Tuesday, August 9, 2011

6 Ways To Deal With Rejection

A few weeks ago, I read a Writer’s Digest article called, “How To Turn Rejection Letters Into A Positive” written by children’s author, Sue Fliess. It was such an uplifting piece that I decided to contact Sue and ask her to share some motivational tips for anyone in the midst of pitching their manuscripts.

Here are some of Sue’s great tips to use rejection as a way to improve as a writer:

1. Save your rejection letters! Not only is it a great way to show the IRS you've been working (if you should ever have the misfortune of an audit), but it provides you with an 'editors-at-a-glance' reference to which editors sent you what. You should go through your letters of decline to see which editors sent you form letters, which showed interest or paid compliments, and which asked to see more from you. It's also a great way to open up in your next submission letter: "I know XYZ story wasn't a fit for you, but you had mentioned I could send you more of my work..." Persistence is effective.

2. How else are you going to improve your craft, but to know what you are doing wrong? Even if you think you cannot possibly improve on your impeccable manuscript, ask yourself these questions: Did I try everything I could to make it the best manuscript it could be? Did I try the suggestion from that one editor who, at the time, I didn't think knew what she was talking about? Revisit your critique group's comments. Maybe there is something in there of value that will change your manuscript for the better.

3. Rejection or redirection? Rejection is so subjective, that I prefer to hear the word rejection as redirection. Redirection letters sound less harsh. My story was not right for that editor, so she has redirected me. Now I will try another editor for whom I think it will be a good fit. I can't think of anything worse than selling your manuscript to an editor who is only half in love with it (though that doesn't happen often).

4. Rejection is tough. It's hard not to take it personally. But it is just business. It doesn't mean the editor doesn't like YOU, or even that she/he didn't like your story (unless you pitched it to her in the bathroom). Publishers reject for so many reasons and they simply don't have time to go into detail about why (some do, though). As long as you are confident you are putting your best work forward, just be patient until you find the right editor for your work. I once received advice from an author when I told her, "It just seems no one likes my story." She rebutted with: "No, you just haven't found the right editor yet."

5. Submit and write. Then submit some more and write some more. It's a game of odds. If you have one manuscript out there and you are biting your nails waiting for that “yes”, you're going to be disappointed. If you have six manuscripts floating, and are writing at the same time, you: 1) don't obsess with the one that's out there and the rejection letters that are coming in, and 2) you better your chances of someone saying yes.

6. I've found that living through the rejection part of my writing career has helped me in my regular life. I used to never be able to take no for an answer. I'm a marketer and a former publicist, so I was always of the mindset that I could convince anyone of anything. I remember convincing (though, looking back, it was more like badgering) a co-worker to go out to lunch with me. She was very busy, but we ate at this little dive in midtown Manhattan every Monday. She was too busy for lunch. But I needed my routine. I needed her to say yes. Finally, she stood up and said, “No. I'm not going. People don't say no to you very often do they?" And she was right. I was used to getting my way.

So receiving rejections without the chance to persuade or defend seemed so one-sided, so unfair. I thought I should get the chance to say, "But really, you just need to read it again and then you'll get it" or, "How can you say no when my character is so likable? Surely you need to rethink and pass it around your editorial table once more." But we don't get that chance, and we have to trust that the editor is not taking it for a valid reason, which is pretty much always the case. But rejection leaves us with a feeling of helplessness. We want to know WHY it didn't make the cut and if not, HOW can we get it right next time. And that's what your critique group is for.

Rejection is just part of the writing process. Accept it as such. Stop fearing it and use it to your advantage. I've come to realize that "no" doesn't mean I'm no good or I'll never sell anything ever again. It just means "not right now." And another way of hearing that is: "maybe later."

Sue Fliess is the author of children’s book, Shoes for Me!, with Marshall Cavendish Children's Books. A Dress for Me! and Tons of Trucks are both in development and due out next spring. Visit Sue’s website or follow her @SueFliess.