Friday, 14 May 2010

Silver Linings

So today, in the wake of yet another query rejection (I'm bouncing back, I'm bouncing back, I'm thinking of the four requests instead of the eight rejections), I've decided to do another list. A list of Why Rejection is a Good Thing.

What? I hear you cry. Have you been drinking? (Why, yes, I have, it's my birthday - as I'm sure anyone who has seen Steve's 'grand surprise' below will know) Have you lost possession of your senses? (Well, I'm not entirely sure I ever possessed them. Who wants sense, anyway?)

Seriously, though, my judgment is in no way impaired and no, I'm not actually crazy. At least, not as far as I'm aware. So bear with me, and let's frolic through the riot that is Rejection. 

Why Rejections Are a Good Thing

1. Being rejected tells you one of two things. First, that your book/project is just not good enough yet and that you need to do more work on it. Or, that the person who rejected it is not the right fit. Either way, you've learned something and you can move on accordingly.

While form rejection letters are a pain, they usually do tell you which of the above is more applicable. I just didn't connect with the writing sample means your sample wasn't good enough/didn't appeal to that particular agent. I don't think I'm a right fit for this usually means just that. Try someone else. Also, I've had my sample pages rejected one day, only to have a different agent request them the next. This doesn't mean they don't need more work, because they probably do. It just means tastes vary so much.

2. Tastes vary. So rejections can often mean nothing! 

(Warning: too much of this attitude might earn you a reputation as Arrogant Prize Jackass Who Refuses To Understand the Work is Just Not Good Enough Yet. Fine line to be toed, but toed it must be.)

3. You are one step closer to the award of Most Rejections Ever in the History of the World, a most prestigious, admirable and enviable award celebrating the recipient's thick skin, persistence and appalling bad luck.

4. They remind you that luck has a lot to do with this process, so really, don't blame yourself or your project for every single rejection slip/email.

5. Rejections are the perfect excuse to have that extra bar of chocolate, second glass of Malibu, or a nice lie-in the next morning. Rejections also get you loads of sympathy and, if you're lucky, a foot rub. Aw.

6. Some rejections can be very helpful. Many agents, rejecting a partial or full, will offer you at least one honest reason why they passed. While you can choose to ignore this if you think the agent didn't 'get it', most of the time these comments are useful and tell you where you can improve. If nothing else, knowing an agent didn't 'get it' could suggest you're not being clear enough. When agents move from the generic to the intensely subjective about their reasons, however (an agent once told me he wanted to see more action scenes in my book), this is where you need to be careful about what you listen to and what you politely ignore. I didn't take the agent's advice on that one, simply because it wasn't supposed to be an action-packed book and because I knew his tastes were obviously different from mine. But I gave it careful thought before deciding 'no, I'm not going add more action scenes in'.

7. Some rejections can be downright encouraging and sweet. My favourite rejection ever was from an editor from a very big fantasy publisher. He sent me a form letter telling me that the house didn't feel my story was right for them. Enclosed in this letter, however, was a handwritten note in which the editor had written the following:

Lots of promise and talent here, but needs shaping. Do hope you'll work on it. Don't give up! Best, [Editor's First Name]

I swear, I adored him for that, rejection or no rejection. It wasn't that I needed to hear praise (though it was nice). It was simply that he had taken the extra time to write a note at all, that he had been considerate of a teenage writer's sensitive feelings; it made me realize that rejections aren't personal and they're not meant to hurt you. 

Every single time I read or hear that editor's name now (and I read it and hear it often), I smile and think fondly of him and of my youthful self with all her excitement and passion. It reminds me to keep trying with the project I'm pitching right now, and it reminds me not to get too discouraged.

Thoughts? Anguished disagreements?


  1. i could always put up some more photos off your computer if you wished?

  2. Four requests? Heh, I would totally focus on that. Ah, you make me feel tragically unaccomplished, I need to get cracking on this whole process. Thanks for the slightly backwards encouragement, though, it's nice to hear all that before my first queries go out!

  3. good points all, sangu :)

    [now, what'd i do with my wip?]