I keep coming across rejection lately. I don’t mean from a personal point of view, but rather, the idea of rejection seems to be #trending (ha ha!). Actually, I’ve been seeing it pop up in articles and tweets, and most recently, at a local Writing Show (put on by the James River Writers) where an agent and publishing professional spoke about the normalcy of it. That session was followed by a life coach providing exercises to improve confidence. This was all good and certainly necessary for writers who encounter rejection all the time. It doesn’t matter who you are. Just last weekend, a friend told me she had read a book by a very successful author and didn’t think much of it. She had liked his other work but this one – not so much. An unfavorable review is a form of rejection. The message in my mind is you will always encounter rejection in your life, both personally and professionally. It doesn’t end with getting an agent or a book contract or even strong sales. It just goes with the territory.
However, I’ve wondered if self-publishing can falsely lead writers to believe they’ve circumvented rejection. In reality, while choosing to self-publish as opposed to searching for an agent and traditional publisher may reduce the number of rejection letters in your mailbox, it doesn’t mean rejection is avoided. A lack of sales or bad reviews is also a form of rejection. If the second or third book in your series doesn’t sell as well as the first, it could be a form of rejection. Sigh. There are so many ways to be rejected.
I’m no life coach (nor would I want to be), but I do know every writer needs a little positive reinforcement to balance out the inevitable rejection. I don’t know of any way to do this other than to keep trying to get better and better. Rejection should be a learning experience. Stephen King once wrote that 6 or 60 or even 600 rejections doesn’t necessarily mean you stink as a writer (yes, I’m paraphrasing!). But it is cause for a maybe. I don’t like rejection any more than the next person, but if I hear the same thing twice, three times, I think I should pay attention. Along the same lines, I cling to the good stuff. If several reviews mention something they like, I take it to heart. Hooray. Keep the good, learn from the bad. Sounds easy, right? If only…
One of the real messages at the Writing Show seemed to be that agents and publishers are not against you. They are also rejected on a daily basis. Much like writers, they have to fight to sell what they represent and what they produce. If nothing else, we would all do well to remember that everyone deserves respect in the process. The two star panelists at the Writing Show included Lisa Hagan of Lisa Hagan Literary and David H. Morgan, a longtime publishing professional. Both were encouraging and realistic. Lisa also provided some templates for fiction and non-fiction query letters. To see the letters and a summary of the Writing Show, go here.
Even if I believe rejection is an inevitable fact of life, I’m somewhat on a “need to know” basis. If the rejection can result in something positive, I’m all for it and I will happily welcome it. However, all rejection is not equal. And at the end of the day, while we all want to find readers and sell books, we mostly want to write. And no amount of rejection should stop anyone from doing that.