Monday, June 11, 2018

How to Handle Rejection

If you want to be a professional writer, you need to be ready to face rejection. It happens to all authors, whether they're just starting out or having been published for years, whether they're traditionally published or self-published, and it can take many forms:

  • A critique partner who thinks your manuscript is seriously flawed.
  • Agents who politely say your manuscript isn't a good fit. 
  • Your agent, who doesn't want to rep your newest manuscript.
  • Publishers who pass on your manuscript.
  • Reviewers who don't like your book. 
  • Awards you don't win.
  • Lists you don't make.

Rejection stings, so you need to learn how to handle it in a way that doesn't crush your soul or ruin your career.


1. Complain to a friend. Any sympathetic friend will do, but friends who are familiar with publishing or other rejection-filled creative pursuits will probably be the most understanding. 

This can be done online, but it needs to be in private -- stick to emails and DMs, not your public social media feed.

2. Treat yourself. Not everything has to be about writing. Take a day off and do something you enjoy. Indulge in your favorite treat. Take care of yourself.

3. Read negative reviews of other books. I do this sometimes. It's not to gloat. It's to prove to myself that no book appeals to everyone. No matter how popular and successful a book is, there will always be someone who hates it. 

Look for scathing reviews of award-winning, best-selling books, and you'll see what I mean. This is especially helpful if you're dealing with a negative review of your own book. 

4. Try again. Did an agent reject you? Query another agent. Did a book fail to find a publisher? Write another book. You haven't failed if you're still trying. 


1. Complain in public, especially online, where your words are preserved forever. Wanting to vent is normal, but don't do it where publishing professionals and potential readers can see. 

(I'm not saying you should keep all rejection hidden. Sometimes it's helpful to confess that you've received rejection and that it's hard. This lets other writers know they're not alone. Just don't present it as a rant against the people who rejected you.)

2. Tell the person rejecting you they're wrong. This never goes well. Don't argue with an agent or publisher. Don't respond to a bad review. Doing so will only convince people that you're unprofessional and to be avoided.

3. Demand feedback. It's good that you want to improve, but the person who rejected you doesn't owe you a writing lesson. If you want feedback, look for a critique group or beta reader, or pay for a professional critique. Don't demand feedback from the person who passed on your manuscript.  

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