Dealing with Rejection


Rejection happens. But it still hurts. Wallow in self-pity for a while, but then pick yourself up and start thinking about what you can do to improve your chances next time around. Is it your process? The quality of your work? Something else?

Pep Talk

OK, briefly, because this is the least important part of this section, don't let rejection ruin your day. Good writers can get rejected for reasons that have nothing to do with having written a great, publishable story. No more on the subject. It's time to move on.

Getting the Most out of Rejection

When you've collected a stack of rejections, here's what you should do and/or some questions to ask.

Are you submitting to agents?

An agent can make a big difference. I've gotten those icky form letter rejections from publishers before I had an agent, but after I had an agent, the rejections were actually more personal and helpful.

Are you targeting the right publishers or agents?

Ask yourself if your story is really a Romance. Maybe it's not and that's why you're not having success with Romance lines. Have you studied the market? Are you paying attention to the sort of work the publisher/agent wants?

Is your query and/or synopsis the problem?

A bad query won't help you. Likewise with a bad synopsis. See my sections and examples on writing a query and synopsis. No matter how good your book is, a rotten query or boring synopsis will continue to generate rejections.

Is your book really as good as you think?

This is a hard one, but until you sit down and really, honestly and truly ask yourself this question, you'll continue to stack up rejections. That stack of rejections means there's something you need to fix. The sooner you face that fact the better. Publishers want to publish good stories. I've never ever read any interview or story about an acquiring editor who wasn't on the lookout for fresh, new, exicting stories. Everybody knows about great writers who were constantly rejected, but I don't believe the work they were trying to sell didn't change, and significantly, on the journey from multiple rejection to multiple publications.

Real Life Example

I thought my novel Lord Ruin was pretty darn good, and I was querying publishers and agents but getting nothing but rejections. Then my agent was querying and getting better rejections. Then I got the entire MS in front of a critique group. I put all their comments, verbatim, into one document and arranged them in order and darned if some common themes didn't come out. I sat down with my MS and made changes. I deleted stuff, I added a few things, tweaked, and did some things I didn't expect. About a week after I finished that, my agent asked for another copy of the MS (I guess she spilled something on it, lucky me!) and I sent the revised one which I knew was even better. Not even 3 weeks later, the MS sold.

Don't Blame the Messenger

I hear writers blame agents and publishers for rejecting their books. I hear writers claim their story is too "out there" for a mainstream publisher. Well, maybe, except that some really great and successful writers are "out there" and publishing with respected, established publishers. Besides, how "out there" can a romance be? There are romances with space aliens, for heaven's sake, and don't give me that line about so-and-so can do anything because she's so-and-so. Quit with that excuse. If your Romance is "out there" I bet it doesn't really belong in the romance genre and you've been targeting the wrong market.

I also hear writers complain about the quality of published romances, as if that has anything to do with them and the books they want to sell. Why, they ask, can't I get mine published when so-and-so just published a really wretched book? Well, so what? Take care of your story. Plus, I happen to know from bitter experience that editors and copy-editors can ruin a great story so maybe it wasn't so-and-so's fault. These sorts of complaints just get in the way of you sitting down and fixing your story so that you can sell it.

Sit down and fix it.

Well? Go do it.

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