When I was trying to get my start in radio, I received rejections from almost every station in Ontario...repeatedly. This was before sending mp3 files for demos was the norm, which meant I had to record my newscasts onto cassettes and mail them out (like that doesn’t date me). I sent out demo tapes every three months looking for a job (I’m nothing if not persistent). There were days where I cried, believing I would never get a job in radio.
Guess what...I did.
Having that experience probably prepared me for the querying process. I expect to receive some rejections during my search for the agent that’s right for me. I don’t like it and it’s still disappointing, but I eat a bag of chocolate, drink some sambuca, and move on. I remember how my persistence paid off long ago and am sure I can do it again.
What surprises me is seeing tweets from agents mentioning the nasty responses they sometimes receive when they send out rejection letters. Personally, I want someone who is as passionate about my work as I am. That passion will transfer to their sales pitch to publishers, making it more effective. I’ve started viewing the search as almost the equivalent to finding a mate – you don’t want to settle for just anyone and you want someone who truly loves you (in this case your work).
Rejection is hard and it sucks. It seems to be a lot of ‘it’s not you, it’s me’. When an agent rejects you, it’s not personal, but it can feel like it after spending months (sometimes years) pouring your heart and soul into a manuscript. It’s tough because books and stories are so subjective. What one person loves, another only likes, and someone else hates. It all has to do with personal preferences in everything from plot to writing style. Sometimes it’s the market, because writing is a business after all, and an agent may not think the book can sell right now.
So what can you do?
Keep writing. Keep submitting. Keep improving.
When you get a rejection, give yourself time to wallow but then start writing again. Actually, it’s best if you don't stop while you’re submitting to agents. Get that new project going so you remember why you are putting yourself through the grinder. Write something new, something better.
So these agents said no. Guess what, there are more. Persistence is what pays off in the long run. Many popular authors were rejected multiple times (some over 100). They didn’t give up and that’s why they got published.
Don’t stop moving forward. Keep looking for ways to improve your writing. There are always things to learn and ways you can make your writing or story better. If you keep improving, it increases your chances of getting an agent who can sell your work to a publisher.
Lastly, don’t forget to celebrate the steps along the way. Completing anything, whether it’s a short story or a full-length novel manuscript, is a huge accomplishment and you should celebrate. Celebrate good feedback you receive along the way, celebrate a personal response from an agent, celebrate anything that helps you move forward and let go of the negative.