Typically speaking, I don’t have a thick skin. Look at me the wrong way and I’ll instantly run through a gamut of offenses I might be guilty of to cause just such a glance. In all reality, the person might just have a piece of dust in their eye and the twitchy-narrowing-eye-thingy wasn’t a display of loathing, but simply an attempt to eradicate the microscopic dust bunny.
While writing my first book, I often worried about the inevitability of rejection. Not only are writers rejected 9 out of 10 times [note: not a real statistic; I’m just guessing], but also more often than not, they’re form rejections, so we don’t even know the reason behind it. This is the same as that “Wrong Look” I just mentioned. It tells us there’s a problem in the agent’s eyes (pun intended), but it doesn’t tell us what the problem is.
There are lots of posts and articles and probably carvings on bathroom stalls with advice on how to deal with rejection as a writer. After all, every writer–whether you’re Stephen King or the literary equivalent of William Hung–gets rejected.
And that, my friends, is the single most important lesson I want you to remember.
It happens to EVERYONE!
According to my calculations, since starting my search for an agent, I’ve been rejected 16 times. I’ve had 3 rejections with personal feedback as to why they said no (with notes to feel free to query with future projects), but the rest have been form rejections or the “no news means bad news” rule. Meaning, if you haven’t heard from them within a specific time period, it means they’re passing.
But even with all of those rejections, I feel strangely optimistic. I don’t even bat an eye when I get a rejection in my inbox. I expect them to be a rejection before I even click on it, and when I scan for that telltale word “unfortunately,” I give a mental shrug and file the email away.
That’s what happened today when I received a form letter from one of my agent top picks. I really would’ve loved to work with her, but for whatever reason, she didn’t feel the same. Maybe she has too many things that are similar. Maybe she doesn’t like my voice. Maybe she doesn’t think it’s marketable. Maybe one of her loved ones was run over by a Maxwell House Coffee truck and just seeing my last name on a regular basis would be too traumatic. (What?! Anything’s possible.)
So when I read her email I said to myself, “Hey, self, don’t sweat it. It’s no BFD.”
Because one of these days, I’m going to open my inbox and I’ll have agents requesting fulls. And eventually, one of those agents is going to be so enthusiastic about my book, they’re going to ask to represent it (and hopefully the remaining two books in the trilogy). I don’t think I’m anywhere near great yet, but I think someday I could be. I also think my manuscript is a pretty-darn-good book, and with the right agent’s help, could probably be a pretty-darn-great book.
All I have to do is never give up. Never quit querying. Never quit learning. Never quit writing. And whether that perseverance pays off tomorrow or five years from now, eventually, I’ll be able to utter those three magic words every writer dreams about…
I. Am. Published.
I encourage all of my writing friends to adopt this same outlook, and someday we can all try to one-up each other on who had the most rejections before that one agent/editor/publisher realized just how genius we really are.