Unless you’re a current author with a row of literary agents and publication houses throwing themselves at you like you’re God, then you’re like the rest of us—struggling to breath in a market that spawns more bad writers than good. Well, that’s being a little unfair—sometimes writer’s just need to revise and accept criticism (though others are unaware that the greatness they imagine in their head of the work looks nothing like what they type up, which is just utter shit on a computer screen.) We’ve all had those moments though, where we have this idea, can picture it playing like a movie in our head—then we sit down to right it and boom—we begin and realize we should have planned it better. Attempt after attempt, years lapsing and you’ve finally refined that good old American novel that is going to wow agents with just a glance. You spend more than enough time writing, then rewriting your query letter and receive a mountain of letters stating:
“Thank you for your submission. At this time we do not feel your work is right for us. Good luck”
If you’re lucky, it’s a canned response. If you’re not, the rejections can be worse than pouring salt into an open wound. In response you can:
- Punch a wall or pillow or anything in your close area
- Cry, a ton
- Get over it and move on
As always, the answer is C. Rejection is so much a part of creativity, its expected and should be praised because why would you want to be with an agent who doesn’t believe in your work? You need a champion for your work, anything less is a spit in the face.
Why Was I Rejected?
At Buck Off, we have to make decisions all the time on accepting or rejecting work and have also had our publication successes and failures. Here’s what we can offer and what we’ve learned from our own experience, experiences of other writers and comments from literary agents at past AWP events we’ve attended:
- A ‘NO’ does not mean it’s a reflection of your work, but perhaps its just not for them: Its not a cop-out but sometimes certain works just don’t fit with the vision of the magazine or agency. It’s not that your work isn’t good, you’re just barking up the wrong literary tree.
- The novel is done, now comes the real work: Just because your novel is finished, doesn’t mean the work is—in fact, it’s just a continuation of stressful searching, writing and rewriting query’s and waiting. Researching the top agents that would best fit with your book should be a top priority. There’s nothing worse than prospecting the wrong agent (especially if the right one is also in that agency). Start evaluating and keeping track of who you prospect and read the current clients they are representing. This narrows the search. Think of it this way, if Literary Agent A loves non-fiction pieces and upmarket women’s fiction and your novel is a Young Adult supernatural piece, DON’T prospect them. If Agent B is in the same agency and loves everything paranormal, science fiction, both YA and middle grade books, then yes, they are the better option.
- Accept the rejection and move on—no one wants to read a response email about your sob story of being a writer or that we suck for rejecting you. Yes, we personally have seen this in submissions. Its one thing to ask why we said no, and it’s another thing by attacking us for the decision (and WE REMEMBER EVERY SINGLE WRITER WHO HAS DONE THAT).
- You’ve misrepresented yourself—make sure your cover letter or query letter is edited and READ by someone who isn’t you—you’d be surprised at how awful they can be and it may just represent your work (unless its actually good and you have no idea how to write a compelling query letter—however you may be rejected on that basis when submitting a novel to an agency).
- For God’s sake, if there are GUIDELINES, follow them! Not all agents or even magazines are created alike—they have their own guidelines. Don’t ignore them. You’re just wasting your own time. We have received submissions where a writer has done the following two mistakes that we now automatically tell them to look at our website first or just completely delete:
- Sent a link of their already published work as a submission = completely delete
- No cover letter at all, just a ‘hey, here’s my work—if you’re interested, let me know’: refer them to our site and let them know they are submitting to us, we are not prospecting them
Rejection sucks but its not the end of the world. You know you have heard this before but: FAMOUS AUTHORS WE HAVE GROWN TO LOVE HAVE BEEN HEAVILY REJECTED BY ALMOST EVERYONE.
You are no different—the publishing world is a raging river, you’ll be smashed up by the rocks but there’s a nice pool of water at the end somewhere. Wear a helmet and lifejacket and plunge into the river. You’ll survive, I promise.