8 Ways to Handle Rejection

I’m going to write a bad word. Mom, stop reading.

If you’re a writer, rejection is like shit. It happens, and it always stinks. The variable is what we choose to do with that rejection. I’ve found the options are endless, and some are more constructive than others.*

[*Once again, I realize I am not the most-equipped person to hand out writing advice. However, now that I’m querying agents with my third novel, I feel moderately equipped to hand out this advice on rejection.]

1. Weep. Best done in a private setting, but I won’t judge you here.

2. Trash talk. This is also best done in a private setting, like a TOP SECRET HUSH HUSH Facebook group or something along those lines. I’ve also found that my cat is very trustworthy and never repeats a thing I say.

3. Every agent and editor says something along the lines of “this is a subjective business, and I’m sure someone else will feel differently about your horrible story.” Test that theory, I say, and query again! One writer told me that for every rejection she received, she sent out two more queries.

4. Comfort yourself in the bosoms of addictive substances, such as alcohol, chocolate, or computer solitaire.

5. Do textual analysis on the rejections. Compare them to one another, or compare multiple rejections from the same agent (for different – or drastically revised – books, I hope). I find myself obsessing over word choice and placement like I haven’t done since the first “Will you go out with me” note I received in seventh grade. (My response was yes in 4th period and then, by 6th period, no. I pray agents and editors will be kinder and less fickle than I once was.)

6a. If the agent or editor gives you feedback, thank them. And then consider their suggestions. Seriously.

6b. If the agent or editor compliments your work, take it and RUN with it. Quote it on your bathroom mirror in red lipstick. Copy and paste it into a Self-Esteem Booster document that you keep in your writing files.

7. Trust your friends and family. If they say you’re fabulous, believe them. If they offer words of comfort, accept that comfort. It’s difficult to hear NO from agents and editors, so be kind to yourself by accepting compliments and praise from everyone else.

8. Best piece of advice I’ve ever heard on rejection and querying is to immerse yourself in a new project immediately. It’ll keep you from obsessing quite so much over the project you’re querying/submitting. And will hopefully keep you from Twitter-stalking agents and editors (confession: I tried this for a couple weeks. Biggest. Waste. Of. Time).

On the bright side, it’s not (or won’t always be) all about rejection. Not for me, not for you, not for anyone. There are positives in it, too. And even if you’re getting rejection after rejection after rejection, keep plugging away at the next project. Find your passion there, not in your email inbox.

Does anyone else have ideas and tips on how to handle rejection? What works, what doesn’t?


  1. PB Rippey · January 27, 2012

    No. 7 helps me quite a bit. Ranting, but not for longer than 1/2 a day. Immediately sending out more work, absolutely. Sitting quietly, closing my eyes and asking myself if I really believe in the work (because if I don’t, who will,duh) and reinforcing the answer. What irritates me the most is the trend now of agents simply not responding at all if they’re not interested. Seriously? In this age of email??? That’s just plain rude. Everybody’s busy and everybody finds time for email! Well, not my dad or my friend Phil or—never mind. Sorry about your rejection, but looking forward to your acceptance. It’s coming. Cheers and chocolates!

    • Beth Hull · January 27, 2012

      Ranting, meditating on the work – good methods, PB!

      The ones I’ve queried so far all respond yea or nay (hooray). You’d think a form email rejection would be easy enough for everyone, and maybe after that open letter from Lin Oliver & Steve Mooser, some change will take place? http://www.scbwi.org/Pages.aspx/Current-News?Open-Letter-to-the-Industry

      ‘Sokay about the rejection, because after I wrote this, I got another request for the manuscript. Ups and downs, bay-bee! Or maybe downs and ups?

      • PB Rippey · January 28, 2012

        Right on with the request!!! Yes, read the Oliver/Mooser piece. So glad they put it out there.

  2. Vic · February 16, 2012

    No tips on suggestions but I will say that rejection only means you were adventurous / courageous / confident / inspired enough to actually DO something that would risk rejection – so good for you! Sorry the story was rejected – still a bummer 😦

    • Beth Hull · February 16, 2012

      It’s okay, Vic! I’ve still got faith in the story – that just wasn’t the right place for it. With each rejection, I grow thicker skin. It helps to get a few positive responses in there, as well. Then I see that it really IS a subjective business.

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