“It is impossible to live without failing at something unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.” J. K. Rowling
You spend months researching, writing, editing, then tweaking your book proposal until it positively sings.
The first rejection (“Dear Writer – No thanks”), hurts.
The second stings.
The many letters received after, including the: “Not for us”, “Not a right fit”, “Cannot use at this time” and “This doesn’t thrill me”, positively lacerate your soul.
Of course, you accept rejection letters are part of the journey but wouldn’t it at least help if you had some feedback?
Well, firstly, know that you’re not alone.
Rejection letters sent to famous authors include the first Harry Potter book, which was rejected by 14 publishers; Agatha Christie, whose publisher Bodley Head apparently took 18 months before they agreed to publish it; and Rudyard Kipling who was told, “I’m sorry Mr. Kipling, but you just do not know how to use the English language.”
Secondly, but more importantly, you can bounce back from rejection, as the above-mentioned authors obviously did.
Remember the song “Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start all over again”? There’s wisdom in that little ditty.
Don’t doubt your ability or allow feelings of inadequacy to settle in. Reflect instead on what you can do to improve your submission.
- Did you pitch to the right agent or publisher? Many book proposals are rejected because they have been submitted to the wrong publisher or agent. Publishers and agents will clearly state on their website the type of books they accept.
- Did you carefully follow the submission guidelines? Once again, agents/publishers will clearly state how they want you to submit your work. Some will accept email, others won’t.
- Did you write a strong query letter? Have you researched how to write a professional query letter? Does yours follow the recommended format? Have you at least addressed the agent by name? I have it on good authority that an agent hates it when they receive a letter addressed to, “To Whom It May Concern.”
- Have you written a winning blurb? Your blurb is often the only paragraph an agent will read to decide whether they like your idea. Have you taken the time to write a compelling one?
Promptly move to step 2.
Rejection letters from publishers vary. Some give helpful feedback (often the smaller, independents) in which case, you can use their feedback to rework. Others don’t. There’s not much you can do with a letter which simply states, “Sorry, but this is not for us.”
What you can do is seek advice from someone who’s been through the experience before. What helpful pointers can they pass on to you?
It’s difficult to view your own work objectively, so hire a developmental editor to critique your book proposal and manuscript to provide you with constructive feedback.
Re-work them as appropriate, then move promptly to step 3.
Resubmit a revised and reworked proposal as quickly as possible.
This doesn’t necessarily mean to the same publisher – although it won’t do any harm if they have provided a personal rejection letter. You certainly should submit if the publisher has invited you to.
Otherwise, submit to the next appropriate publisher and keep busy with the business of running your business to keep your mind fully occupied.
Your book deserves to be out there in the hands of the hundreds, if not thousands of people upon whose lives it can have an impact. The harder you try the likelier you are to succeed.
“Before success comes in any man’s life, he’s sure to meet with much temporary defeat and, perhaps some failures. When defeat overtakes a man, the easiest and the most logical thing to do is to quit. That’s exactly what the majority of men do.” Napoleon Hill
Do you want to join the hundreds who quit?