How to be Happier with Rejection

Recently, I had to reject something that I really, really wanted to buy.

This isn’t an editorial rant about being crushed by sales targets or market cliches — that doesn’t really happen here. This is a mournful acknowledgement of how rejection is miserable for everyone involved.

I loved everything about that wonderful manuscript by that wonderful author — with only one reservation. But that one reservation was shared by the whole team. And it was insurmountable. (Boo.)

I wrote and rewrote the rejection letter, trying to show how much I wanted to buy it and explaining why I couldn’t, in a positive way… I didn’t want anything I wrote to get the author down. And it made me think I should write some tips for writers about How to Be Happier with Rejection:

1. You actually submitted something.
I have come across so many writers who aren’t able to finish a manuscript to submission level — or who are too scared to submit. If you are getting rejected, you’ve accomplished much more than many writers out there.

2. Know that the editor is sad too.
Even if they aren’t as sad as I was to let that book go, they are still sad. Each new book that comes in has the possibility to be the Next Big Thing, and every agent or editor is hoping that what they crack open next will be just that. It’s disappointing for us, too, when we have to say no for whatever reason.

3. There are lots of other fish in the sea.
A rejection is just one person’s opinion. There are countless rejection-to-success stories out there. DON’T GIVE UP! Keep sending it out… but at the same time:

4. You’ve got more to give.
The best way to handle rejection is accept and move on. Start writing something else. (NOT a sequel.) Experiment, try something new. Something that’s hard or uncomfortable or outrageous. You never know where it might lead.

5. Rejection makes books better
When you finally DO get accepted, you’ll know that because of all the other rejections that are happening, your publisher will have the time to devote to making your book a success.

Does anyone have any POSITIVE rejection stories to share? (As this is a “Be Happier” blog, I am discouraging rants about hideous people who have rejected you for no good reason…)

And remember…


15 responses to “How to be Happier with Rejection

  1. Great post. I’ve found rejection only hurts the first dozen or so times. After that it becomes almost expected so when you get that “yes” it really sweetens the feeling.

    As for good rejection stories, I will say that many moons ago I submitted a manuscript to a publisher who kept me appraised of it’s status. I’d get occasional emails saying, “I loved it, I’m sending it along to a couple colleagues.” and then, “it’s been well received by two members of the editorial team, going for a third read by the senior editor.” And then, “Senior editor really loved it, we’re taking it to our editorial meeting next week to discuss acquisition.” Finally I got a rejection but the editor said, “The marketing department felt we hadn’t had a lot of success with your type of book and they don’t think they could market it successfully….”

    Despite my disappointment I really felt good about the rejection. It wasn’t my first manuscript (probably my third, actually), but it was the first time I received a rejection that I KNEW wasn’t a form rejection. Sometimes publishers and agents can send rejections that don’t sound like form-rejections, but then you discover a fellow writer received the exact letter.

    I understand the reasoning behind form rejections and I’ve never begrudged receiving one, but it was really nice to get what felt like such personal treatment.

    Perhaps, in the future, you’ll write a blog post about sending an author an acceptance!

    • What a brilliant idea for a blog! I will definitely do that… And soon!

      And thanks for the positive rejection story. It sounds like, if you aren’t already published, you are well on your way!

    • The second book I completed was one of those which nearly got there & fell at the last hurdle. Having come from a publishing background I had given myself what I thought was a realistic time frame and when that rejection came (after years of chasing agents etc) I nearly threw the towel in and decided it wasn’t to be. The reason I didn’t was 1) massive support from some lovely fellow writers at the RNA and 2) the incredibly helpful insights the editor who rejected me gave about my writing. When I’d picked myself up enough (I have a thick skin & rejection is part of the deal, but still…), and read through what she had to say, I applied her suggestions to the next book I wrote. Which was the first one to get published. So although I was (and remain) hugely thrilled to be published by the wonderful Avon team, I will also always remain in the editor’s debt. Her rejection was the turning point for my writing career.
      My mantra to aspiring writing is always to remember, Nothing is ever wasted, even the negative experiences… Some day thanks to rejection you too can turn it round.

  2. The rejection I received from one editor was very positive. She loved my protagonist, liked the manuscript itself, and was sorry to have to say that because her publishing house, which had been publishing books mainly aimed at adults, was just feeling its way into the middle-grade category. So at that point they weren’t sure exactly what they’d be wanting. The rejection was sent by email and written like a proper letter, not just a dashed-off message. The manuscript arrived in the mail a few days later. That in itself was a positive thing: she wanted me to know the status of the manuscript as soon as possible.
    Experiences like this, make it possible to go on with a very positive attitude.

  3. Ye Gods! I’m just wondering, when everything else was so right, what is this thing that is insurmountable? You have piqued my curiosity…!!!

  4. Nope – nothing remotely cheerful comes to mind to accompany the word ‘rejection’. But I’m going to print off that wonderful photo of you, so I have something to make me smile when the postie brings sad news!

  5. I was fifteen when I sent off my first novel to agents a few years ago, and got mainly standard rejections. However, there was one agent (I think her name was Stephanie Thwaites, can’t remember the agency), who was extremely kind to me in her rejection letter; told me that my writing was impressive for my age, recommended various outlets for young writers and encouraged me to keep going. The rejection letter she sent me genuinely gave me a bit of hope and made sure I didn’t give up – in fact, it even had the same effect when she sent me another friendly rejection letter, a couple of years later for my second novel!!

  6. I have a positive relationship with rejection (yes, I’m aware of how odd that sounds). But I believe that if you want to become a better writer — the best you can possibly be — you NEED rejection. Not form rejection, obviously, but the kind that gives you insights into how you can improve your writing; the weaknesses you need to address. I have been extremely lucky in the rejections I have had — particularly over the last few years — because editors have almost without fail taken the time to give me guidance and positive feedback. Each rejection has helped give me ideas of how to sharpen my storytelling abilities. Each rejection has increased my determination to prove that I can surpass my current abilities.

    But my best story about rejection is how it led directly to acceptance:

    I had had a book rejected by several publishers — though with some very close calls and with many encouraging comments. But the last rejection was SO lovely that it prompted me to ask my agent if there was anywhere else she could try. My agent sent it off to one last publisher.

    And they said … yes.

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