Workshop 16: Rejection: The Key To Your Success
“Rejection is part of the art world, the artistic process,” said Steve Laube (right), owner of The Steve Laube Agency. “Everybody goes through this. Everybody. It is the normal. It is the natural. If you’re not getting rejected, you’re not working.” In this workshop, conferees learned the whys, the hows, and the what nows of rejection.
Why rejections occur
Agent Tamela Hancock Murray presented a list of why rejections occur which began with manuscript length. Pay careful attention to publisher’s guidelines for length as well as content, she suggested. Submissions sent to mass email addresses and addressed to “Dear Agent” are rejected, as are incomplete proposals with too little author information, stories that don’t begin right away, poorly written first paragraphs, boring first pages, and writing that may look promising, but the story doesn’t work. A manuscript may also be rejected because of in-house competition.
“We do talk to editors every business day,” Hancock-Murray (right) said. “And at our level, we get rejected because a work doesn’t resonate with a particular editor, another author has maybe written something similar, or there isn’t a spot available in the reasonable time frame for the book.” Laube added that publishers are relying on agents to filter bad manuscripts. In return, agents can go back to the editor and ask for more information about why a project was rejected.
How rejection occurs
The problem with rejection letters is that an author doesn’t always know what they mean. Laube has seven levels of rejection at his agency, starting with the letter addressed to “Dear Crazy Person,” which gives no identifying information to invite a return. A form letter also closes the door and doesn’t invite a response.
Three levels of personal rejection letters
- The hate mail. This is used when an agent wants you to go away.
- The wimp out. When the manuscript is “…good and really interesting and I don’t want to say no, but I can’t say yes.” He said they sit on it for a while and then send a respectful rejection letter.
- Holy Grail letter. Laube said this is when he sends you a letter noting a specific change on a certain page. It means he wants to go to the next stage with you.
The seven R’s of handling rejection
- Remember, your work is not a reflection of your worth as a human being or even as a writer.
- Recognize that you can’t take rejection personally.
- Rejections are subjective.
- Refuse to despair and have your next idea ready to go.
- Reassess the criticism.
- Resubmission deadens the pain of rejections.
- Revenge: Take your published book and dangle it in front of the person who rejected you.
In summary, if you receive a letter with concrete suggestions and revisions, pay attention. Follow the advice and resubmit. And don’t give up. “Rejection by an agent doesn’t mean it wasn’t right, it just wasn’t right for that agent,” Laube said.