Coping With Rejection
Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting Shelly, one-half of the freelance editorial team that I hired online when I began writing in 2012. It brought me back to those early days when I began sharing my work with the world, and the devastating effect of early rejection.
She was actually the second editor I hired. I had completed the manuscript a year before. After hiring an editor who will remain unnamed, I awaited her feedback of my first few chapters with some trepidation. I was gutted that she didn’t immediately fall in love with my work. After shedding a few tears and deciding writing was not for me, I put my manuscript in a drawer and left it gathering dust for another year.
It was lucky for me that I had a supportive family, and my husband encouraged me to carry on. After returning to my manuscript I hired Shelly and Holly, and with their kind encouragement and keen insight, I was soon well on my way. I learnt that editorial comments are there to help you and make your work the best it can be. But my knowledge of the rejection process did not stop there. I was only getting started. But at least now, I had begun to develop a very thick hide.
After self-publishing my first book in 2013, I had gained enough knowledge of the industry to feel confident in applying to agents and publishers with the first book in my new fictional series featuring DC Jennifer Knight. Looking back now, I can’t believe how naive I was. Despite researching the industry, I was still hugely disappointed when I didn’t get snapped up straight away. How daft was I? Firstly, I was submitting a supernatural crime series, a genre which was deemed risky at the time. Secondly, I did not realise just how much the odds were stacked against me.
Nowadays, I’m fully aware of how tough it is to obtain an agent. I know of agents who receive several hundred submissions a week, yet may only take on two or three new authors a year. One one hand I wish I had known these hard truths back then, so I would not have taken each rejection so personally. On the other hand, I may have decided that this was too big a mountain to climb.
Some emails I received were encouraging, some people never got back to me at all. Then, after many rejections, I received three full manuscript requests from publishers keen to know more about my work.
Let me tell you this is such a slow process, particularly if you’re submitting to just a few agents/publishers at a time. I was seriously considering self-publishing when Bookouture offered to sign me. They were a little-known publisher back then, but they were hugely excited about my series. The timing was perfect as they were just branching into the crime and thriller genre and actively seeking submissions.
After I signed my three book deal with Bookouture, I did not consider submitting to agents until late 2015, when I was approached by someone interested in my work. I almost snapped their hand off, until it hit me that I was in a much better position this time. There were two more agents that I really admired, so I bode my time and contacted them with a proposal, including my latest sales figures and future plans. Within a few days, I was signed with my number 1 choice. What a contrast to when I started and kept a folder of my email rejections. I’ve scattered a few screenshots of them throughout this post, omitting the names out of respect for those that took the trouble to read my work.
My advice to the aspiring author is as follows. Learn to develop that thick hide I spoke about. You’ll need it throughout your career. Don’t take it as a personal insult if you’re not snapped up straight away. Listen to feedback if you get it and be polite with your response. Research agents and publishers, attend writing events, get networking and apply only to those actively seeking your genre. Buy a copy of the Writer’s & Artist’s Yearbook. Make an impact with your proposal and if you don’t know how to write one, ‘Write A Great Synopsis‘ and ‘Dear Agent‘ will tell you how. If you’re offered a publishing contract, get it checked out by the Society of Authors before you sign. Research successful authors with a similar genre to yours and apply to their people. A ‘no’ may be a ‘not right now’. Don’t give up hope. Keep writing and get some sales behind you by self-publishing if you don’t get taken on at first. Sure it’s about writing but it’s also about effort. Don’t find yourself lacking in either department. I wish you all the best in your endeavours.
Have you any encouraging words on submitting to publishers and agents? Perhaps you’re just beginning your journey. Comments welcome, please drop me a line below.
Image courtesy Sean MacEntee, Flickr Creative Commons.