Friday, February 28, 2014

Friday Fricassee

These are rejection letters.

When I first started querying agents (8 years ago!), the idea of e-queries was new.  Agent Kristin Nelson, on her blog, offered a list of agents who accepted queries via email.  It was a pretty small list--but I was excited about it, because, well, email!  What's the point of wasting paper and buying a stamp when you can email?  It was hard to understand why the publishing industry was so slow to jump on board.

(No one had told me yet that "slow" was the publishing industry's middle name.)

Fairly soon, though, email became the submission-of-choice.  But during the first year or so of my querying journey, there were lots of unhappy trips back to the house from my mailbox.  After a while, you can tell what a rejection feels like in your hands.  I swear.

I saved each one, though.  I keep this red-ribboned pile in the top drawer of my bedside table, and sometimes I actually sit down and read through.  It reminds me how far I've come, and that there's something to be said for persistence.

The rest of my (vast) collection of rejections is in my email box, in folders by title name.

That's a lot of "no."  But it only takes one "yes".

Only one yes.

Are you hearing me?  Let your rejections be stepping stones to your success.  Pay attention to them, because they are markers of where you are on your journey.  Are you getting NO requests for material?  Take a hard look at your query--it might be lacking.  Are you getting requests for partials that NEVER turn into requests for fulls?  Take a hard look at your writing.  Voice is an elusive thing, and it's when we find our VOICE that our stories begin to truly soar.  Are your requests for fulls ending in rejections that are all saying similar things?  LISTEN to those similar things.  They might be pointing to exactly what is broken, so that you can fix it.

My pile of rejections is a tangible reminder that "no" doesn't mean "you're doomed to failure".  I can hold it in my hands, feel the weight of it, and SMILE.

I have an agent.  I WILL be published.  It's all about walking across the rapids on top of the stepping stones, instead of letting them hit us on the head or push us under.

Are your stepping stones in a drawer?  On your laptop?  Or do you discard them to remain unfettered by the reminder of the nos?  How do YOU deal with rejection letters?

Share!  As we all press on toward our personal yeses.


  1. Thanks for the boost of confidence.

    I kept my first few rejection letters (all well-deserved), which were all paper forms. THe rest sit in my inbox, and every so often I scan through them to remind myself how far I've come.

    Hopefully one of these days I'll have an acceptance email to re-read too.

  2. I have all my rejections saved as well, in nicely labeled folders.

    I recently thought, though, that it might be nice to make a scrap book of positive responses (even if they were rejections) so on the days when I'm feeling down (because they always sneak up on you sooner or later) I could flip through the scrapbook of good neas

  3. There are lots of reasons to appreciate rejection letters, and you've named several. They are opportunities to see where you've been and where you're going. They are opportunities to learn from your mistakes (that you may not even know you're making.) They show that you are doing your job. You can't sell if you don't submit, so if you're not getting rejections, you're probably not submitting. And at tax time, if you're deducting supplies and the costs of conferences and perhaps a home office, rejections are also proof to the IRS that what you are doing is a business, not a hobby. ANd if you have kids, rejections show them their mom or dad is not a quitter, and that they believe in chasing their dreams.

  4. Thank you for sharing the photo of your stack of rejection letters. It is very encouraging to see as I push forward on my own journey.

  5. Authoress, your posts fill me with joy, help keep me going. I've been at this fiction racket for five years, watching friends pass me on by. And now... strangely, I'm almost blasé about rejections. I think the moment a writer stops personalizing a rejection... is the moment she / he realizes this is a profession, and that he or she is a professional. That acceptance into the publishing biz is a rite of passage to be overcome, not to be daunted by. You can't throw in the towel. You can't throw a tantrum and stomp your foot. You have to be an adult and appreciative of any feedback you get from a well-seasoned pro. Everyone's swamped and busy. Some agents receive 10,000+ queries a year. If an agent or editor spends one minute looking at your stuff, it's a great sign.

    My husband has said this hundreds of times, "It only takes one Yes." One agent to like your work and respond emotionally to it, want to advocate for you. One editor to say "yes" and to offer you the publishing contract.

    In the meantime, it's all about craft. Improving. Staying humble. Being gracious. Being inspired.

    In 2011, I sent a query and got a personal response from agent Donald Maass. It was a rejection. But I could tell he wrote it, because it sounded exactly like his writing in his "Breakthrough Novel" How-To. I was not discouraged at all, but acted like a ninny -- I spun around the room on a high. "He wrote to me personally! He wrote personally!" (LOL)

    I also received a personal rejection from agent Kristin Nelson who encouraged me, too, saying I had 'lovely writing.' A real class act. That kept me going. Sometimes it is two words in a rejection.

    It can keep your hands on the keyboard and not feel sorry for yourself.

    Thanks again and God bless. I enjoy the genuine, warm and polite people you attract to your site and read their comments as well.

  6. Thank you, thank you! I just got a really nice rejection from a very well respected agent that gutted me for about a day--she liked my writing and voice and wants to see more but is not interested in my current project. So it was good, but also a bit worrisome because, in her opinion, the current ms could be a hard sell. BUT I can use the info to make it better--the book I know it needs to be. I love the stepping stone analogy. And I love the comment about showing your kids how you handle setbacks. I let me family see my panic and sadness and then I move on. I may frame some of these rejections one day!

  7. I didn't keep mine. I move on from them, taking what I can from them if they are helpful. I used to take each one personally and each one felt like they were rejecting me and not my writing. Now, I know better. This business is so subjective and it does only take one yes. I believe that luck plays a part in it too. You have to hit the right agent (or publisher) at the right time (in other words don't write for the market since the market changes so rapidly). That was a hard lesson for me too, I like to write UF and it's a hard sell right now so I wrote something else. I hope to one day have the "this is how I got my agent and book deal" blog and have gifs saved for that day! Meanwhile, I keep on writing hoping that "this book" will be the one. Thanks for the encouragement.

  8. I appreciate rejections that say why they are rejecting me. It gives me something to look back on and grow from. My query letter was stronger than my writing by leaps and bounds. With Authoress's help I got what I NEEDED to hear through her edits to make my story stronger. If you haven't had her edit a partial I recommend it.

    I can only imagine how hard it must be for agents who get rejected as well when they have a MS they love and cannot get it sold. They have to be the one to tell the author.

    I have all of my rejection letters neatly tucked away and sorted. The agents were very polite (there is always one bad apple in a barrel) so why should I feel upset with them? The rejection just means I need to "up" my game and be even better. Who wants to publish a debut novel that is not at its peak by an author who is not emotionally ready for the task of writing?

  9. Rejections...Blah! Nothing sucker punches you like opening a rejection letter or email from an agent or their agency. That's why I don't hold on to the letters I receive. I figure they are a moment in time that I don't care to revisit. I will make a note of the rejection on my query list and promptly move on. Shredders are cathartic :)

  10. I agree with this post. With each rejection, I am closer to publication. If you're truly driven, you evaluate each one. Publishing, in a way, is like any other job: You either get the sale or you don't. If you don't get the sale, you reevaluate your approach. Keep on keepin' on all.

  11. I saved my agent rejections too, though I have not revisited them. I was so nervous about sending material to the Bakers Dozen requesting agents because some of the names were well known to me and I knew it would be a let down when I got the rejection. Only one of those turned out not to be a rejection, so there's that.

    I'm always surprised how positive some rejections can be; Loved the characters! and then the next line is: sorry, I will have to pass. It kind of makes you crazy; if you liked it, why not a yes?!It's that subjective quotient.

  12. I kept mine until last summer. It got to the point where they were making me feel hopeless and weighing me down. I've only kept the few helpful ones that I've been lucky enough to receive. They remind me that I had an interesting query once, I can have an interesting one again.

  13. This is a timely post for me! I just started querying this week- sent four so far- and I'm steeling myself for when the rejections start coming in. I just keep reminding myself that every rejection is just one step closer to my yes. Eventually I'll get there, whether it be w/this novel or the next(or the one after that, or the one after that, or- yeah, I'll stop) =)

  14. I love these posts :-) In case anyone needs another boost, here's stats on my 231 rejections. #itonlytakesone

  15. There are six rejections I look at. They're personalized, they... they help. But the rest... I don't know what to make of them, and I doubt myself a lot.

    I got two partial requests, rejected because neither agent thought they could sell it. No one else has bit. Is something wrong with my story, or my query? (I know I suck at query, that was something like draft 44).

    Maybe I'm not far enough along. It doesn't bother me to get a rejection... but thinking about them does. Because I'm fairly certain I'm doing something wrong, but I can't figure out what.

  16. I save all the letters, the paper ones from my first book, and the e-mail ones from my later books.

    The one good thing about snail mail letters is that once the mail has arrived, you can relax for the rest of the day. With e-mail, you keep checking over and over...

  17. I've saved them all, but try not to look at them too often. I still get hopeful with each new query. Just haven't found the "one" yet.

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