Rejection is something anyone in publishing has to get used to: From authors seeking agents, agents seeking publishers for their authors, to editors seeking backing for a particular author, even right down to publishers facing lack of sales for a title they have produced. It is a part of life that is inevitable in all areas, as I’m sure you know and have experienced. Some people say rejection helps to create backbone. Others take each rejection as another blow to their self-confidence. I think all too often we see rejection and failure as the same thing. Being rejected is in no way failing. That is like saying when you hit a speed bump in the road you have to go back the way you came. Rejection is a speed bump, not a wall. It will slow you down, it will take a little effort – sometimes a lot — to get over it, but it is not impassable. And in truth, we just need to get used to it and get on with it.
I like to face rejection with a bit of borrowed Zen attitude. It is immensely helpful to keep me going in my work: “This was not the right place/person for the book”, or “It was not the right time”. I like to place a kind of faith in the universe that there is a good reason for a rejection, and that the right person or place is still to come. In that way, I continue to hope and stay more positive. With books, it seems it is all too often down to the luck of the draw as to timing (a publisher already has enough books in their line-up for next year) and interest (“xxx is difficult to sell”). But the thing is you never know. We as agents just have to keep trying and using our brains as best as we can to find out what publishers are up to at the moment and what they are looking for, and writers just have to keep writing what they do best. Hopefully we’ll all get lucky and make a good match. There is — at least occasionally — still the element of surprise in publishing, when a new trend occurs, for instance. Who knows, you might start one. But still, we cannot stop the rejections coming. Perhaps we agents can merely soften the blow by being the first one hit.
And still, rejection hurts. I’m not saying don’t mourn. By all means, it is sometimes necessary to rage and scream and cry and feel hurt that no one loves your book as much as they should. And trust me, we as agents feel your pain. Though your book is not ours, there is a partnership between us and you, the writer. We try to nurture you with advice and editing on the manuscript, we get to know your book as well as anyone could who hasn’t written it. We then take it from publisher to publisher after research into which editor we think would love this book. And then we wait alongside you, for months sometimes, to then get that crushing email, “I’m so sorry… “. We are crushed alongside you. You are not alone.
But again, a speed bump. It is certainly not the end of the road. For any of you who have had a rejection today, I know it hurts. Now let’s have a drink and let loose tonight, and tomorrow we start again.
Follow Jennifer on twitter: @Jen_Muller