular, is a game played by elites. Elite One, the writer, wants their book published. They've got a masterpiece, and by all that is pure, they fully intend on selling it. Elite Two is the person who wants only the best of the Elites — the best writers — who can put a nice commission in their pocket. But, they have to deal with Elite Three: The Publishers.
Elite Two and Elite Three dance. They play hardball. They thrown down the gauntlet over coffees and legal paperwork, while Elite One stands in the background like a referee who has had his (or her) whistle taken away.
Sometimes Elite Two doesn't think Elite One can provide the ammunition needed to take down Elite Three.
That is life.
The worst rejection is the one you get where an agent asks for the full and replies with a simple, “I like this, but I don't think I can sell it.”
It means you're so close yet so far. You got Elite Two to dance with you, for but a moment. You got them invested in you using their time as currency.
That's a ‘peel me off the ceiling or I'm going to eat all of the paint' situation. It's happened to me, and recently, too.
After someone managed to use the scraper and get most of me off the stucco, I came to this simple conclusion:
Elite Two didn't want to take a chance on me. So what?
There are other agents. There is a growing indie fellowship. Self-publishing with the hopes of moving traditional is an option. Self-publishing without ever moving to traditional is also an option.
Was my story ready for the prime time? Not with that agent. Will there be another? Possibly! Do I feel like competing with 10,000 other writers right now? Not particularly. But, I submitted to get the feedback — and expected the rejection.
Even with that mindset, the rejection of that specific type stung a bit. But it wasn't the ego-shattering sting. It was the light a fire under my ass I will gnaw my way through my house!! sting that left me with one thing more important than even an acceptance:
It left me with the growing realization that I, have a writer, have been acknowledged. Not accepted, but it was a nod to me. That agent believed in a flaw that would prevent him from being able to sell the book. He wasn't confident in his ability to dance with Elite Three.
That doesn't make me a terrible writer. It doesn't even eliminate me from the game. It is what it is.
It's a rejection full of promise.
You may be thinking something along the lines of, “But he said he couldn't sell it. That's no different from a standard form rejection.” There are some background bits you don't know, including the fact this isn't the first manuscript this agent has seen the first of from me. It's actually the third. The previous two, he had long revision lists for. This time, it was one thing he felt stood in the way between him and Elite Three and making that sale.
Traditional Publication is a business. Self-Publishing is a business.
Rejection is just a part of the business, and Elite Two believes he can't make the sale for Elite Three, Elite One will get rejected.
It isn't personal. But, that doesn't mean you can't throw a temper tantrum in private. Sometimes, when you get so close to victory you can see the sweat on the back of the person who crosses the line in front of you, its hard to do anything other than try to defy the laws of physics during your throes of anguish and self-pity.
Just don't wallow long. Business waits for no man or woman, and the writing world is no different.