July 8th, 2013

3 Reasons You Should Embrace Rejections

by Orly Konig-Lopez

After that headline a few of you are probably worried that my marble bag has a hole in it. You might not be wrong. But that’s not the point of this post.

Rejections.

No one wants to get them, no one likes getting them. They sting. They make you triple guess your ability and quadruple guess your sanity. But rejections can actually be your friend (well, helpful acquaintances at least.)

I’m going to give you three reasons why rejections can actually be a good thing. Ready?

1) They serve as a badge of honor that you’re putting yourself out there. Writing is hard work. But it’s easy to sit at your computer, in your house, by yourself and write. Or plan to write. Or research agents. Or plan on researching agents. It’s safe in the cave.

Actually hitting that send button on a query is excruciatingly hard. And then when your email starts pinging with rejections, yeah, that’s worse than going to the dentist.

But if you don’t send queries, no one will see your hard work. Sure, you won’t develop a nasty case of queriers twitch and you won’t rack up god knows how many rejections. But you also lose the opportunity for a request or better yet, an offer.

2) They are a gauge for the progress you’re making. If the first batch of queries gets you mostly form rejects or no responses, chances are your query needs work. So you go back to the drawing board and rewrite your query. Now you’re getting some requests and maybe a few personalized rejections. That’s progress.

Perhaps you’ve moved on to another manuscript. You have a stronger query, a more enticing premise, those first pages are tighter than the previous manuscript. This time you’re getting requests right out of the gate. And now you’re also getting personalized responses, some with specific feedback on your manuscript. That’s huge progress.

3) They are a valuable learning tool. Every rejection offers some little nugget of information. Form rejections could mean there’s something wrong with your query letter or that the premise for your novel isn’t unique enough. Your critique partners or trusted writing friends should be able to help you flush that out.

The moment you start getting personalized rejections, you’ve hit a gold mine. However (see the warning lights flashing?), don’t get distracted by the fact that a real live agent sent feedback and dive into changes immediately. Even their suggestions are subjective. As with any critique, take time to absorb the feedback. If something resonates, bingo! If not, then you’ve gotten some valuable insight into what that particular agent is looking for (or not) for the next time you’re ready to query.

If you’re getting somewhat consistent comments, then you know that’s an area to work on. And the next manuscript (or the revision) will be that much stronger and that much closer to a yes!

It’s easy to get discouraged when the rejections are popping into your inbox but every no brings you one step closer to a yes. So take a deep breath and take another look at the rejections you’ve filed away. What can you learn from them? And what are you going to do about it?

About Orly

OrlyAfter years of pushing the creativity boundary in corporate communications, Orly decided it was time for a new challenge. Three women’s fiction manuscripts later (plus a handful of picture books), it’s safe to say she’s found her creative outlet.

When she’s not talking to her imaginary friends, she’s reading or at least trying to ignore everyone around her long enough to finish “just one more paragraph.” Orly has also joined forces with some amazing women’s fiction authors to launch the Women’s Fiction Writers Association.

You can find her on Twitter at @OrlyKonigLopez or on her website, www.orlykoniglopez.com.

19 comments to 3 Reasons You Should Embrace Rejections

  • People, don’t take from the above that Orly doesn’t gnash teeth when a rejection shows up, or mumble to her cats about it…believe me, she does (I have the chewed ear to prove it.)

    The awesome thing about Orly is that she soldiers on, in spite of them. She epitomizes the stubbornness and commitment it takes to get a New York contract.

    We at WITS are her biggest fans! GGGGOOOOOoooooo ORLY!

    • Seriously folks, I’m not Miss Sunshine over here! I’ve done my share of mumbling and gnashing. But having someone behind you who will cheer you on, listen to your whining, and then point that cowboy boot at your tushy and tell you to get back on the bull is priceless!

  • Thanks for the Monday morning inspiration, Orly. “Every no brings you one step closer to a yes.” Love it. I’ve been hanging out in my safe writing cave far too long, and it’s time to polish that query and rack up my own stack of rejections.

  • I actually love Orly’s post more with the addition of Laura’s comment. Together they serve to remind us that we are not our feelings. The pain we feel when we get a rejection is important, as it informs us that what we are trying to achieve—writing worthy stories, and connecting with readers—truly matters to us in a deep way. We must listen to that pain, honor it (this is where chocolate, wine, and bubble baths might enter the picture), then get some rest and set it aside. The next day, get up and completely adopt what Orly writes here, because it is powerful logic that can help us manage our emotions on a journey whose length we can influence, but not control.

    • Very true! I’m in no way saying that rejection is easy to deal with. It bites, pure and simple. I’ve made friends with many bottles of wine during the query phase. And logged countless hours on the bike and treadmill mulling over the “what now.” Laura, my husband, my cats, and the horses have listened to the “why did I think I could do this” and the “I’m getting a job at Starbucks” whines.

      But I’ve learned to read the rejections with a “business” eye rather than a personal eye. The rejections aren’t personal. They are not rejecting ME.

      As Kathryn said, the goal is to write worthy stories and connect to readers. The first readers we have to connect with are agents. And as icky as rejections are, they serve as valuable feedback when you take the emotion out of them.

      It’s not an easy process. It’s not a fun process. But it is necessary. While we cannot control the outcome of the query journey, we can control how we deal with it.

  • Orly, this business kind of reminds me of politics. A very famous Congressman in Brooklyn ran for office sixteen times. He was called the stepchild, the wanna-be and thought of as a fool. Each time he lost, he folded his tents and went back to his district to work harder. Number seventeen was a charm. He then went on to serve in Congress for thirty years and was quoted: “No one remembers how many times you lost. They only remember when you win.”

    Then of course, there’s one of Laura’s hero’s … Ronnie. We can learn a great deal from these stubborn men and women because it only takes one win.Keep plugging away and your number will come soon 🙂

  • I’m putting together my first list of agents to query this week. Great timely advice. I’ll probably be re-reading it for a while to come.

  • Definitely good points here.

  • It’s good to learn from rejections. I never thought about the form rejections being all about the queries but it does make sense.

  • Rejection does suck. No bones about it, but these three reasons make sense, and help. Thanx! Some great stuff here.

    • Oh boy does it suck. For me, at least, looking at them as a learning opportunity took the sting out (well, somewhat … kinda like waxing – after a while it doesn’t hurt quite so much). 😉

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