Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Rejection Acceptance

Early on, I realised if I was to be a success at this writing game I needed to find a way to deal with rejection. The easiest is a rant. I read the rejection and shout back at it. Then I throw it away and move on. It works for me; I suggest you find a similar method. I’ve never trusted this collecting of them; the growing pile can’t bode well for future self confidence, but then again that may be my own psychosis.

All writers get rejections. I like reminding myself of the list of rejections Stephen King’s Carrie received or the bitter rejection of Rudyard Kipling’s writing by the The San Francisco Examiner who advised Mr Kipling he was clueless regarding the English language. Sylvia Plath, George Orwell, Mary Higgins Clark, Jack Kerouac, Ayn Rand- all rejected at one time or another, some quite bitterly. If nothing else, when that rejection arrives know that you are in excellent company.

Rejections are sent for many reasons. Here are a few.

1. You’re a crappy writer
Most writers jump to this one straight away. If you’ve had any success in the past, this is likely NOT the reason.

2. That particular publisher can’t market your book
Your book may be good, but the publisher can’t see the angle. You need to do a bit more research and move on to a different publisher.

3. The publisher has similar books in the pipeline
Again move on to another publisher.

4. Your book may have some editing problems
No matter how many times you look at your work, no matter how excellent an eye you might have, you will need an editor eventually. Where to find one? Blood Red Pencil, of course.

5. There are no similar books in the market
This was what Dr Seuss was told about And to Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street. Publishers are in business and they are dead conservative. They want what is selling NOW. Of course, what is selling now is already old news, a conflict that can have you, as a writer, banging your head against the wall. Stop. Instead, bang on those publishers’ doors, someone is bound to see your brilliance.

Sometimes publishers give advice in their rejection letters. It’s lovely of them to take the time to help you along as they give you a boot out the door; they’re busy people like all of us. Go through their points, take what is useful and then move on.

Sitting in a pool of misery over a rejection will get you nowhere. Instead, go out determined to prove that rejection writer wrong.
Lauri Kubuitsile is an award-winning writer living in Botswana. Most recently she’s been writing at her blog,
Thoughts from Botswana, about cobras (in the sitting room-yikes!) and Coetzee (who will soon be judging her short story), though she does post on topics beyond the letter C. Her eclectic blog stems from her eclectic writing career which includes short stories, children’s books, science textbooks, detective novellas, television series, radio lessons, and most any other writing job that comes her way.

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  1. I always find helpful information, tips and resources here. (I've got linkage to your blog over at my place today.)

  2. My thought on rejection letters - the agent just wasn't right for me. Yeah, a rejection letter is somewhat depressing, but it is also part of the writing process. I just move forward and hope for the best.

    Thanks for the post.


  3. Of course, it could have been that a less literary assistant saw your MS and failed to see the potential, or was just in a bad mood that day, overwhelmed with work, perhaps.

    In the olden days, physicians never washed their aprons. They wore them, covered in gunk, to prove how experienced they were.

    Perhaps you should save your rejections to prove how confident and patient you are. They can be your "Gunk" file.

  4. LOL! I love the idea of yelling at your rejections.

    I have always thought writing is a lot like acting, in that you get rejected a lot. And the rejections don't always mean that you are horrible at what you do--you and the agent/publisher just weren't a good fit.

    But now I see that writers have it better: we can yell and scream when we are rejected. If an actor did that at an audition, well, he would quickly find himself shut out of all auditions.

  5. It's good to remind yourself - at least you're not getting rejected by Simon Cowell on national TV.

  6. There's another reason why a book gets rejected. The author doesn't do his homework and sends the manuscript to a publisher who doesn't deal with the genre.

  7. While I was in college, one of my professors took some time to encourage us to publish before the end of our semester. He also talked with us about rejection and he said one of the most influential things to me. It's stuck with me through every rejection letter since, "Rejection isn't personal. All too often we take it personal, like an insult. But in truth we really have no idea why it was rejected. You can guarantee it had NOTHING to do with you personally." Once it becomes less personal, it's easier to take it from a constructive frame of mind.

  8. Hey, it's better than listening to Donald Trump say, "You're fired!" I agree there's no point in obsessing over a rejection which could mean anything, or nothing. I just got tired of them and went with a small publisher.

  9. I do save my rejections. Sometimes they contain hints to use and make the manuscript better. Other times, they're good for remembering what places I've already submitted that manuscript. It can get confusing when you send out more than one.

    Morgan Mandel

  10. I like the shouting idea! Good stuff. All the better to follow the shouting with a bit of chocolate or wine.


  11. One of the major reasons for rejection is a poorly formatted manuscript. I just read one that had cutesie little feathers graphics injected between chapters. I put off reading it forever because of those ridiculous inclusions. There are plenty of how-tos that warn against this, so why an author would insist on pushing the river is beyond me. Trust me, it can get a very good manuscript repeatedly dumped into the "so sorry" pile. Follow the publishers submisssion guidelines to the letter. This is important, so pay attention.


  12. DGreer- I'm shocked that you publisher types don't appreciate those cute little bunnies and smiley faces. Hmmm... well, takes all kinds I guess. No seriously, I'm shocked writers still do that.

    Jenny- Your professor was absolutely right. It's not personal. I know it makes no sense at all but this is why I prefer rejections that start 'Dear Writer'. Those personal letters with personal advice start to cut a little too deep for my liking.

    Regan- Yes, I left that bit out, actually I thought it was implied- rejections are always followed by chocolate and wine. I believe that's a rule in the Writer's Handbook, I might be wrong.

    Yes, we writers should be thankful we have no equivalent to Simon Cowell and The Donald. Ouch!


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