Four Ways to Counter Rejection
Recently, I read an entertaining post by author Christian Mihai about how to cope if your book gets a bad review. He had a good point, I thought; the life of a writer isn’t always positive, and there eventually comes an occasion when you have to learn to tolerate someone who just plain thinks your work is crap. However, getting a bad review at least implies that your work is published somewhere, and available for public consumption. Some of my writer friends who are just starting out have yet to have the luxury of someone giving them a bad review. They’ll still struggling with one of the other important aspects of being an author – rejection letters.
Hey, it happens. Rejection is inevitable if you’re a writer. There are no famous writers who can claim that they haven’t had their work knocked back at least a few times. A few weeks ago, I wrote about how to submit your writing to publishers and get it out there. Rejection is one of the two possible outcomes of that process. Facing it can be tough for new writers (and certain egotistical established writers, too) – it can make you question your worth, wonder if your work is really unpublishable crap and it’s a real test of character. Hopefully this blog post will be able to help.
So… you’ve spent days, weeks, months (years, centuries etc) of your life working on your masterpiece. You’re pretty sure it’s going to be the next big thing (or at least get a few readers), so you’ve sent it off to the publisher of your choice. Now it’s a few weeks later, and the thing you dreaded has come to pass – there’s a curt rejection letter in your inbox: “Dear Writer, sorry, but Attack of the Body Stealing Proboscis Monkeys is effete crap. Please don’t ever write again. Sincerely, editor.” How will you deal with that? Here’s four ways how (and keep in mind that even though this article is written in an amusing tone, they do work – try them):
1. Try to see rejection from the editor’s point of view. The first thing a lot of writers do when they receive a rejection is immediately think that it’s something personal. As someone who edits a literary magazine (and please submit to it; I promise I’ll reject you in a gentle way) I can tell you that this isn’t the case. Most of the time, an editor actually really likes a piece, but it just doesn’t fit what they’re looking for that day – they already have a piece with a similar concept, they have space or word count limits they have to follow, or they’re just not in a good mood. There’s a great article from a few years ago called Slushkiller that makes light of rejection from an editor’s point of view. Check it out – it’s funny, and it’ll make you feel better about yourself.
2. Try the “revenge sub”. Take that piece that just got rejected, read over it and give it a little rewrite if necessary, and send it right off to the next publisher on your list (preferably the next two, if simultaneous subs aren’t a no-no). Get on Duotrope, find someone else you like the sound of, and submit that piece there. Doing this helps you keep your mind off the rejection, as you’re constantly on the lookout for the next possible place to submit to. It’ll also probably get your piece published, because by submitting to more than one publisher, you’re realizing that a rejection is an editor’s opinion and nothing more. Somewhere out there, someone likes your piece, and eventually, you’ll find them.
3. Make a game out of it. Go on, try it – they say that the path to being a writer is paved with rejection slips, so try and see how many you can get before your piece finally gets accepted. Compete with your friends (my friends and I often make bets on who can be rejected the most times in a month – it’s fun and it makes us feel better). There are some famous writers who have known to have rejection slips numbering in the hundreds. Going to sleep at night with a quilt made out of rejection letters isn’t a sign of a bad writer, it’s a marker of perseverance. You’re trying hard, which is a lot more than some can do, so keep at it. Keep trying to show the world that you can do it, and eventually, you will.
4. Cut out rejection slips entirely and self-publish. These days, self-publishing is easier than ever with all of the platforms available for such a purpose (ie. Smashwords, CreateSpace and Amazon) and usually all you need to get your work out into the world is Microsoft Word and an internet connection (which I’m assuming you already have, since you’re reading this article, unless you’re subscribed to my snail mail feed). An editor refuses to look at your book? Become your own editor, and take control over the publication of your book yourself. Self-publishing isn’t a sign of a bad writer, either, despite what you’ve heard because of that nasty stigma; there have been many classic, well written books that began life as self-published works (the famous modernist Virginia Woolf is the first example I can think of, since I just came back from listening to a university lecture on her). You can even write yourself your own acceptance letter and stick it on the refrigerator to celebrate. What do you have to lose?
There. Four good ways to deal with rejection that don’t involve hate-mail, death threats or thinking of elaborate ways to get revenge on that nasty editor who just didn’t want to give your masterpiece the fame and glory that it deserves. Do you feel better now? Yes? Good.
Glad I could help. Now get out there and start getting bad reviews.