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R is for Rejections

"Rejection slips are badges of honor.
Purple hearts.
They mean you’ve done your duty. You’ve written your stuff and sent it out.
You’ve done your part.
Show me a writer who doesn’t have a stack of rejection slips and I’ll show you an unpublished writer."
~Richard Laymon, A Writer’s Tale

After rereading Laymon’s chapter on rejections, there’s not much that I can say that he doesn’t. Unfortunately, copies of A Writer’s Tale are few and far between. (I just realized that I have a signed and numbered copy. How did *that* happen?)  I’ll rehash:

A rejection may mean a number of things:

  • It could be the story, novel, or concept isn’t ready to be submitted. Writers need to continuously hone their craft. Maybe there’s a plot hole that was overlooked. Maybe the writing could sparkle more.
  • It could be that the market isn’t ready for the story. If the crux or style of the story is a little "out there," it could be a hard sell. 
  • It could be that the agent/editor isn’t interested in the story or doesn’t personally think he/she can sell it. If an agent mostly reps thrillers and the submission is kinda thriller, but mostly romance, the odds of a rejection might be high.
  • It may be that the agent/editor just agreed to sell/publish a story that is very similar. Subbing a teenage vampire romance to Stephanie Meyer’s agent, might not go well.

One thing is clear in all these cases: a rejection isn’t personal. Yeah, I know. It’s a rejection of the work, personal work!, that we do, but we need to be a little like coral. Let the submission be a finished fragment that can go on alone, separate from the whole. Most rejections are form letters. Heartless? Maybe, but understandable. If a rejection is more than just a form letter, take heed. It’s a rare sliver of advice.

Publishing is becoming a different place with the independent movement. I’m still in favor of the traditional route because, well, it’s what I know. Rejections have made me work harder than I might have otherwise. As always, my experience is my own.