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.

Read It

34 thoughts on “The Regular Practice of Rejection

  1. An excellent post. Keep going and prove ’em wrong! It will probably happen when you are concentrating on something else, I suspect. My last rejection – from an agent who reputedly loved the sort of spoof Gothic stuff I wrfite, read in part: ‘I do nol like your writing style’. An older one said, ‘I am not sufficiently impressed by your talent to wish to represent you’.
    Well, we must remember what one publisher wrote to Zane Grey: ‘Please stop writing. You have no talent, and are only wasting your own and others’ time.’ But he kept on going.

    1. That publisher rejection Zane Grey received is so awful! I imagine that was a while ago. People need to watch what they say a bit more now so they don’t get publicly shamed on social media.

      Thank you for the support, Lucinda! I’ll keep going.

  2. Ah – sorry about that typo. I honestly don’t send such badly typed communications on the rare occasions when I havea fit of industriousness and contact an agent or publisher..

  3. It’s tough, but there are tougher things to go through.

    Your writing is good. The stories you tell touch a place inside. You’ve done well. Hold your head high.

    1. There are certainly tougher things to go through. That’s why going through the rejection process for my fourth book is WAY more manageable than when I tried it with Beneath the Satin Gloves. Seven years later in life and you’ve seen a thing or two.

      Thank you, Tim! Holding my head high.

  4. I thoroughly enjoyed Nola Fran Evie and cannot believe how hard it is to find an agent and or publisher… Oy!
    All the authors I know have a slew of those rejection letters.
    I’m sending you good vibes that one realises what a fabulous writer you are and takes you on!

    1. So glad you enjoyed Nola Fran Evie! Mr. H always says the traditional publishing method seems like winning the lottery. I think he’s right.

      Thank you for the good vibes! I need them and appreciate them.

      1. I did. Very much so.
        It really does seem to be. A few of my friends are authors and the publishing of their works feels nightmarish at times.

        I send on more!

  5. I am almost exactly where you are (six queries into a planned 50-75). So if misery loves company, then we can be miserable together. Or we can cheer one another on. Stick with it, stick with it. If nothing sticks, change course.

    I love the rejection on the road sign. Sometimes it feels exactly that big.

  6. Rejection is hard. Self-inflicted and that which comes from outside. Some days I don’t know which rings loudest in my ears. Solidarity! *raises fist*

  7. Thanks for so candidly sharing this, Britt. As a writer, I can definitely relate. I’ve never pursued traditional book publishing as committedly as you have, but even a few rejections — especially after getting a bite of interest — is disheartening.

    The book publishing world is so small and so impenetrable. It seems that few agencies or publishers want to take chances on new writers. Only a few new titles come out each year. If only we’d been around in the novel-writing heyday!

    I’m sure that any of us who have continued to pursue this route have developed a thicker skin. It’s just too bad that we needed to.

    1. I was hesitant to publish this post, so I’m glad it’s resonating with people. It’s good to be candid about this process, which clearly affects many, many writers out there.

      The publishing world is a tough love situation, for sure. I tried it long ago in 2012 with my first book and gave up after 20 or so emails.

      We’ll see what happens. I know there is always self-publishing. But, I would love to have a partner at this point, rather than going at it alone.

    1. I hear ya, Paula. From what I can tell, the responses seem to be automated. I’m not saying all agents and publishers do this, but I imagine the majority do these days to make the process more efficient on their end.

      Some feedback would be helpful. Although, fiction (and art, for that matter) are SO damn subjective.

      Subjectivity certainly plays a role in all of this rejection madness—as does their take on whether or not a novel is marketable in the current landscape. Sigh…

  8. Sorry you have to go through this, Britt. I think I received over 70 rejections or crickets when I was querying Puppet Parade. For someone who’d just graduated from university, my ego was very fragile indeed, and coupled with my inability – at first – to land a job, I have to say it was all too much for 21-year-old me. But you’re right, life moves on, even with all the rejections. You just pick yourself up, wipe your tears and march forward.

    Just a random idea – have you considered rewriting your query? There’s a blog called Query Shark that critiques queries and honestly I’ve picked up sooo many tips there. The lady running it is kinda… brutal (to put it mildly), but her advice is spot-on!

    1. I loved Puppet Parade. So imaginative and I remember I couldn’t put it down. It is difficult to face rejection, especially when we are younger. It’s slightly easier for me now, compared to when I queried Beneath the Satin Gloves in my early thirties.

      I used Query Shark as my guide and I also attended a writer’s conference last year where I studied up on all things related to querying. I could change things up at 50 rejections. The working title itself may be off-putting, but I don’t want to go down that path of coming up with a new one. Sigh…

      1. Hmm. Well… how about this? Why don’t you pitch with a new title, then – once you secure an agent – you could tell them of the original title that you wish to use? Sometimes it’s all about reeling them in with a little bait. 😉

        Also – thank you! I wish agents shared your opinion about Puppet Parade, but oh well. Upwards and onwards with the next book!

  9. Rejection never feels good. Of course, you can only care so much as time passes and you move on. At least, that’s how it is for me. Your ‘aim’, fellow Sag, means you will keep shooting, and that’s really what it’s all about! You wrote four books! Four!

  10. Oh boy, I feel your pain my friend. A few years ago, I attempted the 100 query rejection game, and I only got as far as forty before quitting, realizing it wasn’t going to happen. I’m going to return to querying a new book in a few weeks. I’m nervous! But ready at the same time–for the highest good the Universe gives me. 🙂

    I am rooting you on, no matter how many you send, no matter what happens between today and 100. And always know you can count on me for any kind of support, any time!!

    1. Thank you, Kate! We’re all in this together, aren’t we? I wonder if anyone only queries a few times and lands something? I haven’t heard of that, personally. Seems like everyone deals with lots of rejections. We’ll see what happens. Wishing you the best on your rejection journey! xo

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