Monday, 19 November 2012

Dealing with Rejection

I recently came across a little rant a disappointed author left on a publisher’s Facebook page, after receiving a rejection from said publisher.

I fully understand how this author must have felt. I have been there several times and rejection is always hard to take. First reactions range from heartache and tears to self-doubt to rage and a desire to hit back. It’s normal to feel hurt and angry, and in every author’s right to vent frustration in the appropriate arenas. These include a solitary crying in your bedroom, a heart-to heart with a friend in a cafĂ©, even a status update on your private Facebook profile.

On the other hand, angry emails back to the publisher/agent – you can write back to thank them for their feedback, if they have taken the time to send one, though – blogging about the incompetence of agents/publishers who reject your work, and most definitely leaving angry messages on a publisher’s public page are to be avoided at all costs.

Rejection is part of the course for any author. If you can’t take it, then don’t even start sending out your precious manuscript. It will hurt and it will make you want to hit back, but once you have calmed down, you can actually use rejection to your advantage.

Never think you are too good to learn something. Often there are very justifiable reasons behind rejections. We might think we have written the next big thing since Harry Potter, but the truth is that often we haven’t. Particularly first manuscripts are bound to be flawed. Many manuscripts are rejected because they are sent out too early, before they have been redrafted and properly edited.

So treat rejection not so much as a failure, but as an opportunity to improve.

I am not saying all this from the height of some arrogant wisdom, but from the humility of painful lessons learned.

My first novel, A Summer of Love, was a very lengthy affair. It had all the typical errors inexperienced authors make: no hook at the start to grab the reader’s (and agent/publisher’s) attention, too much telling, lack of an individual narrative voice. I had it edited by a couple of friends for typos and spelling mistakes and sent it on its way. Not surprisingly rejections kept coming. It was very disheartening and at times I really thought I was wasting my time. But I didn’t give up. In fact I did something better. I went back to drawing board. I wrote other stories, worked on my voice, learned from other writers. Eventually I went back to the novel and completely restructured the book, cut a lot of unnecessary background stories, used language more effectively, adopted a more personal style of writing.

Three years on, the novel has been rejuvenated and transformed into a much better piece of work and it will be published in January by Crooked Cat Publishing, who already published one of my novels.

Looking back, I am glad A Summer of Love received the rejections it did as the outcome was a better book, one I can be proud of.

Rejection can be the result of a poorly written book and certainly it is always worth taking another look at your work. That’s not to say you have to be too hard on yourself. There are times when a book could be a good book, but not the right book.

Always check the submission guidelines, explore what books agents represent, publishers release. There is no point sending your literary fiction masterpiece to a publisher specialised in commercial fiction. Do your homework and you will save a lot of time and heartache.

Sometimes a book might tick almost all the boxes and still get rejected. The exact same manuscript of my first published novel, PlayingOn Cotton Clouds, was accepted for publication by Crooked Cat, and rejected a few weeks earlier by another publisher that had liked the initial proposal, but said no after reading the full manuscript.

So, to sum up:

  • Rejection hurts and you have the right to feel angry, but be adult and professional about it. No one likes moody kids slamming doors.
  • Use rejection as a stepping stone to becoming a better writer, revise your work, don’t be afraid to make changes.
  • Remember that rejections can have many reasons, though, don’t think you are a failure and should stop kidding yourself you’re a writer.
  • Always research the agents/ publishers you are approaching with your proposal and make sure you are going to the right people.

When rejection comes, cry, dry your eyes and get back to work, but don’t give up, as every no is a step closer to that yes!