Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Rejection is not personal? I beg to differ.

Today I want to talk about where I am in my journey to publication. Yes, ladies and gents, I am going to go on a long rant talk about that dreaded capital letter, R. Anyone who is in this biz and has gotten to the querying stage knows what that letter stands for: R is for Rejection (they don't teach you that one on Sesame Street ;-)) I have gone from riding the Query Highway to riding the Rejection Highway and let me tell you, it has got to be one of the bumpiest most depressing roads I've ever traveled thus far in my writing journey. And to think I'm just in the beginning stages! Manhattan potholes? Psssht...They aint nothin'.

After reading a couple of posts on a couple of different agent's blogs talking about rejection and how it's not personal, I started to think long and hard about it and what I've come to realize is that rejection on an agent's end is NOT personal. As Nathan Bransford said in his recent post,  how can it be personal when the people rejecting you don't even know you?  And he's absolutely right. And I think it is absolutely insane when people get angry at an agent because they decided, for whatever their reason, to pass on your work. However, being the rejected and being the rejectee are two different things. Just as being the dumped, and being the dumpee in a relationship are two very different things. It may not be personal on the agents end, but it is most definitely personal on the receiving end. My work is a direct reflection of ME. It is my heart and soul and inspiration and ideas poured onto pages that have been revised, revised, revised and then edited, edited, edited, and then BETA read by a good number of people in the biz and then revised and edited again and again and again. And then I spend countless hours, days, or weeks on developing the perfect query letter and I go through Query Letter Hell where my peers tear the shit out of my query letter and break it down and around and smack it and flip it upside down until I am utterly confused and left in tears cause I don't even know where to begin or who to listen to because EVERYONE has an opinion and they are often quite contradictory. But eventually I plow through the query letter writing process and finally...FINALLY write a version that has a few people saying, "If I were an agent I'd request to see more." And then...AND THEN...I spend the next couple of days, weeks or months perfecting my synopsis. THE DREADED SYNOPSIS. And not just one synopsis. No, I have to cover all my bases cause some agents request a 3-5 page synop, some want a 2 pager, and others want a 1 page synopsis. Not wanting to limit my options of whom I can query, I prepare all three!

Then there's another good month of researching the agents I want to query for this particular novel, which is a whole other topic in itself, but it's a very important part of the process. To not do the necessary research on the agents I plan on querying is to waste all the time I've spent on everything prior to this point. It's a waste of my time and of the agent's.

So, (a year to two years later) I have a rock solid query letter, my 1, 2, and 3-5 page synopsis, a novel that has been BETA read to death and that I have been told is a very well written story with a unique concept/plot, my list of agents that I believe are a good match for my work, and then I get a glass of wine and start hitting the send button.

At this point, I've done EVERYTHING right. I've done everything I was told I'm supposed to do if I'm serious about being a published writer and so I wait. And I check my inbox 4,738 times a day. And then one day I see that number 1 in my inbox and my heart jumps into my throat and I feel like I might hurl all over my keyboard, And there's this tiny little bit of hope that when I open the email, it's going to be an agent requesting a partial, or a full, but in reality, I've mentally convinced myself that it will be an R because I think it will make the blow softer. I finally muster up the courage to open it and...and...AND...I receive my first R. It stings pretty bad that first R, but I tell myself, that's okay, I have more agents out there who have received my letter. It's just a matter of time. It's just a matter of finding that perfect agent. It's just a matter of...Hmm...another R. And another. And another.


Friggin' ouch.

Rejection is absolutely personal. Maybe not 1 rejection letter, and maybe not even 2 or 3 or 10, but when the numbers keep climbing up and up and all that is coming in are R's, I MUST take it personally.  If rejection wasn't personal, I wouldn't change a thing. I wouldn't believe there is room for improvement. I wouldn't stop and think, hey, maybe I need to re-think my query letter. Or, consider the idea that maybe I need to re-think my my first chapter, or if there was a request for a partial and it was rejected, maybe I need to re-think the beginning of my story. Or maybe this story is just NOT THE ONE. Something is not working. I didn't do SOMETHING right. That is personal. It doesn't get much more personal than that. Individual agents sending a (form) rejection might not being personal, but when you are receiving multiple rejection letters, it is one huge conglomeration of personal. My work is a reflection of me and so to reject my work is to reject me and I'm not saying there is anything wrong with that. I mean, if an agent LOVES your novel and requests a partial and then a full and then calls you to offer representation, you take that personal, don't you? So why can't it be so for the opposite? Rejection is not personal? I beg to differ. I think it is and I think it can be important to take it as so.

What are your thoughts?  


  1. This is why I self-pubbed. After two years, I was tired of waiting for my dream to happen. Then I realized I didn't have to wait, and that the only person holding me back was ME.

    LOVE the new blog look, btw! :D <33

  2. ((((((Mel)))))

    I'm not at the querying stage yet, but I can only imagine how rough that part of the journey is. There'd be something wrong with you if you DIDN'T take rejections to heart...because that would mean you aren't attached heart and soul to your work.

    But you've got a great attitude--because you take rejection personally, it makes you want to go back and make everything even better. And that's why, in the long run, I'm sure you'll succeed :)

  3. *HUGS*
    So true, and so hard to deal with. I know how you feel with the climbing rejection #s, even when you feel like you KNOW you FINALLY have a story that IS GOOD ENOUGH. Super frustrating. And definitely personal.
    But on the bright side... if you are stubborn enough to keep trying anyway, some day you'll make it through! even if not with this story, then it'll be with the next one. or the one after that.
    keep writing!! <3

  4. It hurts! I know. It's hard NOT to take it personally. In the end, you're trying to find an agent that LOVES your story AND thinks he/she can sell it. After a few months of querying, I've come to appreciate the agent that rejected my partial because: "I'm afraid I don't have the ability to sell this". She had nice things to say about my story and voice, but sale-ability was the deciding factor least with her. You've gotta remember WHY you're writing or the "R's" will kill you. And also remember, there are other alternatives these days. :D

  5. See, here is where I differ: I think it's personal on the agent side, too. De-personalizing it is just a way to feel better when you're rejecting someone. However, telling someone "you're not good enough" is very personal. And, I'm sorry, but, when you reject a manuscript, I don't care how many times you tell yourself you're just rejecting the manuscript, not the person, you are, in fact, rejecting the person. Or, even worse, are the agents who don't even bother to look at what you've sent. What they're telling you is "I don't [even] have time for you." And that's wrong, because it's their job to make time. It's all very personal.

    However, I'm sure agents couldn't live with themselves if they looked at that way, so we all try to depersonalize the process as much as possible. Whether it's true or not.

  6. I read Nathan's post a while back and I thought, yeah, easier said than done. I mean, I understood eveything he was saying but I didn't really believe it. Then I read your last statement here: I mean, if an agent LOVES your novel and requests a partial and then a full and then calls you to offer representation, you take that personal, don't you? And I'm thinking to myself, yes, yes yes!!! Absolutely, when an agent says yes, he/she is suddenly making everything very personal. They love my work! They want to help me build a career! Someone believes in me! That's very personal. And when you query someone, you do so because YOU believe in THEIR work, THEIR ability to be a great mentor/champion/shoulder for emotional support. So when you're choosing them and then they don't want to choose you, you bet it feels personal.

    I've only just started this whole process, as you know, and all i can offer is a big huge hug. But, I know that you have and continue to grow leaps and bounds as an author. Some day it will happen, Mel. I'm quite certain of that.
    *big ass suffocating hug that squeezes your stuffing out*

  7. <3 your new look mel :)

    and <3 this post for all it's honesty and agree with what angie says (and you)

    it's so unbelievably tough, the whole thing. i had an entire meltdown from it all last year and i never even got this far (!) it just took over all my head space and i couldn't even sleep b/c of plot holes, etc.

    have only just started getting back into writing and trying to do it for me and forget all this other stuff :/


    this publishing thing is so not for the weak...

  8. Hi, I'm checking out your blog because Lori at Pure Imagination posted it as an example of her work. I didn't see it before, but it certainly looks great now!

    As for your post, I love the honesty. I'm an aspiring writer as well, but not as far along in the process as you. YOU HAVE A COMPLETE NOVEL. I participated in Nanowrimo one year, and somewhere in the month of November, the founder posted the statistics of the number of people in the world that actually COMPLETE a novel and revise and edit to the umpteenth power. You are in a prestigious group of 1% of the country's (world's?) population. I wish I knew the exact number, but the point is...YOU DID IT, when everyone else wishes they could. Be proud. You wrote a novel! You worked your A$$ off and did it. I lift a glass in your honor.

    sips ice cold ginger ale

    Having said that, may I make a few suggestions? You've already thought of these things yourself I'm sure, but in case the R damage is taking its toll I'd like to remind you of them.

    Go to writer's conventions and pay for that 15 minute sit down and present your novel in person. Have a few drinks and rub elbows with agents and editors. It may give you an "in" you didn't have before. Chances are good that an agent's assistant gave you your R's, not the agent or editor. I looked at the job description of an editor's assistant, and it's their job to go through manuscripts and choose what to pass on. They have tons to read. Just saying.

    Get new eye's on your novel. Everyone you know has read your work to death, you said. They love it. It's good. They know your intent. Find someone new and willing to give their honest opinion. It may be only a few minor things need to be worked out. A new beginning maybe--an I can't put it down first chapter, make the protag stronger/weaker, kinder/meaner, a clearer theme. Who knows? It could be something very, very small and easy to fix. The sucky thing is, nobody really tells you WHY you're rejected. I personally think they should, but who am I?

    If it were me, I'd bet my money on reimagining the first line, the first paragraph, maybe the first chapter even. Drop your characters into the fire and make them suffer. I'm taking a class on writing, and Hooked by Les Edgerton is required reading. According to him, many books die an awful death just because of CHAPTER ONE.

    Don't let your novel, or your dream die. Put it aside, take a break and be nice to yourself, imagine, dream. Then return to your story invigorated and full of piss and vinegar!

    The very best of luck,

  9. Rejections felt personal to me every time. They suck. Period. The only things that got me through them were a good night's sleep and a LOT of chocolate (and the occasional pity party!). Love this post. So honest!


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