Thursday, July 09, 2009

Remember, It's Not Personal

By Nichole Giles

Every writer who is brave enough to submit is bound to get rejections. It doesn’t matter how good your work is, or how many people love it. We all have different writing styles, and not everyone is going to immediately fall in love with everything we write.

Because of this, submitting can often be a scary thing. Even more scary than sending our work to critique partners or loved ones who will give honest feedback. Our friends and family will (hopefully) give us comments and helpful suggestions to improve our work—but most editors or agents don’t have the time or resources for this. Instead, they might send a form letter, thanking you for your submission and informing you that your work doesn’t fit their needs. That’s hard.

Other editors or agents won’t reply at all, and you’re forced to spend weeks, or even months, wondering if your submission got lost in the mail—or if possibly cyber-gremlins ate it for lunch. Then you spend more time wondering if you should send a follow up email or letter, or if perhaps you should call.

Then there are the agents or editors who are kind enough to reply personally to all submissions, even negative ones. They might jot a nice note telling you they’re sorry they have to pass, or graciously thank you for submitting your work to them. Some might send a form letter but sign it personally—with a line like, “Keep submitting.” It’s amazing what a single personalized sentence can do to help temper the sting of rejection.

Whenever you get a rejection, it’s important to remember that these people are looking strictly at your work and how it fits into their vision of business. Even when you’re submitting to agents or editors you know or have previously met, they’re reading your writing with an eye to what kind of manuscript fits their current needs. If they really like you personally, they might read your submission faster, or look harder, or be possibly more anxious to find a reason to accept your stuff, but in the end, it’s still a matter of matching the right manuscript with the right company.

What I’m saying here is that rejections are not personal.

Wait! Wait! Before you all stampede over to my house to flog me, listen to what I have to say. Writing is personal. It’s like pouring pieces of your heart on paper and then sending it to a stranger to find out if you yourself are a good enough person. But while all authors feel this way—it’s true, we do—the bottom line is that a rejection of your current work in progress is NOT a rejection of you as a person. It’s not personal! It’s business.

It is an agent /editor’s job to pick the right manuscripts for the right market at the right time. And the writing must be…well, just right. So, in other words, there could be a thousand different reasons why you received a rejection on a specific piece—but that doesn’t mean you’re a terrible writer and it’s time to quit. Pick yourself up, dust off, and submit to five more places. Every author gets rejections. It’s a fact of life in this business.

The thing that makes each of us different is how we handle those rejections. Will you stop writing? Will you stop submitting? Will you lay down your pen forever and still the voices and stories and descriptions floating around in your head? Or will you mark each rejection as a notch on your post and try to fill the whole thing up until you succeed?

Rejections from editors and agents aren’t personal, but your reaction to them most definitely is. What will you do? How will it affect you?

Me? I choose to take the high road. I’ll be the author who brings a trunk full of rejections to speaking engagements where I tell other authors how many rejections I got before I succeeded.
What do you think? Want to join me?


L.T. Elliot said...

Thank you for this, Nichole. I have I feeling I'm going to need it soon. But with that in mind, I plan to throw a party instead. =]

LeeAnne said...

I think it is so important to remember that you just have to keep trying! L.T. Elliot, don't worry! I got 27 rejections before I got 1 "yes"! My book "Within the Flame" just hit the market this week, so my positive attitude was what pulled me through and it sounds like you've got that covered! Good luck!
~LeeAnne Hanks

Laura said...

At this point, I'm thinking that not getting a rejection letter is a fairytale. The harder you work, the more rejections you'll get. It's like morbid proof that you're a real writer.

Molly in the Jello Belt said...

I got a rejection letter that said, "we encourage you to submit a different manuscript to us" or something like that. From that, I decided they liked my writing, but the story I sent them didn't fit their business needs at the time. I floated for joy on that nice, personalized rejection for a week.

I sent the manuscript out again, and got more nice rejections. Lots of nice rejections.

Keith Fisher said...

rejections are proof to the irs that you are working. Can I ride your coat tails, Nichole? I figure you'll get there soon and i hope you'll take me with you.

Nichole Giles said...

I vote we all have a party--but if you want, L.T., we can have it at your house. =)

Let's have a lemonade toast, shall we? I propose a toast to all us morbid rejects. May we all someday get a "Yes, yes, oh please let us publish this, yes!"

Until then, we'll continue to be rejects together. At least we're not alone, right?