manuscript rejections

The Regular Practice of Rejection

Rejection has become a regular practice for me. I’ve been learning how to breathe through it—inhale, exhale—then send another query email into the void. Rejection is something we all face and it is certainly not a life practice reserved for artists.

For writers, rejection happens constantly—externally and internally. I have sent 37 query emails into the void this past year:

  • Emails 1-3: Sent to 3 agents who liked my pitch at a writer’s conference. We did the whole “speed dating” pitch session. (Fun stuff…not!) They all passed.
  • Email 4: Sent to an indie publisher who I built up a relationship with over time. She was very supportive, but she passed.
  • Emails 5-6: Sent to 2 local publishers. Thought I had a fighting chance since my novel, Virasana, is an urban fantasy novel set in a dystopian Portland. Nope, cue crickets.
  • Emails 7-37: Sent cold emails to agents who represented books in my genre bucket. More crickets, peppered by a handful of automated rejection emails which you can enjoy throughout this post.

For shits and giggles, I committed to the rejection cliche of 100 query attempts. I dipped my toe in the rejection waters last August-October during and after my first writing conference. I was discouraged, so I let things rest. In March, I fired up the rejection engine again and started sending more emails.

literary rejection letters

I squeeze these query emails into “my downtime” when “the mood strikes.” It’s difficult to be in the mood for rejection, unless you’re a masochist. So, during my masochist moments, I send out my queries.

This is the oddball game we writers play to land a traditional publishing deal. It’s been the same old song and dance for ages. The only difference is now there is a digital submission process.

I can’t decide if these digitized avenues are a good thing or a bad thing. It’s easy to delete or ignore a virtual conversation. Additionally, this level of convenience (dare I call it that?) makes querying easier for wannabee authors.

The talent pool deepens, giving agents and publishers more manuscripts to choose from and more distractions to deal with. While I’m over here managing queries in my sparse downtime with a finely orchestrated system that may not result in anything…ever.

literary agent rejections

As you rightfully predicted, I had an epic meltdown. I was hoping to make it to my halfway point of 50 emails before the “poor me” whine fest transpired. When I tallied up the sent query emails on my spreadsheet, I saw that my meltdown happened ahead of schedule—around email #30.

I had a spectacular mope session in front of Mr. H. Lots of tears and a revelation where I came up with an unfortunately brilliant adjective to describe my feelings..aimless.

I’m a Sagittarian, also known as The Archer. Astrology fun facts aside, I would describe myself as “aimful” any day over “aimless.” This was not a sterling moment for your friend Britt.

literary rejections

Like any modern moper, I turned to the endless library of self-improvement resources online to make myself feel better. Everyone talks about dealing with the fear of rejection and overcoming rejection. But, what about the rest of us who are somewhere in between?

To me, this is when rejection becomes your personal practice.

You got over the fear. You put yourself out there, took a step that hundreds of thousands of humans may never take. If you start and finish a creative work, you’re damn brave. If you share it with others—knowing you will face ridicule, acceptance, or a weird mixture of both—you’re downright ballsy.

I’ve gone through the fear of rejection multiple times by self-publishing three novels. When I received my first one-star Goodreads review for Beneath the Satin Gloves, my heart fell. Guess what happened? My heart kept on beating after that.

Overcoming rejection…hmmm…do we ever overcome it? Did I overcome rejection with that one-star review? Well, I didn’t give up writing fiction forever. That sad little star did make me second-guess my writing path. It did drag my average rating down, since reviews are so hard to come by. It did hurt me.

I still wrote and finished my fourth novel, Virasana. And, look at me now. I’m in the throes of rejection—an automated email here, the silent treatment there.

literary agent rejection letter

I realize I may never find a traditional home for Virasana. Once I’ve sent 100 emails, then it’s time to reevaluate the process and my time investment. That’s later and this is now. I’m practicing rejection and it is a worthwhile practice. Mainly, it is a worthwhile practice in patience and resilience.

For my independent author friends here today, I’d like to point you toward a how-to guest blog I wrote about book formatting, How to Create a Paperback Book.

It took me years to get off my ass and turn my ebooks into paperback editions. My good friend, author, and bigtime supporter of all writers, Kate Johnston, allowed me to share my formatting experience on her blog. Hope this step-by-step resource helps you on your writing journey.

Before you begin the paperback conversion process, ask yourself why you want to embark upon this journey. Paperback conversions cost time and money. Whether you’re into it or not, you will get a taste of what it’s like to have your own book publishing business.

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34 thoughts on “The Regular Practice of Rejection

  1. Well done Britt in being able to analyse – casting aside your emotions – your querying experience. You are correct in saying that only the brave put themselves out there. I’m not one of the brave. (I half-heartedly sent a m/s off to a publisher once.)

    I think you’re wrong though to say ‘the talent pool deepens’. My observation is that the talent remains constant but the pool has widened enormously, fed by a growing amount of people with less/no talent chancing their arm. It takes a lucky break to have an agent/publisher spot the tiny gold nugget in amongst the dross.

    I feel most sorry for those who pin their life’s hopes on being published. The reality must be shattering. But you, dear Britt, are having a go, which is commendable. You may fail, but you have far more in life to fall back on, if you do. But if you succeed then I’ll be in the front row, clapping and cheering.

    1. I used to put way more pressure on myself with this whole fiction thing. I won’t say I never put pressure on myself anymore. That would be a lie, made glaringly obvious by the querying letter effort I just shared in this blog post. If you want to go after something, a bit of pressure is the thing that drives us forward.

      I do have plenty to fall back on as I moved on from the “author stardom” dreams I had seven years ago. This is a good practice for me at this stage. We’ll see what happens…and thank you for the support, as always.

  2. I recognise those letters Britt, I’ve had quite a few of them! There’s always that excitement when they go out of what could happen and then the usual disappointment when it doesn’t! I don’t usually have a meltdown these days, but I sometimes do – I had one this year when I was asked for the full MS and I didn’t like the response I got! But onwards and upwards, I did the pitch dating thing with two agents at the weekend and my submission has gone off to one of them…fingers and toes crossed 🙂

    1. An occasional meltdown is totally natural. I doubt any writer is sending cold emails out like this and feeling positive about the experience.

      When I tried querying Beneath the Satin Gloves, I swear my stomach flipped every time I pressed “send.” I was excited and terrified. Now I’m not expecting anything in return…but rejection. Kinda sad, but low expectations keep me grounded during this process.

      Fingers and toes crossed for you on your querying journey!

    1. Not being for everyone is definitely okay. That’s what my husband keeps telling me. I know I don’t write mainstream shit, so rejection is gonna happen. Good luck out there!

  3. You are courageous for submitting your work for review and possible publishing. That takes guts! I am full of admiration for you, as I am not even at the stage of being able to submit my work. So keep trying! If you don’t, success won’t find you!

    1. Thank you for your encouragement! I’m steadily approaching 100 agent and publisher submissions, so I feel a little crazy at this point. But, I will keep going. Good luck with your work!

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