Coping with Rejection

  • By: Jessica Faust | Date: Oct 18 2006

How do you do it?

As an agent I face rejection every day on behalf of my clients, and I have to say, it hurts. When I take on a project or agree to submit something new on behalf of a client, I am doing it because I truly believe it’s a book that needs an audience, that people will love, and that people will buy. So when editor after editor tells me “no,” I start to doubt my own judgment and, even worse, I start to feel that somehow I’ve failed my client.

I know that there isn’t an agent out there with a 100% success rate. Heck, there’s not an editor out there with a 100% success rate, so it’s guaranteed that I will submit things and get rejected. It doesn’t help my self-esteem any better to know those facts and I’m sure it doesn’t help you, as authors, to know those facts either. I truly admire everyone who puts pen to paper and then takes that next huge step and puts it out there for others to see, read, critique, and, yes, judge.

My coping mechanism for when the rejections start to get me down depends on how down I am. Often I have to leave the office. When I’m feeling discouraged it’s better to leave and start fresh another day. Usually I’ll go home, put on cozy clothes, pour myself a glass of wine and browse the Internet. I will actually go to the BookEnds blog and Web site and just admire all of the great things we’ve done with this business and all the fabulous authors (published and unpublished) that we have the privilege to work with. And then I make a list. I make a list of all the things I will do and all the successes I will have. And the next day, when I walk into the office, I’m energized, strong, and very determined. I’m not going to let those rejections get me down because I will find that one person who loves these books as much as I do.

So what do you do? How do you cope with rejection?


35 responses to “Coping with Rejection”

  1. Avatar Anonymous says:

    npoozRejection makes me stronger. I always remember a saying we had when I was in the Air Force: “The strong shall survive, the weak shall fall by the wayside.”

    In the context of writing, and in my case trying to find an agent to represent my work, if I dwell on all the “thank you, but no” responses, I have all but given up. But, for every “no” answer I get I find more agents to submit my work to, with more resolve and confidence that soon, one agent will respond with “John, I like what I see.”

  2. Avatar JDuncan says:

    Well, I’m just getting to the point of querying and submitting, so I’m overly optimistic 🙂 I have a pretty thick skin though, so it doesn’t generally bother me too much unless someone starts rejecting in such a way to imply that my intelligence is the reason for being rejected. I don’t care much for that. If I hit 100 rejections with my project, then I might start feeling a bit bummed about the whole thing, and maybe make a copy of my novel to burn up in a big bonfire or something. heh.

    On a side note, Bookends is in my top ten list of places to query first, so get that rubber stamp ready! or not, I hope.

  3. Avatar Maria says:

    After I send out a sub, whether it’s a short story or query, I get a list of the next 5 places ready (in the case of a short story, the next place, singular.) That way when the rejection shows up, I have a task. Sit down, print, get it in the mail. Sometimes I get comments back–in that case, I take a couple of days to think about it, make changes and then sit down, print and send.

    When I first started, I didn’t know where to send next so it took me a few days to get over it, then sit down and start trolling for markets…it’s a lot easier to feel empowered when I’m ready to go with the next submission!

  4. Avatar Loralee says:

    Rejections are never easy to accept. I have gone from totally giving up to stubbornly saying, “Heck no! I won’t quit.” When I finally learned that rejections are not necessarily a personal thing, I also learned to look for the reason for that rejection. I’m no Pollyanna, but I can usually find one good thing to go forward with. I can also endorse Jessica’s suggestion to cozy up with a glass of wine and take a good look at what I’ve accomplished so far.

  5. Avatar Anonymous says:

    That’s a great idea! An auto-going from plan A to plan B. I can see that would take a lot of the sting out of it.

  6. Avatar Loralee says:

    Rejections are never easy to accept. I have gone from totally giving up to stubbornly saying, “Heck no! I won’t quit.” When I finally learned that rejections are not necessarily a personal thing, I also learned to look for the reason for that rejection. I’m no Pollyanna, but I can usually find one good thing to go forward with. I can also endorse Jessica’s suggestion to cozy up with a glass of wine and take a good look at what I’ve accomplised so far.

  7. Avatar Loralee says:

    Sorry, disregard duplicate posting!

  8. Avatar 2readornot says:

    It so depends on the rejection…some are painless (for some reason) — some are even ‘good’ rejections, like one I got from an editor recently. Others…sigh. After wondering if I’m just chasing a pipe dream, I usually send out more queries. Right now I’m waiting on an agent I’d really love to get, and each day that goes by is more discouraging than the last…it’s tough.

  9. Avatar Bernita says:

    I’ve just begun also.
    Knowing there are several reasons why a piece may not suit, quite separate and apart from writing quality, helps considerably ( such as a house changing focus)…especially if a rejection is accompanied with what appears to be sincere praise.

    Having another place in mind to submit makes a rejection more of a bump than a chasm of despond.

  10. Avatar Joanne says:

    I think every rejection chips away at your self-esteem a little bit. You know it’s not personal, but after a while it does penetrate even the thickest skin. I try to counteract this by continuing to write and hone my craft: a quality product that I’m proud of is the best defense against the rejection getting to me.
    There have been times when I was completely sure I’d never sell anything and was fully involved in a pity party for one, but was still sitting at my computer, writing.
    What hurt more than the rejection was having to part ways with my last agent. Having to reject her because I was trying to work in the best interest of my career was not a good feeling at all. I liked her as a person, which made it that much more difficult to put my work first.
    No one wants to be rejected OR have to be the one doing the rejecting, so it seems agents have put themselves in the situation where they have to deal with both! Thanks for the gentle reminder that we, as authors, aren’t the only ones to get rejected in this business!

  11. Avatar elysabeth says:

    I’ve only received two rejections and they were both for creative nonfiction (the magazine) and two different stories – so goes life I guess – but they weren’t bad rejections because I was only do both submissions for fun – E 🙂

  12. Avatar Maprilynne says:

    I am always working for that acceptance, of course, but my second goal is to work for personalized rejections. You know, rejections where the agent felt compelled to write a few personal suggestions because they really liked it, but not quite enough. So every time I get a form rejection I look at the material I sent them and try to make it better for the next person. That way a rejection is still a learning experience.

  13. elysabeth, its gotta be fun, or what’s the point? I think acceptance/publication would ultimately be more fun 😛

    Great system, Maria, I’m going to adopt it!

    How to cope? Hmm? I’ve had one form rejection (e query to agent, not this agency 😉 It was quick and painless. I’ve also had one R direct from a publisher, and I must say, it was lovely. The editor had obviously read my 3 chapters with full attention and said wonderful things, unfortunately, she felt I’d fallen into that ‘lack of sustainable conflict’ pit. But with her suggestions, I’ve rectified that! Its good to go again soon!

    I think I’m thick skinned. I’ll let ya know if I hit that nasty ole’ 100R mark :0

  14. Avatar Rachel says:

    I tell myself that, if publishing was easy, everyone would do it, and move on.

  15. Avatar Kate Douglas says:

    Interesting blog…I never thought of my agent as feeling rejected for not making a sale…actually, I just assumed you probably muttered, “Now, why did I offer to represent this loser?”

    I learned a long time ago not to take rejections personally. Not everyone will like my writing, but I always believed there was an editor somewhere who would love it. It took awhile, but Jessica finally found her!

  16. Avatar jessberry says:

    Honestly? I cry and pout for one day. I have a little pity party for one and get all of my bemoaning out of the way. Because hey, rejection hurts. It’s a let-down and it’s hard not to take it personally. At least for me it is.

    But after my one day of moping I move on. I query another agent or editor. I enter another contest. I feel like quitting would ultimately hurt a lot more than rejection. I also tell myself that if I keep trying, one day the answer will be “yes”. That can’t happen if I quit.

    Then there’s Stephen King. One of the first editors he submitted to said he would never succeed as a writer and should enter a new profession. At least, that’s how the story goes. Even Nora Roberts got rejected. They kept trying and look where they are now. That’s what keeps me going.

  17. Avatar Marie says:

    I either have a couple of glasses of wine or some chocolate.

    Rejection is a big part of being a writer. You just have to be strong, believe in yourself and move on to the next.

  18. Avatar Anonymous says:

    On one manuscript I was about up to fifty rejections until I found an agent who would take it on. Miss Snark says to keep trying with agents until you hit 100 but what I was wondering was, at what point does the agent who’s been getting rejections on a manuscript give up on it? And what happens to that book – is it shelved away forever or do you wait a few years and see if new editors at the old publishing houses are more receptive?

  19. Avatar Anonymous says:

    When I was querying agents and received a rejection, I immediately sent out another query letter. While a “no thanks” was disappointing, I usually felt bummed for about five minutes, and then got over it.

    Now that I have an agent, the rejections from editors are actually making me cry! And now I’m worried my agent will lose interest in me. The last rejection put me in a funk for about a week.

    I finally decided to abandon my WIP (second book in the series) and move on to something completely different. I’m also working on some short stories. And having fun.

    Through this process, I realized that I need a Plan B, C and D. And I need to write something every day because that’s what writers do.

  20. Avatar Julie Rowe says:

    I keep submitting.

    The only way to get a yes is to keep asking. My ten year old is really good at it.

  21. Avatar Tracey says:

    Well let’s face it rejection sucks! I usually allow myself on day to wallow in self-pity and then I move on to the next agent or editor on my submission list. Over the years rejection has only served to make me more determined to get whatever project I’m working on at the time published. Some rejections hurt more than others, though, especially if it’s with an agent you really had your heart and career set on.

  22. Avatar Bev Marshall says:

    I tell my creative writing students that rejection is only an opportunity to try again and hope cures disappoinment. One of my novels was rejected many many times; I no longer remember how many. My agent was so excited when we finally sold it, she said, “This was the first time I ever called my mother to tell her about selling a novel.” That’s how I knew agents care as much as their clients.

  23. Avatar Janet says:

    I eat.

  24. Avatar Chumplet says:

    When I first started sending out queries, I went a little crazy and sent out 25 at a time. The rejections came in fast and furious.

    It felt awful at first – some of the rejections were curt notes scrawled on my letter, some were misspelled emails (that didn’t impress me much) and some were lovely handwritten notes with something nice to say about my novel.

    Now, I send out queries in scattered little bunches, using feedback as a guide to improve my query letter. With each rejection, the sting has lessened somewhat.

  25. Avatar swampytad says:

    Sounds like we almost all do it the right way — redirect the energy of the rejection into the task of improving and/or sending out the next group of queries. I just look at that rejection as being one rejection closer to that agent I’m supposed to end up with.

    But I’ll have a glass of wine when I get home, too. Why not?

  26. Avatar Sally Jane Driscoll says:

    Back when I was running a literary journal, we were turned down for a grant we thought we needed. My co-editor was heartbroken, but I was angry. I dragged her into the parking lot and we burned the letter and stamped the ashes into the asphalt. We fell all over ourselves laughing and found the money somewhere else.

    Now when I get a rejection I read it quickly, stick it away in a file and quiver for a few days. Then I re-read it, because the person usually has some good insights about how my work can be improved.

    Hey, I’ve given up writing so many times… two weeks, not writing, I’m sulky. Four months, not writing, foot goes tap-tap. A year, still not writing… jeez, that gets BORING!!! Scr** rejection. It’s just a bump in the road.

  27. Avatar Nonny says:

    I’ve been submitting my work seriously since I was 15. At this point, I’m rather used to rejection, though I’ve gotten a fair amount of acceptances. 🙂

    If I get a rejection, I shrug and send it out somewhere else. If I get personal commentary on what didn’t work, though, I take the time to look the manuscript over, talk to my CPs about it, and figure out if it’s something that’s really wrong with the MS or if it’s just a matter of personal taste. If the former, I’ll revise before submitting again. If the latter, I keep submitting.

    If I’ve exhausted all resources for a specific MS, I shrug it off and stick it on the backburner. Either there’s something wrong with it that myself and my CPs can’t find, or the market just isn’t right for it.

    I have more than one story to tell, after all. 🙂

  28. Avatar jbstanley says:

    It has taken me a long time to learn that things happen for a reason. Often, I will get really down about something not going my way, but I try to hang in there and plow forward. I do have a day-long pity party that usually involves sweets and a lot of bitching to friends and family members. Once the bad feelings are out of my system and the chocolate is in my system, I look to the future. I also look at my beautiful family and consider how lucky I am to have all I have. High sales on my books would just be icing on the cake. Like Jessica, I get to take a seat in my chair each day and perform the job I have always most wanted to perform. At least, when I’m old and at the end of my road, I can look back and say “I was doing what I wanted to do.” If rejection is a part of that, so be it. Good luck to all of you!

  29. Avatar Gina Black says:

    Some rejections hurt more than others and some take a while to hit.

    So, it depends.

    But in any case, I just keep going. Sometimes it’s after tears. Sometimes it’s after anger and frustration. And sometimes it’s after chocolate.

  30. I wallow for one day. During that day I eat comfort food-chocolate, fast food, cookie dough ice cream (the whole pint)- and I complain to my friends and CP’s. Sometimes I’ll read or watch a movie too. The next day I get right back to work.

  31. Avatar Michele Lee says:

    I have a down-up cycle. I send out, I try very hard not to get my hopes up, but really, when you get to the full submission stage who can’t help wondering if the next phone call is going to be *the one*. when I get a reject I let the sotry go until the sting wears off. If it’s bad enough that I wonder why I do it, then logic always wins out. I write because I have stories to tell, so not writing is not an option. And what’s the point in putting so much time and effort into stories if they’re just going to sit in a box somewhere. So really, not submitting isn’t an option either. So then when that sting is gone and logic wins out I review, rewrite if needed, and resend.
    It helps that I now have things going that don’t get rejects in the same way. I have an advice column for the International Order of Horror Professionals and the blog of course, where I do reviews and interviews. I go to my son’s school and read to his class. The unmistakeable joy it brings the kids helps me get back into that “it’s worth it” mind frame.
    Scrapbooking helps too. When nothing seems to be getting done or going anywhere I sit down with some pictures of my kids and make them into art. Not only do I get to see old pictures of smiling babies, but when I’m done I can instantly look back and see that I’ve acomplished something.

  32. Avatar j h woodyatt says:

    I’ve never sent a query, so I haven’t received any rejections yet. When I do start receiving rejections, I intend to collect them all and redeem the complete set for a valuable consolation prize. It’ll be like saving boxtops when I was a kid.

  33. Avatar Kimber An says:

    Doesn’t bother me a bit. I just had a miscarriage. My baby died. Nothing will ever hurt me again after that. Nothing will even come close in comparison. I am now invinicible.

  34. Avatar Anonymous says:

    I don’t cope with them. I’ve given up.

  35. Avatar Edie says:

    Kimber, I am so sorry for your loss.

    Jessica, what a great question! I’m usually working on another book, which I’m in love with, so that helps. And most of my rejections lately are the “good” kind, so I feel it’s a matter of time and luck. Still, there are a few that are rough. That’s usually when I hit the chocolate.