The Truth about Rejection
To be a successful romance novelist, you'll need to bank on certain skills and talents. However, for a writer, more important than the art of storytelling, more important than the knack of plotting, is the needed skill of perseverance. To persevere in this business, you'll have to learn to face rejection. It is, unfortunately, a part of the writing profession.
In fact, rejection is such a part of the business, that to arrive at PRO status (a level above general membership designed for writers who are seeking publication) within the organization of Romance Writers of America, you must be unpublished and have submitted one completed manuscript, which was most likely rejected.
Successful western novelist Louis L'Amour sold countless books over the years. Many of his works have even been made into movies, like
Yes, you've all heard the success stories of writers sending out their very first book and receiving an acceptance letter with a huge advance check attached by return mail. It happens.
Okay, the advance check will probably not be attached, but some writers have actually sold their first book without ever tasting the bitterness of rejection. However, for every writer who got to walk the red carpet without first having the door slammed in her face, there are thousands of others who have confronted, been knocked around, beaten up, and abused by, and then ultimately triumphed over rejection.
The number-one truth about rejection is that it happens. The number-two truth about rejection is that it doesn't kill you. And you know what they say, “What doesn't kill you makes you stronger.” The third all-important truth about rejection is that a rejection doesn't always speak of the quality or the publishability of the work.
Just because a manuscript is rejected by one or more editors doesn't mean the work will not go on to sell. Consider the ever-popular John Grisham. Did you know that the first manuscript he wrote,
Receiving a rejection may feel like the end of your world and especially like the end of your career. But honestly, it is only the end if you decide to make it the end. When most writers give up writing, it's not because they lack talent. It's because they lack the ability to deal with the rejection. Hold on to your perseverance.
It's an ugly little saying, but where writing and rejection are concerned, there is a lot of truth to it. If you get a rejection and it simply doesn't hurt, then there's a good chance your heart and soul weren't in the manuscript you sent out. And without heart and soul, a manuscript is doomed to fail.
Don't ever mail an editor an ugly response to a rejection. No matter how personal that rejection might feel, understand that the editor didn't mean it personally. Writing is a business. The editor was simply doing her job by making a business decision based upon her subjective opinion.
Your stories become a part of you. They are your creations. In essence, they are your children. And a rejection is the same as if someone calls your baby ugly. It hurts. So if pain is part of the process, how do writers prevent the pain from stifling their creative process?
The first step to surviving rejection is to understand you are among good company. Stephen King, Dr. Seuss, and Mary Higgins Clark all have confronted the ugly beast and won. Unfortunately, there isn't a sure-bet cure for rejection pain. Every writer must find her own way of dealing with the “they-didn't-buy-my-book” blues. Here are several ways to survive the sting:
Do admit it hurts. Denial isn't going to work.
Do allow yourself time to rejuvenate. Take an hour, even a day off, but never more than a week. You don't want to fall out of the habit of writing.
Do nurture your artist. Read a good book, take a walk, or eat some chocolate. TLC is a good thing, but don't wallow in self-pity.
Do share your news and heartache with close friends, especially other writers whom you know will understand and offer you motivation.
Do, if you must, sit down and write the editor a rebuttal letter and then tear that letter to shreds and flush it down the toilet. The only reply to a rejection from you should be a thank-you to the editor for giving you her time.
Do remember that just because the work wasn't right for that editor or that house at that moment doesn't mean it won't be right for another. Also, just because it isn't ready for publication now doesn't mean you can't make it publishable.
Do get busy on another project. Nothing can soothe the pain of rejection more than excitement over a new project.
A writer not being able to deal with rejection is almost like a doctor not being able to deal with death. But with some armor and understanding, you can, like thousands of others before you, find ways to survive the sting.