The chain of rejection
Agents will reject you: If you’re going down the traditional route of trying to get an agent there will be that first battle to find one who likes you and your work. You’ll probably collect a nice pile of standard rejection letters, but if you’re very lucky you might even get a few words of encouragement. Hold on to these!
Publishers will reject you: Even if you’ve managed to get an agent on your side, you will still probably have to deal a lack of enthusiasm from a number of publishers, until you hit on the one who’s going to make your dream into reality. It does happen!
Readers will reject you: Once your work has made it to publication, there are then the reviews to handle. It’s unlikely that everyone will love your beautifully crafted work, and this can often be the hardest rejection to handle. But you really can’t please everyone!
THE GOLDEN RULE! Do not take any rejection of your work personally. All opinions are subjective, and you have to learn as you go through the process, taking any useful advice you’re given and accepting criticism gracefully.
So, how does rejection affect people? There is a theory that people go through 5 stages of grief. This is usually applied to bereavement, but knowing these stages can be a useful aid to help deal with rejections, which in a small way are the death of a hope or desire.
The Five Stages
DENIAL: How can they reject my work; it’s brilliant! Well, maybe it is brilliant, but just isn’t right for them. Take on board any useful comments, but accept the rejection and move on.
ANGER: What does that arsehole know? At this stage DO NOT under any circumstances communicate with the person rejecting you. Remember, it’s not personal it’s just one person’s opinion. Do whatever non-harmful thing you need to do to release the anger then let it go.
BARGAINING: I don’t think you read it properly, if you’d just take another look. Unfortunately, unless they’ve asked you to make revisions and resubmit, no means no. Find someone else to send to.
DEPRESSION: Everybody hates my work! I’m a failure! When you’ve received nothing but rejection you’re bound to start feeling like this, but look at it as a process. You’re just trying to find one person amongst hundreds who will value and champion your work. YOU need to have faith in your work, so it can help to collect any positive comments you receive from anyone then to type them up and stick then on your wall where you can see them. If you’ve not received any positive comments then look at the criticisms – is there a pattern? Is there anything you can do to make your work better? Constantly look for anything useful that will help you to move forwards. And if you really need it, there is lots of professional help out there. It can cost lots of money to go through a literary consultancy, but you could go on courses, you could network with other writers, go to talks, read writer’s magazines. You don’t have to do this alone.
ACCEPTANCE: If you get a rejection, or even a pile of rejections, feel free to pass through the four stages above, but then pick yourself up and move on. Think of the stories you’ll tell at Literary Festivals in the years to come of how you struggled to achieve your goal. And if you don’t ever achieve your goal, perhaps it wasn’t the right goal for you. But at least you can be happy that you put yourself out there and tried. Think of another goal and start all over again.
Try, try again, try harder, and then maybe try something different.