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?