I got the idea for this blog from a fellow author Hannah Ross who wrote on the topic recently (check it out here)
While I mused on the idea of the topic of rejection, one thought popped into my mind. “Hold onto your butts, it’s gonna be a bumpy ride.” Sharing yourself—whether it’s your stories as an author, your graphics or music as an artist, or yourself as a human seeking relationships will all incur rejection of some sort or another. Not everyone will like you or your products. Truth be told—those things are probably not ready when you think they are… think about it in the dating context: were you a good fit to marry when you first began dating? Probably not.
Most of us begin querying agents and publishers long before we are ready. Sometimes we query a market that has been exhausted with similar stories or a story is simply not interesting to the buying market at that time. (I’m going to just leave this comment here and then assume this is not you… most people who experience a small amount of rejection and then go to self-publish do so because their writing wasn’t refined enough yet. They didn’t hire editors, pour blood and sweat into multiple drafts and so the end result wasn’t up to snuff—when they sought out feedback or asked readers “what did you think?” it was clear that the only answer they wanted was “I loved it—don’t change a thing—you’re a literary genius. I’m sure that’s not you; those people aren’t real authors, they are attention seekers who want a badge with the title “author” without the real effort that it requires. Again—I’m sure it’s not you, but it’s worth the gut check because taking your ideas out into the literary world is not for the faint of heart.) MAKE SURE THAT YOUR STORY IS READY BEFORE YOU PITCH IT! And, especially if you’re a nonfiction writer, make sure there is an audience for it!
I wrote a lot and I’m not even started yet. So, here goes: I’ve been with my current nonprofit employer for 5+ years; for several months prior to that I used my sales experience to take a pretty tough sales job—this company specialized in pitch work and had extremely high demands and quotas (I’ve heard they are toughest company to get hired on at as far as their field sales reps go) and I got it. I really hated travel and time away, and so I got out six months later. However, their intense sales training (which included some great psychological studies on salesmanship) was beneficial. One of the things they drilled into their teams were that rejection happens all the time. Reset immediately. Forget about it. You could’ve been on the verge of a sale and gotten emotionally invested in a customer when they pull the pin or bail on a promise they made to you. There’s another customer around the bend. Forget it and immediately get out there again—the product is great, everyone needs one, and you do them a disservice if you don’t try to make them buy it. Shake it off. Most of their sales force worked in high-stress, loud environments busy with people who weren’t there to see you. The trick to selling, besides having a good product and the ability to physically perform, is the grit to take rejection over and over and over. Literally, hundreds of rejections per day—thousands over the course of each pitch tour. If your sense of self-worth is tied up in someone else embracing you and your product (your book in this case) then you’re going to have a tough time.
My rejection pile is at least as big as Hannah Ross’s. I’ve had identical experiences with both form rejections and excited agents who just aren’t quite ready to sign me. She is right about compartmentalizing. Understand that this is a business and you make a product—make your query process mechanical to a degree where you do it because it’s on a weekly agenda. Do it even when your heart’s not in it (but write the query when it was).
Don’t stop there. Take a class on it and even pay for professional feedback and guidance. I paid a fee to have Chuck Sambuchino (of Writer’s Digest books) give me feedback on my current SF (it also pays to be selective and research who you send it to.)
Grow thick skin. You have preferences. So do agents and publishers. Believe in yourself and surround yourself with people who are your cheerleaders… but if all of your beta readers think something needs work (or if you haven’t told them to switch lasers from stun to kill) then you should still be at the drawing board, not dropping manuscripts at the post office.
You got this. Keep writing. Keep editing. Keep querying.