If you’re a writer who wants to publish their work, you’re going to face a lot of rejection. Whether you’re pitching your novel to agents or submitting short stories to magazines, there will inevitably be editors and publishers who turn you down.
I started submitting my novel to agents and small presses in April of 2022, and haven’t seen much interest (although there has been some positive feedback). I’ve been taking this process much more slowly than some writers do, so I’m not particularly surprised that I haven’t been successful yet.
That doesn’t mean the rejections don’t sting! Here are some of the ways I’ve eased the disappointment.
How to Deal With Rejection as a Writer (5 Tips)
It’s important to take a balanced view when it comes to rejections from publishing professionals. I think these five tips can help you use rejection productively while also keeping a positive outlook so you can persevere and achieve your publishing goals.
1. Find Solidarity With Other Writers
One of the best ways to make yourself feel better about having your work turned down for publication is talking to other people who’ve had the same experience. A sympathetic ear goes a long way toward easing feelings of disappointment and inadequacy.
The publishing field is more competitive than ever before, so rejections are a universal experience among publishing writers. Talking with them can not only help you feel less alone during this process, but can also give you some ideas on changes you might need to make to have a better chance of publishing your work (more on that in a bit).
There are tons of writers sharing their experiences online using platforms like TikTok and Instagram. Even if you prefer not to interact with them directly, listening to their stories can still grant a feeling of solidarity.
You can also look for local writers groups in your area if you would rather meet up in person. Check platforms like Facebook or Meetup, or see if there are any writing centers or similar organizations near you. The best option would be to find a class or workshop group that is specifically for writers who are in the process of trying to get published, so you know that everyone is at the same stage in the writing process.
2. Develop a Thick Skin
Publishing decisions aren’t personal. This is an important lesson to learn early on in the process in order to avoid letting the rejections get to you.
A rejection doesn’t mean that your book or story is “bad.” Agents and editors turn down projects for all sorts of reasons including their workloads, personal taste, and how marketable both you and your work are.
If you’re receiving a lot of rejections, you don’t need to immediately assume that you’re a terrible writer and that no one likes your project. It may just be bad timing for the agent or editor you’ve queried, or that you’re sending your work to the wrong people.
Unless you’ve been directly told otherwise in a feedback letter, it’s safe to assume that a rejection means your work just wasn’t the right fit for the person you sent it to, and you should move on and keep trying.
3. Start Your Next Project
Obsessing over your work that’s out on submission is dangerous for a few reasons. Firstly, it can take a long time — often months — for an editor or agent to get back to you with a decision. Dwelling on the situation for that long won’t be good for your mental health.
Plus, sending your work out can be both tedious and draining. Cover letters have to be personalized but will also include a lot of the same information over and over again. Depending on your process, you may be batching dozens of queries at a time.
Having something else to occupy your thoughts during this time can be helpful for keeping your sanity in check. That’s why so many writing and publishing professionals recommend starting your next project while you’re sending your first out on submission.
Sometimes an editor or agent will even ask if you’re working on anything new. Having a work in progress to discuss with them could help you out when it comes to securing a second book deal.
4. Take a Break if You Need to
As I mentioned above, querying can be a long and emotionally exhausting process. It’s okay to step away for a while and take some space to recharge before jumping back into the fray.
Use this time to make progress on your new project, do some constructive reading, or maybe take a short break from all things writing-related. You know yourself and what you can handle best — make sure to take care of you!
5. Listen to Constructive Feedback
Feedback is an essential part of the writing process. Hopefully, before you started sending your work out you had a critique partner read it and give you suggestions on how it might be improved as part of your revision process.
If you haven’t worked with a critique partner or beta readers and you’re getting a lot of rejections from agents and editors, you might want to take a step back and review your draft again with the help of another pair of eyes.
Additionally, some of the people you submit your work to might send you feedback. This rare, because editors and agents are very busy and don’t have time to send every writer detailed thoughts on their work.
If someone has taken the time to send you feedback with their rejection, it’s a good sign that they liked your writing but simply couldn’t take it on for publication right now. Consider their feedback carefully and if you think they have good points, revise your work some more.
Just remember that revising your manuscript according to a publishing professional’s feedback won’t guarantee that they will read your work a second time or that they will accept it with the changes. Unless they have specifically invited you to resubmit, their feedback is simply a courtesy and not a promise of future acceptance.
Rejection comes with the territory of being a writer. Finding ways to stay positive throughout the submission process is key if you’re going to be able to persevere and see your work in print.
In this post, I reviewed some of the ways I deal with rejection, including:
- Finding solidarity within the writing community.
- Developing a thick skin and not taking rejection personally.
- Staying busy with a new writing project.
- Taking breaks to recharge my batteries.
- Listening to constructive feedback from other writers, agents, and editors.
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Featured Image Credit: Unsplash.