Let’s not kid ourselves here; being rejected by a literary agent sucks. And being rejected by several agents sucks even more. You spend hours upon hours perfecting your query letter and emailing it to every literary agent you find online only to be met with a slew of very impersonal rejection responses weeks (or sometimes even months) later. Worse are the times that you aren’t even graced with a reply and instead find yourself in literary submission limbo – a place of both wishful thinking and utter hopelessness. As dismal as this may seem, it’s important to note that you’re not the first person to be subjected to this cold fate. Bestselling authors such as J.K. Rowling, Agatha Christie and Dr. Seuss were all rejected by literary agents numerous times before making it in the industry.
Last week, I attended a business seminar and the guest speaker made mention of Howard Schultz who was rejected by banks 242 times before someone loaned him the money to start his business. 242 times – let that sink in for a moment. Today, Starbucks has a net worth of 70.9 billion. I get that this anecdote has little relation to books however it has everything to do with persevering in the face of rejection. If everyone who faced rejection threw in the towel, then my favorite nonfat pumpkin spice latte wouldn’t be available every fall, we wouldn’t have grown up knowing the joys of Green Eggs and Ham and The Boy Who Lived would have never left the cupboard under the stairs.
Basically, what it all comes down to is this: will you have the ability to continue believing in your work no matter how many doors are slammed in your face?
Here are a few lessons that may help you:
- Rejection is often an opportunity in disguise. It allows us to examine what we did wrong and gives us insight on how to do it better for the next time. Perhaps your query wasn’t the best pitch for your novel. Or maybe you were sending it to agents that don’t represent your genre. Whatever the reason, a next time is coming if you really believe in your work. See rejection as a challenge and a source of motivation to do better in the future.
- Know your worth. Don’t underestimate yourself just because someone has passed on the opportunity to represent you. Allow rejection to build your courage and raise your determination. When you know that your work is of value it’s easier to accept that you may have to crawl through the trenches in order to reach the top.
- Ask yourself “What is the worst that can happen?” Seriously guys, being rejected hurts but it’s not a zombie apocalypse. If an agent (or several) turns you down then absorb the blow, brush yourself off and try again. Be unrelentingly tenacious. Most importantly, have the audacity to try again and the determination to understand that rejection doesn’t mean failure.
In short, rejection is unavoidable. In writing especially. You may call it an occupational hazard, but I call it a building block.
“If you aren’t getting rejected on a daily basis, then your goals aren’t ambitious enough.” – Chris Dixon
(Photo above courtesy of Tumblr)