Tag Archives: rejection

Responses to Rejection

During a past month where we shared Flash Fiction, I talked about those stories that just don’t sell.

There’s some good advice out there about what to do when you get a rejection:

  • Sometimes a story will be a good story, but it isn’t to the editor’s taste, or the editor received five submissions with a similar theme and could only take one, or it doesn’t have the “tone” or “feel” that matches the other stories in the anthology/magazine/etc. There’s no reason this story won’t sell somewhere else, to an editor who likes this kind of story, or to an anthology where it’s a better fit with the other stories.
  • If the editor offers you feedback on the story, consider using that feedback, both in revisions, and in writing from that point forward. (If you don’t use it, make sure it’s for logical reasons, rather than ego-driven reasons.)
  • It’s the height of unprofessionalism to argue with the editor about why they “should have” accepted your story. And while many of us were brought up to believe that “thank you” notes are appropriate, in the case of story submissions they typically aren’t. Editors are often overworked and filtering through 700 “thank you for your response” emails from rejected authors are a waste of their time. The detriment to the editor outweighs the courtesy of the gesture.
  • If the story’s solid, send it out again to a different market. Caveat: If I wrote a story for an anthology, I sit on it for a while before I send it out again. The reason? If a magazine gets a submission about Lake Monsters, and they know an anthology about Lake Monsters recently sent out its rejection letters, then they can do the math and guess that the story in front of them was rejected from the anthology. It could be a perfectly good Lake Monster story, but it’s tainted by association. Sit on your Lake Monster story for a year or so; review it and revise it if you think the changes will improve it; then send it out again.

But what do you do when you don’t think the story’s solid?

Next month I’m going to talk about the stories that just don’t sell, and when to rewrite vs when to let it go.

See you then!

Most Times, Catharsis Isn’t Worth the Price

I get it. You’re angry, furious even. Your masterpiece has been unjustly defamed by a cruddy review. You’ve received your millionth “dear author” rejection letter. Or some idiot at your publishing house has messed up your precious manuscript as they were shuffling it through the process of becoming a best seller. Whatever the cause, all you want to do is lash out and tell the world what a moron the offending individual has been. It’ll feel soooo good to write that scathing blog post, email, or response in the comments section. You’ll be witty and cutting. It’ll go viral. You know that the Internet cannot help but see that you are in the right, that your cause is just.

STOP.

Stop and take a deep breath. Take a walk, beat up a punching bag, or scream at the moon. But whatever you do, do not click send. Not in your current state at least. As good as it would make you feel, trust me, the catharsis isn’t worth it. The Internet never forgets, so why give it something that could come back to haunt you later? Furthermore, the publishing business is a small world where everyone knows everyone else. And, everyone talks. You DO NOT want to be the unflattering email that gets passed around the office. You do not want to end your career in a moment of pique.

So, what do you do? The first step is to acknowledge your emotion. You’re mad. You’re sad. You may be right to feel that way. You may be wrong. Frankly, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that you feel the emotions, that you admit to them, accept them, and then own them. Acknowledge that your feelings aren’t within your control, but how you act absolutely is. You won’t be judged for being angry, but you will be judged by how you behave.

The next step is to be thoughtful and deliberate in how you will react. The situation is already bad, so what’s the best case scenario for an ending? Chances are that a bad print run, a hostile review, or an impartial rejection cannot be changed. So then, what is in your control? Perception, specifically how others perceive you. Are you going to be the drama king/queen that flies off the handle or are you going to be the suave professional that takes the situation in stride? Will you let your baser instincts drive your reactions, or will you rise above them?

Let’s be frank. You cannot use anger to win over someone who is determined to be hostile. More often than not, both parties simply make fools of themselves. If you don’t feed the haters, they’ll get bored and find the next person they can rile up. Like the wise samurai, leave them with their anger, jealousy, and vitriol. If you write the best book you can, keep improving your craft, and be a likable author, your fans will speak up for you. Their praise and fan-love will drown out the haters.

Impersonal rejection is part of the business. We all deal with it, and past rejection has no bearing on your future success. J.K. Rowling was rejected by, what? 12 different publishers? Now she’s one of the most loved and powerful voices in the world. Furthermore, there is no point in souring your relationship with an editor or agent just because your manuscript doesn’t fit their needs at this time. Throwing a fit just convinces them that you are too much trouble to be worth working with in the future. And they will share that opinion with all their friends and colleagues. By ranting at one closed door, you may destroy another opportunity.

Sometimes even major goofs can be turned to your advantage. I recently read a really suave blog post from an author I admire. He had written a short story for an anthology. Somehow, the end of his story was left out of the first run of printed books. What a big “ooops!” However, instead of expressing perfectly justifiable frustration, he publicly acknowledged that such mistakes sometimes happen. He went on to tell his fans that the publisher had fixed the problem and reordered the copies of the book, so future orders would be whole. However, there existed 50 books with the miss-print. Act fast, he urged us, and the publisher will sell you a signed copy of the miss-printed book paired with a special, one-run-only chapbook that contained the end of the story. That’s right! Only 50 of these items would ever exist. In so doing, he turned an embarrassing mistake into a collectible. Now, that’s smart business.

There are many things in this world that are beyond our direct control. Mistakes will be made. People will be hateful. Business deals won’t always go through. We will feel angry, frustrated, and disappointed when these things happen. However, how we choose to respond to these circumstances will define who we are. More importantly, it will shape how others think of us. In our media driven world, perception is power. It’s the power to sell books, close deals, and win over lifelong fans.

So you’ve acknowledged and mastered your emotions. Now you have a choice to make. Will you be the author who flies off the handle when things go wrong or will you be the suave professional? Will you be the voice that adds to the cacophony and catastrophe, or will you be the one to turn a bad situation into an opportunity? An emotionally driven outburst may make you feel better in the short run, but it often makes matters worse. So when you feel the need to unleash a heaping portion of righteous wrath, instead think… is the catharsis really worth it?

Your Best Work Just Got Rejected. Let’s Cope.

About two months ago, a much younger, bright-eyed, bushy-tailed Kristin signed up for this month thinking, “You know, I can help people unpack rejections and give them some positive options on how to deal with them.”

HahaHAHA! That was before I got rejection after rejection after rejection (and so on) in just a week’s time. And between you and me, it was hard. All of the coping mechanisms I had built up and employed up until that point crumbled before my eyes. And that’s when I came up an entirely new set of rules for coping with rejection.

First, let me give you the old, yet very helpful, coping exercises.

  1. If you received any feedback with your rejection, consider it carefully. Does it ring true? If so, then make edits. Does it not ring true? Then continue to submit your story elsewhere.
  2. If you received no feedback with your rejection, read over your story again and consider a few things.
    1. Do you still love this story?
    2. Do you see some ways to make it better?
    3. Was the editor just out of their mind to reject your story?
  3. If you see some ways you can make your story better, whether it be another grammatical pass or making the villain more villain-y, do that.
  4. If you still love you story and think the editor just didn’t see what you see in your story, continue to submit.
  5. Take out your journal, or a specific writing journal that you keep, log the rejection, and also take some time to process your feelings about it. Don’t be afraid to say you were really hoping for the story to be accepted and you are hurt that it wasn’t. Continue to write until you feel that you have processed your feelings or thoughts on the story and the rejection.

Now, let me give you some new coping exercises. These will only work if you’re a feeling human being with real human feelings, and you were really hoping for an agent or a publication to accept your work.

  1. Get a bag of potatoes. Cry hot tears of broken expectations onto those potatoes. Why? Because you know what’s yummy? Cooked potatoes.
  2. Eat those potatoes.
  3. Do not shower. Go to the store. Pick out three bags of chips because today, you don’t have to decide between the kinds you want. Today, you get all three bags of your favorite chips. And those hot tear potatoes really got you hungry for some crunchy potato byproducts.
  4. Visit the candy aisle, then the frozen dessert section. Pick out at least two items.
  5. Carry the items to the check out. When the person scanning your items smiles at you, smile back at them, and relish that there is still some goodness, some kindness in the world.
  6. Go home and share the potato chips with your dog. Look deeply into the dog’s eyes and wonder why everything can’t be as simple as your wonderful, loving, perfect dog.
  7. Eat the ice cream or candy and stare blankly at the Netflix menu. Scroll through every menu. Wonder what the point of it all is.
  8. Turn off the TV and think about why you started writing in the first place. Question if what you’re writing now is important. Wonder if it is how you idealized it to be. You realize it’s not quite on the mark. Your younger self would wonder how you veered slightly to the left. You make resolutions to re-align your writing to your ideals.
  9. Go to bed at 6:00pm, or at the very earliest sign of light fading.
  10. Wake up at 2:00am because you went to bed at 6:00pm. Play Candy Crush on your phone until 4:00am, then fall back asleep.
  11. Wake up at 6:00am. Walk your wonderful, loving, perfect dog.
  12. Take a very long shower. Wash away yesterday, and the remnants of yesterday that are globs of mashed potato in your hair and crunchy pieces of potato chips between your toes (don’t be ashamed, you really went for it yesterday).
  13. Make yourself a cup of your favorite tea or coffee with creamer (the creamer you know you shouldn’t drink because it has so many extra calories but it’s just so good).
  14. Sit down at your desk. Open up your laptop.
  15. Take a deep breath.
  16. Go back to the old, yet very helpful, coping exercises.

How Many Authors Have You Rejected?

When I go to a bookstore, I walk straight past the romance and horror and non-fiction over to the fantasy and science fiction section, and often browse the young adult (YA) aisles as well. Even though I know there are great books on the other shelves, those are the genres I’m interested in reading.

Now I want to find a book.

What I’m looking for depends on my personal tastes, what I last read, what kind of story I prefer, and what I consider to be a “good” book. My friends have different opinions and they have loved books that have done nothing for me, and I’ve been crazy about a book that they found “okay”.

In order to make a decision about which book to buy, I read the back copy. Sometimes I put the book back, sometimes I start reading the first chapter. I know within the first few pages whether or not I want to spend 3-4 hours with that book.

When I finally choose a book, buy it, and walk out of the bookstore, it’s nothing personal against all of those other authors .. but I have just rejected them.

 

Now – take that above situation and translate it in to an agent’s world … far more people than they could ever represent, some queries that appeal to them more than others, deciding which manuscript they want to spent 1-2 years of their life with, and then sending out rejections to the rest. Nothing personal, the agent just didn’t choose your book.