Writers and Their Rejections

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Most of the writers I’ve known over the decades had one goal in mind – publication. They reached for the gold standard of traditional publishing. Most of them never got there. It usually had little to do with their talent.

Many of these writers deserved better. They should have been published. Their work was excellent, polished and moving. But, somewhere along the line, they gave up. They reached an impenetrable bulwark that sidetracked their work and talent. It was the wall of rejection and, for some very talented writers, it was too much to overcome.

Rejection is a tough issue for anyone. In the world of writing, it’s inevitable. For those writers who set the gold standard of publication for themselves, it sometimes became the breaking point. Understandable, right?. However, for those writers who eventually made it through the desert of rejection, there was a potent reward waiting.

The question is one of perspective, self-confidence and experience. It all boils down to how you value rejection. Here’s one way to look at the issue.

Agent rejection. Agents live on the work and talent of writers. That’s the nature of their business. Good agents are looking for long-term relationships with their writers. There’s a reason for this. Once that first book has been published, the chances of future publishing opportunities increase exponentially. Beyond that, getting published opens up doors of opportunity in related areas. Good agents understand this kind of critical mass. It’s why the best of them thrive on long-term relationships.

The bad news is that top notch agents are rare. Most are only interested in signing a writer whose work can be quickly published. For these agents, it’s a numbers game. So, you’re just a number if you sign up.

Now, ask yourself this: Do you really care about being rejected by an agent who doesn’t care about you? The answer should be obvious. Their rejection is, after all, just the opinion of an individual who has no vested interest in your writing career. That kind of rejection is a blessing.

Take a look at Online Publishing and E-Hyphens and E-Agents for a bit more.

Disney Rejection Letter, 1938 (detail)

Publisher rejection. Rejection by other than a recognized publishing house is just as meaningless as rejection by the disinterested agent. Online publishers are everywhere. If the house is not established, not recognized by readers and writers, their rejection means nothing. It’s just another opinion from yet another person who has little or no interest in your writing career.

Even rejection from a major publishing house means little. There are countless examples of publishers rejecting famous authors. The publishing industry is littered with this wreckage and misdirection. If you spend some time reading about the careers of famous authors you’ll quickly see the kinds of monumental mistakes often made by major publishing houses. These stories are legendary and common.

Rejection by critics. OK, you’re published. Here come the critics, frothing and foaming at the mouth. Maybe you get panned. Is that rejection? Of course not. It’s nothing more than an opinion, typically written to please the critic’s readers. It’s wise to remember that critics are not writers. Many are frustrated, unsuccessful writers. They are hawking opinions designed to please their own readers. That’s their job. They are nothing more than opinion sellers, and you know the old warning about opinions, right?

To see the critic review game at its most ugly, take a peek at Paid Reviews Rock Your Pocket.

Rejection by readers. Yep, this is the one that really matters, if publication is your primary goal. It must be measured in only one way – book sales. The “review comments” below each book title mean little. They may make you feel good, angry, frustrated, whatever. But, in the final analysis, these comments are frosting, bitter or sweet. What counts is whether or not your book is selling. At the end of the day, it’s the reader that counts, and his or her opinion is expressed in terms of books sold.

There is only one exception to the rejection game – you. Yep, you count. Your opinions matter. The reason you write is important. Your goals are important. If you’re a writer, there’s a good reason, and it’s always personal, always important.

Forget rejection. Don’t obsess about opinions. Devalue the importance of acceptance. Find out why you write, what it means to you, where it fits in the symphony of your life. Rejection will always be at your doorstep. Just step over it and move ahead. It’s not always the best writer who reaches the finish line. It’s often the most tenacious.

Finally, here are a few articles that may be helpful. Keep in mind that publishers, agents and critics would have no purpose without writers.

The Undiscovered Writer

The Established Writer

Writer vs Author

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9 thoughts on “Writers and Their Rejections

  1. Thank you so much for this balanced post, Michael.

    You have made sense of the issue of rejection and helped me, at least, to realise why I write and why I will never give up just because someone else cannot see a way of making quick money out of it.

    And as for reviewers and critics … well, I couldn’t possibly comment (at least, not without profanity). 😉

  2. I have a file cabinet drawer where I keep rejection and acceptance letters from the past 20 years. I know what you’re thinking: Only ONE drawer? OK, so I exaggerated. The drawer is only for rejection letters. My acceptance letters are folded up in my wallet…

    Really terrific piece, Michael — and absolutely true, particularly the last one. In the end, good reviews or bad reviews, loved or hated by critics, readers will decide for themselves if you have made a connection with them.

      • You’re very welcome, Michael. Sorry I’ve been a stranger of late — the book publication/promo process has been like giving birth; several false alarms followed by a lot of scrambling and then telling everyone. Still looking forward to the day I can make it out your way.

        Cheers, and my best wishes to you in the New Year 😉

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