How to Handle Rejection

Unfortunately, if your dream is to be traditionally published, there’s no way around rejections. Submitting your work and receiving rejections go hand in hand. Of course, there’s that one extremely rare instance where a writer was successful the first time they shoot their shot. Those are not the norm.

So if you have a polished manuscript and you’re in the process of querying agents or publishers, chances are you’re receiving rejections. Often times you’ll hear the saying: It only takes one yes. Which is true. But that also means you’ll receive a lot of no’s. I don’t know about you, but when I receive rejections on work I’ve poured my heart into, it hurts.

Here are some ways to quell the sting of rejection that have worked for me and my writing friends:

The first thing is answered in the prior sentence. Writing friends! Find them. And hold them tight. Other writers who are also querying or have queried can related to what you’re going through. You’re going to need people to commiserate with and your family and friends can only understand so much. If you can’t find a group of writers locally, (I found some of my local writing friends through the Shut Up and Write organization. They have chapters all over the US and even in other countries) you can reach out to writers on Twitter or Instagram. I know that can sound scary or intimidating, but believe me, most are thinking the same way and are relieved when you reach out to them.

The next thing you can do is something everyone in the publishing industry will tell you: Write your next project. Working on a new manuscript that you’re excited about can really lessen some of the heartache while you’re querying. It’s also a good distraction. Though to be honest, that hasn’t helped distract me from refreshing my inbox ha ha! But there’s something magical that usually happens when working on a new project that’s exciting you. You begin to see this new project as the fantastic work of art that it is, or will be. And when the rejections come, you will think, it’s ok because this next project is even better.

Have a consolation prize. Typically, when writers receive good news, we celebrate. We have a cupcake, a glass of champagne, order a new book, have coffee with a friend, whatever suits you. But when you receive a rejection, there’s something like a feeling of shame that comes with it. The last thing you want to do is celebrate that. In a way though, you can. I’ve heard some writers will eat chocolate, a bowl of ice cream, go for a walk or run, sob into a pillow, with each rejection. Some have a system, for every rejection on a query they receive, they send out two more queries. This is one of the best things I’ve heard of, like they’re going to really stick it to that agent who passed by sending out their work to other agents ha ha. I love the mindset here. Writers who do this are definitely determined. Whatever you decide, it’s a good idea to have a consolation prize in place. I typically do a mixture—send out more of my work, jump on my spin bike, and eat that cookie in the freezer I’ve been saving.

Set up a healthy schedule on how you receive rejections. Unfortunately, with email means rejections can come at you at any time of the day on any day of the week. Meaning you could receive an email with bad news while out to dinner with your favorite person, in the middle of your child’s birthday party, on a major holiday, (Yes, agents and publishers are always working it seems) during your workout or your workday. You can choose to turn the notifications off on your phone so these pings aren’t coming at you at random times you may not be mentally prepared for. You can also choose to only check your email at certain times and days. Believe me, if it’s good news, waiting to receive if for a few hours or even a few days is okay. Agents and publishers are busy, they’ll have plenty to occupy their time until you respond.

It’s important to keep your mental health and physical health a priority. Pay attention to what this means for you and your body. If you’re spending so much time pouring into your art, there won’t be much energy left to pour into the other parts of your life. It’s okay to step away and take a break. But if traditionally publishing is your dream, I encourage you to keep at it and don’t give up.

What are some ways you’ve learned to navigate rejections?

So You Wrote a Book—Now What?

*The topic of today’s blog is in regard to fiction. While I have learned quite a bit about the process of publishing nonfiction, I’m no expert.

First of all-Congratulations! You wrote a book! That’s amazing! You have accomplished something only 3% of people who’ve set out to write a book actually have. According to Google, 97% of people don’t even finish writing their book. So celebrate! It’s a big deal. And don’t let anyone tell you differently. Whether it took you four weeks to finish or four years, (or more or less or somewhere in between) YOU DID IT!

After you’ve celebrated, the real work begins. Oh, you thought writing the book was the hard part? Guess again haha! Writing the first draft is just the beginning. Because after the first draft comes, you guessed it, the second draft, and so on. However many drafts you decide to write is completely up to you. And something you’ll likely find takes less drafts to feel ready the more books you write. Ready for what you ask? Well, once your manuscript has been through as many drafts as you feel comfortable with, then you’ve got to revise it. And then edit it. How do I know when my manuscript is “ready”? I always know when mine is “ready” when I feel confident enough to send to beta readers and critique partners, (CPs). These peeps should read your manuscript before any publishing professional.

Beta Readers – Next, send to trusted beta readers. I wrote a blog post about beta readers here: https://starlawrites.com/2020/02/10/why-beta-readers-are-awesome/ I touched on what you should look for when choosing readers. They are valuable and the good ones will stick it out with you, even through the bad rough drafts, (Yes, someday, after you’ve grown in your craft, you’ll cringe and realize you sent them your manuscript before it was “ready” haha!). 

Critique Partners – They are invaluable as well. I love mine and I am so grateful. I have some who have critiqued several of my manuscripts and others who have only critiqued one. It’s fun to swap with another trusted writer friend for a book here and there. I also have a critique group. We typically meet once a month, each taking turns. It’s been an amazing experience.

Revise again based on feedback/critique – Compile all of the feedback and let it simmer for a few days. I like to process it before I dig into editing and implementing. You don’t have to agree. Or change your book. But you should keep an open mind and ask questions. And you should always be kind and respectful. I once had a critique partner tell me that I received my critique with grace. And that stuck with me. I always want to do that.

Traditional or Self-Publish – Again, I’m not an expert on self-publishing. I haven’t attempted it. I’m not writing it off. But for now, it’s not a route I’m prepared to take. Maybe someday I will. For now, I’m going the traditional route, and may self-publish in between. We shall see. I know a few very successful self-published romance authors, (shameless plug for my friends Savannah Hendricks and Rachael Bloome). Either way, I will say, you’ve got to have a polished manuscript. For self-publishing, it’s a good idea to pay an editor. There are some fantastic ones your Twitter or Instagram friends can recommend. If traditional, it’s not necessary to have it professionally edited. In fact, I’ve heard literary agents say it’s best if you don’t because then they can see how your future manuscripts will look if they should decide to offer you representation.

Speaking of literary agents, let’s move onto querying.

Query letters – Once your manuscript is all shiny and practically flawless, you need to write a query letter. There are so many amazing resources online for writing a query letter. It’s basically a 3-5 paragraph/1 page letter introducing your book, giving the details, (genre, age category, word count, comparative titles) a general summary of your characters, setting, and premise, (much like the back cover of a book, and without giving away the ending) and an author bio. Sounds simple right? It’s harder than it seems. But once you practice it enough, it gets easier. Send this out to critique partners as well.

Synopsis – People tend to think this is the hardest part of the process. But it all depends. Sometimes I find it grueling but other times, it’s fun. Sometimes I write the synopsis before I draft the book. Sometimes I write it after. There are fantastic resources online for this as well. Basically this is where you tell all of the details of the plot. This is where you give away all the twists and spoilers, including the ending. Typically, you want to keep your synopsis between 2-5 pages. I like to have two versions, one longer and one shorter. That way I have both because different agents/publishers have different requirements.

Literary Agents/Publishers open to unagented writers – Now comes research. Again, there are many resources online for this. But your most valuable resource is your writing community. Ask your writing friends, CPs, (usually in private) about agents. Who represents your genre and age category, who has a good reputation, are there any with red flags. There are sites like, manuscriptwhishlist.com and querytracker.com. Google agencies. You can also pay for a membership to publisher marketplace if you want to see the agents sales info. If you’d rather go straight to a publisher, these are sometimes smaller pub houses but not always, it just depends who is open to unagented writers. Google and research is your friend in this area as well.

Once you have a polished manuscript, (with the correct word count-Google!) a polished query letter, a synopsis, completed research, with a list of agents/publishers, you’re ready to begin querying and hopefully land an agent and/or a publishing deal.

It’s a long road for most. Having a supportive family helps. Having a writing community to commiserate with is ideal. Though the odds are low, (last I heard, there’s a 3% chance of landing an agent or 1 out of 1,000 gets an agent) if you never even try, they are impossible. If being a published author is your dream, like it’s been mine for many years, put in the work and at least try. It’s a roller-coaster ride of emotions but I’m thrilled to be on the ride!