Rejection letters, or rejection emails (for lazy people like me who couldn’t be bothered submitting by snail mail) are a regrettable fact of life. You hear the old stories about authors who could paper the walls of their study with the rejection letters they have received – well, at least there would be a consistent, even if tedious, pattern to your walls. I’ve received scores of the things myself and my reaction has ranged unpredictably from “utterly crushed” to “who the hell cares”. There is no easy way to respond when an agent or publisher sends you the dreaded rejection and it always seems to catch you on the hop.
It seems to me that the biggest danger in rejections is that it can then affect your writing. You can begin to lose confidence that any of the stuff you’re writing is any good. After all, you have the evidence of its crappiness from professionals in the publishing business who “regret that your work is not a good fit for their list”, or worse still “is not something they would wish to be associated with.” As the small crowd of disheartening missives clamor round you screaming for attention, you can begin to let your delicately constructed self-assurance slide. You are then all set for a good long period of writer’s block.
One of the ways I’ve tried to avoid that is by treating submissions and the inevitable rejection simply as admin tasks. Friday, for me, is admin day. I decided that every Friday I would send something out to an agent, a publisher or a literary magazine. I have a database that keeps track of what I’ve sent out and when I can expect a reply. Then I set alarms on my phone and on my computer to remind me to follow up on submissions. Every time I send something out, I enter it in the database along with the title, type of work (novel, poetry, non-fiction etc.), the date and the follow up date. Every time I get a response it too goes into the database along with the date. Does this sound like an elaborate way of documenting my own failure? You could look at it that way, but I prefer to look at it as a way of compartmentalizing the submission/response aspect of my being a writer, which means I can treat it separately from my actual writing.
Eventually, I couldn’t understand why agents and publishers didn’t want to take my manuscripts. After all, everyone else I’d shown them to loved them and assured me that they were definitely publishable. At that point, I decided to self-publish through Amazon’s Kindle store. (See here)
I’d love to know how other people cope with rejection mail. There must be more to it that the proverbial stiff upper lip.