How To Handle Rejection: “It’s not you, It’s me.”

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If you’re writing books, you’re probably going to decide at some point to take a gigantic risk and query an editor or agent to find out if your writing has any chops. What will you do if it gets rejected? Because, it will. Sorry. Hard truth.

I attended the NJRW Put Your Heart in a Book Conference this past October. Great conference. I pitched my women’s fiction novel, A Second Chance House, to four editors and agents. Three of them loved the premise. I had read my pitch, perfectly acceptable way to pitch, and one agent said she loved my writing! Hot dog, things are looking up. Nah. I’ve been down this road a few times. I know the drill. She liked my book, but not enough to rep me. At least that’s what she said after she and others in her agency read it.

I received another rejection yesterday. From an editor. And though she said some nice things about my writing she felt the book wasn’t for her and passed.

Getting rejected in the publishing industry is the equivalent to breaking up a relationship. “It’s not you. It’s me.” That’s what I heard (and have heard with other books) from these two rejections. Not right for me. Not a fit for me. It’s not you. It’s me.

Where does that leave me? Besides standing in the snow without a coat and holding only my wet and soggy manuscript?

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There are many choices when the rejections hit. Eat tons of peanut M&Ms. A serious possibility. Hide under the bed until your computer battery runs out and you can safely walk past it without torturing yourself by rereading the rejection. Or dust yourself off and keep going. The last option boarders on insanity, but hey, who said authors had any sanity? (As if hiding under the bed states normal psychological behavior? Of course it does! What? You haven’t done that?)

What do you usually think when someone you’re dating says, “It’s not you. It’s me.”? (I can’t answer that because I haven’t been on a date since 1990 and he didn’t say that. We ended up married with two kids and a dog. He said something funny and I laughed. The rest is history as they say.) Anyway, if I were dating and someone said it’s not you, it’s me, I’d probably say, “Hmph. What do you know. It’s not me, It’s you!” Yes, very mature, I realize.

But that’s exactly what I’m saying to these rejections, because it isn’t me. Now, having said that, there are times when it is your book. Never you, but your book and it takes time and lots of writing practice when to know it’s time to let that book sit in a drawer and rest and when to keep going. If you’re not sure which one you are, email me, we’ll talk.

But I’ve been around the block a few times and have a decent idea that my novel is worth publishing. My critique partners won’t let me embarrass myself. They’re good like that and I love them for it. Another reason why critique partners are invaluable, they won’t let you walk around with your dress stuck in your underwear.

So, where are you in the publishing process? Are you ready for an editor, ready to pitch or ready to shove that book in a drawer and start a new project? Or is time for M&Ms?

Any questions?






6 thoughts on “How To Handle Rejection: “It’s not you, It’s me.”

  1. Oh no. I’m sorry. But don’t let it get you down. Enjoy the M&Ms and start fresh again. The writing life is a marathon. You’ll get to the finish line and your fans will be screaming your name.

  2. The hardest thing for any writer is knowing when our work is ready and when it isn’t. Rejection certainly hones one’s ability to gauge that sort of thing, but the venue of self-publishing has allowed a lot of authors that aren’t necessarily “ready for primetime” to circumvent a lot of that unpleasantness. I say, embrace the unpleasantness. Only in getting our butts kicked, time and again, do we learn to grow creatively and emotionally — do we learn resilience. And that’s something any author needs over the course of a career, because if you think agents and editors are tough, wait till those Amazon user reviews roll in!

    1. I’ve met self-published authors who have circumvented the whole query process stating things like, “they don’t understand my book.” I shake my head.

      Rejections can be very subjective and not all rejections mean an author’s writing is bad. Even Harry Potter got rejected. When the rejections start getting specific and more personalized an author can know she’s on the right track. But, if you’ve pitched and queried and you keep hearing the same feedback then it’s time to either fix what’s wrong or put the piece aside.

      I know published authors who worked the same novel over and over until it got published and I know other authors who wrote different books until something got published. So, basically I’m constantly contradicting myself. LOL!!!

      I spoke with an author this week who has been facing many rejections on the same book. My author keeps making changes and nothing happens. It’s been about five years on this project. I think it might be time to put the piece aside and start something else. Just for a freshness in the writing. All those changes suggested by multiple people can eventually vanilla down the writing and the author will lose his voice.

      1. Harry Potter got rejected… and Twilight didn’t! And plenty of novels that surely wouldn’t have been considered by either legacy publishers or Hollywood — like The Martian (a sci-fi saga about… math?) and Fifty Shades (an S&M reimagining of Twilight?!) — went the self-pubbed route and hit the big time. So, yeah — there are all sorts of reasons a manuscript gets selected for publication — or not — and merit is but one meager consideration in that long list of criteria.

        I definitely agree that one should not work on a novel ad infinitum (like Grady Tripp in Wonder Boys), and that you should limit your feedback circle to a controlled group of half a dozen (give or take) educated, experienced critics whose opinions you really respect. One or two advisors is too few, and any more than six or eight is too many — you’ll be getting notes with no end in sight! But this is all stuff we learn with experience…

      2. How is it possible that Twilight didn’t get rejected? I always say a book getting published or a movie being made has little to do with whether or not the author can write well. Publishing is a business. It’s about keeping the lights on. They take books they think will sell. Think being the operative word. When I was pitching Welcome to Kata-Tartaroo I spoke with an agent who was very excited the book was geared for middle grade boys. Not enough boy books and all that. When I told her it was a fantasy/adventure she sat back and said, “Oh, we’re looking for contemporary issues.” I wanted to say, have you ever met a middle school boy?They aren’t interested in contemporary issues, but John Green was hot on the scene and they wanted more of that success.

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