Motivation · Querying

On Rejection…

As anyone who who is a creative person or artist knows from experience, putting your work in front of others can be a terrifying experience. You spend days, months, or even years creating this thing that you love. You pour your heart and soul (and some sweat and tears) into it. You polish it, make it shine, and then you have one of two options.

Option one is the safe one. You take that gorgeous piece of art, or that hard fought manuscript and you stick it on a shelf. As the days and years pass, you occasionally take it out and admire it and say to yourself, “Look at this lovely thing that I made!” There is some joy in doing this. As a person that has been writing for fifteen years and only started looking for an agent three months ago, I understand the idea of writing for the enjoyment of it, not caring if my books ever see the light of day. I enjoyed writing them and it was enough.

For a while.

But then you get to that point that I think most creative people hit. Some hit it immediately, and some much later (hello, 15 years!!!). You start to ask yourself why you’re not letting other people enjoy your work. You took all the time and effort to make it, you love it, why not put it out into the world for others to enjoy too?

So then you get to option two. Option two is big. It’s scary. It sometimes feels insurmountable or like the world doesn’t want you to succeed. But you decide to do it anyway. You take steps to put your creative endeavor out there for the world to see, to read, and ultimately, either accept or reject.

I assume everyone hopes that their work will be universally loved. Chances are slim to none that will happen. Instead, you must learn to brace for rejection. After rejection.

After rejection.

Some hurt worse than others. When you’re querying an agent, you do your best to pick the ones that are most likely to be interested in your genre (or even sub-genre). There’s no point to trying to convince an agent who only represents non-fiction books that my romantic suspense/paranormal romance is right for them. Chances are, it isn’t. Getting a form rejection in the form of “Thank you for the opportunity to review your work, but after consideration we’ve decided it’s not right for our line at this time” hurts, but not deeply. It’s a surface level wound that will heal with a band-aid and some triple-antibiotic cream.

And then you have the ultimate hurt. The knife wound to the heart that makes you feel like you might just bleed out.

An agent reads your query, and asks for a partial. You eagerly send it and wait with baited breath. Then, holy smokes, they ask for the full manuscript! You happily send it on its way. And then you wait. And wait. And… wait.

At last, you get a response in your inbox. Pulling in a huge breath you click to open it and…

“After reading your full manuscript, I’ve decided to pass.”

Your heart breaks. You tried not to get your hopes up, knowing that rejections are way more common than acceptances, and yet… you still had your hopes up. It’s human.

If the agent is nice and professional, they may also give you reasons why they passed. “Your book was too contrived” or “The love interest was too weak” or “The book didn’t go the direction I was expecting” (even though they read the synopsis).

You read the feedback. You cry a bit. You rage at the walls of the house, or your spouse, or even your dog if they’re handy. “All fiction is contrived!” you yell, “That’s why they call it fiction. And, the love interest is supposed to be weaker than the heroine. She’s an immortal Amazon warrior. How could a college professor be expected to match her blow for blow? She’s the hero of the story, not him!”

Eventually, the rage fades and the impostor syndrome sets in. This agent, who reads dozens or hundreds of books a year, doesn’t like yours. They don’t think they can sell yours. Clearly, that means you’re a terrible writer who will never succeed, right?


Eventually, you pick yourself back up. You talk to some friends or loved ones or even just hug your cat and realize that this rejection was just one person’s opinion. You wouldn’t want to work with someone who doesn’t believe in your book, but just because this person didn’t like it, doesn’t mean someone else won’t. You want to find that agent that gets you, and your story, and wants to fight for your work. The one that will help you bring your book baby into the world for all those readers out there that want to read the exact story you wrote.

So you solider on. You write some more on a different work, or you edit your manuscript again. You tweak your query letter and then, BANG! You send it out into the world again. Because as Anne Lamott says, the only way to get it done is bird by bird.

2 thoughts on “On Rejection…

  1. Glorious post, Elizabeth. You’ve hit a milestone that has to be passed on your journey. Hopefully, the first cut will be the deepest and no one else will be able to smack your soul so low again. Onward – it’s a great book!!

    1. Thanks, Pru! Having good family and friends that can keep me grounded encouraged is a big part of that.

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