Friday, March 11, 2011


"What? You don't like my novel?"
If you’re an author hoping to get published, you have an antagonist hiding in cyberspace. He’s waiting until your hopes are high, your heart is joyous, and just when you think that nothing can stop you, he attacks. He may delay this attack until you nails are nubs, and nerves are shot. He knocks on your door. “You have mail.” The agent you submitted your life to, has responded. “We’re sorry, your novel is not for us.”

You may have written the most fabulous novel. Edited it to perfection. Your readers love it. You’ve worked on it for years. But that antagonist, Rejection, is waiting to battle your will, beat you down and make you feel worthless.

Crushing? Of course. All your friends tell you that this wasn’t the right agent and not a good match. That your book is brilliant. You rock. We try to believe them. But the truth is, rejection hurts. All rejection hurts. When someone doesn’t like our work, we take it personal. Why? Because it is.

But like all good stories, how often does the antagonist win? Never in my book. Besides, everything good in my life has always started with a challenge, or someone telling me no. Maybe you’re one of the lucky few that doors open and the sky parts when you walk by. But for the most of us, that’s not the case. Not to mention the fact the industry is changing more quickly than I can write this sentence—Getting published today is hard.

Suggestion... battle your antagonist by focusing on your work. If you’re lucky enough for an agent to tell you why they weren’t interested, listen to them. Decide if you think they were right. Think about your work in a different light. Put it on the shelf for a few months. But don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.

The only way you will fail is if you quit. I’m serious. Don’t quit. I’ve now had three rejections on my recent submissions. I’ve been thinking a lot about their comments. You know, there may be some truth and areas I can work on. I’m looking forward to carving a few more lines of character into my masterpiece. We can’t get better if we don’t know the truth. But remember, one person’s truth is not necessarily yours.

How do you deal with rejection?


  1. Hard to do anything until the comments ring true in your own ears, and that usually takes at least a few rejections that focus on similar problems, at least for me. Then it's finally possible to accept that what feels like good stuff in the writing might just be self-indulgence, or not compelling in the story, and that it really does need to change. Then there's a breath of new life when you revision it and start working again. Definitely takes time! (But we also have to remember not to give up what we love in the work, either. If our beta readers love it, too, don't throw it out! Too many uncertainties in the industry and in human nature to blankly accept all rejection reasons as valid for our work.)

  2. How I deal with it depends on the rejection. But I always try to take something that I can use out of it, a way I can improve. There is always something positive to be wrought from rejection, even if it is a standard rejection. That tells me I didn't do a good enough query! Thanks for the pep talk!

  3. Thanks for your comment Linda. So true... do not give up what we love. I know that everyone can't possibly like the same thing. If their suggestions don't feel right... don't take them. You're right, they may not be valid for our work.

  4. Thank you Heather. So true... we can always take something from the rejection without a reason why. It makes us take a harder look at our writing and we can find the reasons. When we move away from it a bit, we usually know why. Pep talk 101. More coming. ;)

  5. We have to develop thick skins, and yes look at it as a chance to get better, and a challenge to rise to.

  6. I think it gets easier each time. The first one hurts like crazy because we want to believe they will love it right away. After that, it doesn't hurt as much and then I try to learn from it. It is a little like dating, though. Sometimes it's all about finding just the right match.

  7. Oh, that picture says it all!
    What a great, supportive post. Quitting sounds easier than working out our problem areas in writing, but to me, the hard work is still worth it.

  8. What perfect timing! I received a rejection on a partial that claimed the voice didn't feel real enough. The agent had requested from a query only. When I realized others have requested materials based on my samples pages I felt better. It really is subjective.

    I wasn't too devastated. Before receiving the rejection, I had been reading a novel for an hour, and spent the entire time crying. The rejection was anticlimatic to that. ;)

  9. I expected to receive rejections. And quite a few so the first thirty or so I stopped querying and decided to cut down my word count. I knew that was the culprit. So after I finish cutting my ms to a reasonable count, I will query again.

    I am sure I will get rejections. I am just hoping to be asked for a partial. At least that is a start. Then I least I will know the story peaked an agent's interest, AND, I will find out what needs to be improve upon.

    As you said, Karlene, perseverance is the key. One of my first agent letters told me that.

    Have a great weekend.


  10. Thanks Lisa, yes... we do need thick skins and look at every opportunity to learn and grow. Thank you!

  11. vdemetros Thank you for the great comment. It's been so long since I've dated, but when I was writing... I was thinking about rejections beyond writing... If it doesn't fit, we wouldn't want it anyway. Yes, with each time it does get better. Practice is a good thing. For everything.

  12. Thank you Lydia, That is my eldest granddaughter when she was a few months old. I love that look. I've felt it so many times. Nothing like hard work for sure!

  13. Oh Stina, I know exactly how you feel. I was trying to keep the chin up when I got mine, but it still hurt. I'm thinking the next time I have a submission out, I'll read something that will get the tears going so it won't hurt so bad either. Actually... my first rejection I yelled, "Yeah! I got a rejection! Now I got that out of the way..." I only wished.

  14. Michael, What a great attitude! I love the way you look at things. Just being asked is an honor! We need to look at all the steps along the way, and appreciate them and be grateful for all our learning experiences. Thanks for your comment and have a wonderful weekend, too!

  15. I'm querying my second novel (not the second I've written, just the second I felt was good enough to query). The first one didn't receive any requests to see more from agents, but this new one has. I query in small batches and see what feedback I get. When I get great feedback, I revise. I may not get an agent on this one, but I'm busy writing others to throw at them.

    Also, I deal with rejections with a nice bottle of wine. No, seriously, just by moving forward.

  16. I've had pretty good luck with requests, but they're always followed up with something like "in this tough publishing time, we find your work is just not strong enough." *sigh* But then I read a really great book, like something by Sarah Dessen or John Green (I write YA/MG contemporary) and think "they're right." I've only sent out around 15 queries and have had 4 partials and a full out, and they all got personalized rejections so that's encouraging (I hope).

    So, it's boiling down to try, try again. *sigh again* Thanks for the post, Karlene.

  17. How do I deal with rejection?
    I am looking for this answer for more than 10 years.(from junior high school to until now).And still now I am looking for how to deal with rejection.
    That is what i usually do when I want to deal with rejection.
    ・run for long time until I get tired,So naturally my motivation would up again.
    ・go to mountain .Nature power meditate these kind of feeling pretty much.
    ・doing everything with my pace.
    ・talk with inspirational motivational person:)
    ・clean all my room.haha!
    ・watch pursuit of happiness by will smith.that helps me a lot.

    I wonder I could get ''rejection meaning '' .I hope I understand rejection meaning.If not,I am sorry.

    Yeah I always see the word''never give up to be pilot ,never give in my laizyness in front of desk.

    Have a good Sunday Karlene san:D


  18. Great post! I usually just get it back on out there--keeps the hope alive, lol. Unless I am on a number of rejections that are all form letters, then I look at the query, or the full ms, get some more perspective see if I am still "in love" and believing in it, if that makes sense. All of this is done AFTER I sob uncontrollably, lol!

  19. Brenda, Thank you for the great advice... Wine. Haha. Just kidding. (Kind of) Moving forward is the key! With everything in life.

  20. Thank you Erica! I'm thinking that the first read of that "your work is not strong enough" is hard! But after the pain eases, we know their words speak truth. So we go back to work. Thank you so much for the comment.

  21. Thanks Deb. Yes... get the tissues out! You said it all..."KEEP THE HOPE ALIVE" with hope, we have everything. Thank you!!!

  22. Hey, glad I found you guys again. I've been busy writing, editing etc.


    Every novel I have written has been rejected more than a few times. EVERY ONE! I've been writing seriously for 36 years. I've only had a few rejections actually give me pointers or encouragement. Most were stock rejection slips.

    The thick skin thing might work for a few of you, but when the tears dry up, you're still left with a rejected mss. What do you do if you have had no comments on it, save for family & friends?

    No, didn't give up. I've found a way, in my 50's, to put my book out there. I wish an agent would have decided to take a chance on me, but, alas, no dice. There came a moment where I had to ask myself "Do I want to have a book out there that people can read and enjoy--despite what those in the industry think is not worthy?--I said Yes, I do. So, I did the only thing left to me. Self-published, and my last one is with a POD. I have 2 books out there and hope to soon make it 3. I may not make the #1 best seller list, and I migh not be set for life, but the battle has been torn from me, this is all I have.

    Sorry this was long. But you've got a lot of people out there with high hopes and I hope with all my heart all of you have a darn good chance at seeing your dreams come true.