For those who still wish to pursue the traditional publishing route, rather than self-publishing, then rejections are something of a rite of passage; something we all experience at some point in our writing careers and something we all have to get over.
Many writers dread it. Some fear it. Some, on the other hand, take it in their stride. We all react differently to it because it’s seen not just as a rejection of the work, but a rejection of you as a person. But that’s not actually true.
The one thing that agents and publishers will say is that it’s nothing personal. And it really isn’t. A rejected book is not a rejection of you – the agent or publisher doesn’t even know you. Rejections happen for all manner of reasons.
It could be that some agents and publishers are not looking for new authors. Sometimes it’s down to the writer not submitting to the right agent or publisher for his or her genre, for instance a science fiction story won’t warrant interest from an agent who deals with horror or thriller genres. It might also be down to the fact that agents/publishers have been flooded with the same genres. Think of the gamut of stories they would have received on the back of the success of Fifty Shades of Grey. Rejections can also happen because the story isn’t quite marketable. It might be because it doesn’t fit what they want.
There will, of course, be rejections because the writer hasn’t quite got it right. Most often they tell you what’s wrong and will politely point out the mistakes so that the writer can work on those weak areas. Maybe there wasn’t enough pace. Maybe the characters needed work. Maybe the story needed some more depth. In other words, improve on some of the areas and try again. On occasion the rejection will be because the writer just hasn’t taken the time or effort to produce a professional manuscript.
There is no doubt that rejection – when it happens – will feel personal and writers will feel discouraged and disappointed and the ego won’t like it. It’s seen as a huge negative force. ‘I’ve received a rejection, therefore I must be rubbish!”. But this thought process is quite normal because of our sensitivity to our writing and how we see our own talent, which is why rejections do hurt. But it’s how we deal with them that makes all the difference.
The best way to deal with rejection is to understand why they cause such negative feelings and leave some writers wounded. The psychology behind it is a lot simpler than the complex reactions that rejections cause. That’s because no one likes criticism, and criticism fuels self-doubt. It’s this self-doubt that causes the negative feelings the moment we see the word ‘rejection’.
Writers are exceptionally good self-criticism. We are our own worst critics and often we let self-doubt dominate, which pushes us into further doubt of our own abilities and as a consequence we lose confidence. This is very true if the writer happens to be a perfectionist, too – that self-doubt turns can turn into self-persecution, which is never good.
If, as writers, we look at rejection not as a personal attack of our talent or hard work, but rather a dismissal at that time for the reasons given by the agent or publisher, then we can control the self-doubt associated with the negativity.
Traditional publishing is hard to break into. Rejections will happen regularly, which is why it’s important that writers persevere and keep trying. If being a writer is in your blood, then you will never give up trying.
How Rejection Can Help
Rejection is a positive rather than a negative. That might sound crazy, but think of all the best selling authors over the last 100 years who were rejected countless times, continuously, until that one break. They didn’t give up – they turned the negative into positive by working harder to improve their writing, to become persistent, and determined to succeed.
Rejection can help you improve as a writer. It should push you to learn, it should make you understand yourself as a writer and where your limitations may lie; where the weak areas lurk and where strong areas can dominate. We never get better if we don’t have the humility to learn from our mistakes. So in a way, rejection is a positive force that fires up that determination and strengthens the desire to succeed.
It pushes us. It makes us stronger. Rejections always pave the way towards success.
In Part 2, we’ll look at what to do if you receive a rejection and how to manage them.
Next week: Dealing With Rejections – Part 2.