Dealing with Query Rejection

Hello my wonderful readers. I am so glad you’re here. You are my favorite thing about Wednesdays. Knowing I get to talk with you today makes the day so much brighter! And I could use some brightness right now. I thought today I would talk about a heavy topic. Query rejection. Bum, bum, bum. See, as of today, I am the proud owner of three sparkly new “dear John” emails. I am grateful that they at least got back to me so I wasn’t left hanging on the false hope that they might still be interested. But it is still a hard thing to go through. So I thought it might be a good time to talk about this aspect of the process.

If you are thinking about becoming a writer because you think the job will be easy, well I hope by now, after reading some of my blog posts and guest interviews, you know that’s not the case. Writing can be a lonely, difficult job. And just when you think the hard part is over, another difficult part jumps up to say “surprise!” First it’s the brainstorming. You agonize over a killer story line that hasn’t been done to death. That’s no easy task. Once you come up with your idea, you bang it out. Working long hours to get that rough draft finished. Then, joy of joys, it’s finished. The End. Right? Wrong.

Next comes the editing process. Bane of a writer’s existence. Sweat, blood, tears, weeping and gnashing of teeth. Add in queasiness, self-loathing and questioning your ability to even form a complete sentence correctly and you’ll be in the ballpark of the torture that is editing. Then you send it out to critique partners and/or beta readers. They are amazing and catch the many, many, did I mention many? Mistakes you have made. Some giant holes, some little ditches. You enter another round of edits. Fill all those holes in and it’s smooth sailing right? Hahahaha

That’s when you enter the Thunderdome, aka the publishing world. Whether you self-publish or publish traditionally, there are flaming obstacles that you must navigate if you wish to be victorious. I say all this not to scare you away from writing, but so you will be prepared. I don’t want you to give up halfway. I want you to make it to the finish line. And unfortunately, one of those obstacles you must overcome is rejection. Bum, bum, bum. (Sorry, it just feels more epic with the ominous drums.)

So, how do you deal with rejection? Well I think the biggest piece of advice I can give you, is that whether someone likes your book or not is a matter of taste and taste is SUBJECTIVE. Just because one person doesn’t like it doesn’t mean it’s garbage. Especially when a rejection comes from an agent or publisher. You might be tempted to think, ‘well they’re the professionals, if they don’t want it, it must not be any good.’ This is the wrong conclusion to reach. You have to remember, they see thousands of manuscripts a year. The bigger the agent/publisher, the more book proposals come across their desk. And with that many stories coming to them, having to choose just a handful of them becomes a really difficult task. So they have to narrow it down somehow, which often means if they aren’t big on vampires or kittens and your story is about vampire kittens, they will pass. Not because it’s not any good, but because they’re working through a large slush pile and are trying to make it through without going bonkers.

So please, please, please keep this in mind when you’re getting your “dear John” letters. Don’t give up! If you like the story you’ve written, keep going until you find an agent/publisher that’s gaga for vampire kittens! You want someone that loves your story as much as you do. Agents like to pick the stories they love, and that’s the person you want working with you. The same goes for a publisher. Your work deserves someone who is head over heels for it. So if someone sends you a rejection letter, just tell yourself it’s ok because they weren’t head over heels for your MS and you want someone who is.

Also, I want you to remember (and trust me I’m saying all this advice to myself as much as I’m saying it to you) all the work you’ve put into it already. You’ve come so fa. You don’t want to give up when you’re so close to the finish line! Find your second wind and run it hard to the end. I know it may be a bit painful now, but it feels so good when you’re done.

I used to run cross country in high school and the question I was always asked whenever I mentioned it to someone was “WHY?” They would always ask me why I did it. Running long distance is a very difficult thing, it is painful and pushes you beyond your limits. Not to mention, it’s different from other sports. You don’t make baskets, or touchdowns, or goals. You don’t have cheerleaders (except maybe your mom). You just run. And it was hard to explain it, but when you crossed that finish line, when you did something so difficult, and you completed it, the feeling of accomplishment was such an amazing rush. And the bragging rights are insane! Sure there were other goals you could accomplish, but saying that you run seven miles just for practice, now that’s something!

Writing a novel is like long distance running. It’s a lot of work, and people may not understand and question why you do it. But when you cross that finish line, the feeling of accomplishment that you will get will be such a rush! And the bragging rights are pretty great too. 🙂

So remember, when you feel like giving up. Your story deserves to be out there. You’ve worked long and hard on it. And just because one person doesn’t like it doesn’t mean there aren’t hundreds more who will. And finally, you are so close to crossing that finish line. Don’t give up on the home stretch, run it hard and break that tape. You will be so proud of yourself when you do. And I’ll be super proud of you too!

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    Chicken Soup for the Soul was rejected 144 times before it was published! Stay strong!!! 

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  • In a weird kinda way, I’m actually looking forward to that step in the process. Only because that will mean I’ve FINALLY finished a MS!

    I really love your outlook and I’m saving this post for the time my “dear John” letters start to pile up.

    Keep writing!!!

    • Kara

      It’s great to be done but it’s still rough getting all the “thanks but no thanks” letters. But I’m trying to stay positive. I’m glad I could offer you a bit of solace for the future. Good luck with completing your MS.

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