An unavoidable part of every writer’s journey is experiencing rejection. How people both come to terms and learn to deal with this rejection varies widely.
I was fifteen when I attended my first book signing where I, as young writers often do, asked what advice might be given to someone who dreamed of one day being an author. The advice I received is something which has stayed with me over the years. The road to being a writer is not easy, and rejection is an important part of the journey. Then I was told: “Pick a wall in your house. Cover it with rejection letters. When the wall is completely full, then, and only then, can you begin to think about receiving acceptance.”
First, when addressing the rejection letter, it should be noted that there are different kinds and levels. The first is a standard form letter. This is a letter that generally begins with ‘Dear Author’ and are normally not longer than a single paragraph. This is, in my experience, the most common form of rejection letter, as agents often receive far more queries than they can ever hope to personally respond to. The second type of rejection letter is very similar to this one, only it may contain the writer’s actual name at the top, include the title of the piece being rejected, and may even contain a signature at the bottom of the form. Thought this is considered a different level, there is very little different from the first.
The third level is a rejection letter which actually states the reason for the rejection. It is often considered a rare gift to receive any feedback in a rejection letter. Should such feedback be provided, it is advisable to at least take the feedback into consideration for future drafts. This, of course, does not mean that one should feel obligated to follow the offered advice; however, it should at minimum be taken under advisement.
The fourth level not a rejection letter, but instead a request to read more. When sending an initial query, most agents request anywhere from the first page to the first three pages of a novel in addition to the query letter. A request for more pages or even the entire manuscript indicates that the agent is interested in your work. From this full read, three things can happen. The manuscript can be rejected. The agent can recommend changes which need to be made before they will agree to represent the story, or the manuscript can actually be accepted. However it should be noted that an acceptance letter from an agent does not guarantee a book sale, but merely that you now have someone qualified to pass the manuscript on to publishing houses. It is, generally, an agent’s job to sell the manuscript to the publishers and to represent your interest during any contract negotiations, among other duties.
The other form of rejection that a writer must contend with is the knowledge that no matter how good a story may be, there will always be someone who dislikes your work. Preference and taste vary from person to person, so learning to deal with rejection from potential readers is another part of the writing process. Putting ones work into the public sphere can be a terrifying thing; no matter if it debut novel, or your twentieth book in a well-beloved series. I have found that accepting this simple fact – that not everyone will like your work – is the first step towards learning how to best deal with rejection.
Here are some thoughts on other ways to deal with the fear of rejection: