I once read that certain topics were guaranteed attention getters. The only four from that list I remember are Hitler, the Mafia, war, and cats, to which I would add rejection. My post “A Rejection So Pleasant It Was Almost an Acceptance” attracted more attention than the last four combined. The title of this post is a 12-word short story based on those five attention getters (it got you here, didn’t it?) but the one I will be focusing on is rejection.
Rejection is hard to deal with because we feel so . . . rejected. Writers aspiring to be published, however, need to learn how to deal with it. There are hundreds of thousands of books written each year by unpublished novelists, and only a couple of hundred will be accepted by major publishers. Rejection, then, is part of the game.
A fellow writer pointed out that my great rejection letter scored high on the etiquette scale, but it was very likely a form letter. He could be right. I once got a rejection letter from an agent that was printed out on a computer and addressed to me personally. The letter spoke of my writing ability, mentioned the name of my book and how they had considered taking it on but had to pass because the subject matter was not quite right for their agency. Pleased with the personal touch and believing I was close to finding representation, I checked to see which of my novels would be a better fit, shot off another query, and received the same basic rejection letter in return. Definitely a case of a form letter that scored high on the etiquette scale.
If it is possible to write rejection letters that make the recipient feel good, why do agents and editors send letters that are cold, almost cruel? Because, despite what they say, they do not want to be queried. They get thousands of queries a year, and each of those queries mean unpaid work.
My advice? Briefly glance at any letter you receive to make sure it is a rejection, then shred it. Get it out of your sight. Send out more queries; to a certain extent, the more you are rejected, the more you become inured to it. Also, learn to see rejection letters for what they are: an attempt at keeping you from bothering that agent or editor again.
And hope that one day you will become so well known that those agents will seek you out, and then you can send them rejection letters.