“I’ve discovered that rejections are not altogether a bad thing. They teach a writer to rely on his judgment and to say in heart of hearts, ‘To hell with you.'” – Saul Bellow
Bright and early this morning I got the first rejection note from my second round of agent queries. So far I have sent my work out to eleven agents and two digital publishing houses. At last count I have received four form letter rejections which have been unfailingly polite, but which contain the same essential message: Thanks for letting me consider your work, but I’m not the right person to represent it. Sigh.
Mentally I was prepared for the negative responses. I know that securing an agent for your manuscript as a first time author requires equal amounts perseverance, talent, and luck, but still it’s hard. Every time my email buzzes these days I can’t help but get a little zing of hope. Maybe this time it’s someone who’s interested. And every time it turns out to be nothing I feel disappointed. How can you stay positive when 99 times out of 100 the interest that you’re searching for never materializes. Here are five things that help me cope:
Examine Your Motives.
If you are writing primarily to get rich or famous you might be in the wrong game. Writing is one of those things that has to be intrinsically motivated. You can’t go in with the expectation of being rewarded for the hours upon hours you will spend on your story. Writing a novel has to be more like a personal quest that gives you a built-in sense of satisfaction whether it ever sees the light of day or not.
There’s a big difference between expecting recognition for your writing and hoping for it. As Chris Guillebeau says “you can let go of expectations without letting go of hope.” All it takes is for one person to think your work is worth it. The trick is sorting them out from all the others that for one reason or another won’t take their chances on you.
Try, Try Again, but Make Sure You’re Moving Forward.
There’s a famous quote attributed to Albert Einstein, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Part of remaining hopeful is to continue doing your due diligence. Scour the Interwebs for new agents to query. Read everything you can on what makes for a winning query letter and keep tweaking yours until it’s perfection. Revisit your first pages and make sure they are as clean and intriguing as possible. Keep reading in your genre and studying what the market responds to. Whatever you do don’t just accept that what you have is good enough. Keep evolving.
Keep an Open Mind.
Finding an agent and getting your book traditionally published is just one option. Research alternatives. There is an increasing number of reputable digital publishers that cater to the growing eBook market, and of course it has never been easier to publish your work on your own via a service like Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing. Lots of people have found great success through these outlets. There’s also the possibility that maybe you just need more practice. Not everyone hits it out of the park the first time around, and that’s okay. Remember point number one, your writing should be first and foremost about the sheer joy of pursuing a creative challenge. Write. Write some more. Read successful authors in your genre and learn from them. Your next manuscript might just be The One.
When All Else Fails, Commiserate and then Carry On.
Agents receive hundreds of queries a day. They pass on the vast majority of them. The plus side of this sad statistic is that when you’re rejected you are in good company. Sometimes it helps to know you aren’t the only one. It’s fine to groan and grumble a bit. Rejection sucks after all. Give yourself an hour or two to feel annoyed and angsty and then move on. You’ve got work to do.