When I first decided to become an author I thought I would become a New York Times best-selling author within days. I thought that whenever the time came for my novel completed novel to enter the world that I would get an automatic acceptance letter from any and all publishing companies who I queried to. I really hope I wasn’t the only naive writing soul out there who thought this would be the case. But as it turns out, getting published can actually be harder than writing.
Cue the seemingly endless rejection letters.
I tried traditional publishing for about 18 months for both novels and short stories. Each time I sent out a query letter with sample chapters I would eagerly wait for the publishing company to request my full manuscript before sending a contact my way. Sadly, I never got any bites from the publishers. It was just rejection after rejection. To be honest, though, most publishers didn’t even send anything at all.
With each dead end, I started to feel worse about my writing. I started to truly think that I would never become an author. I thought at the time that if after 18 months of querying and no one was interested, no one would ever be.
I was so down on the fact that no one was even remotely interested in reading more than a few chapters of my novel that I ended up taking a year off from writing altogether. I even vowed to never return to the novel that I had spent upwards of a year working on.
Then, one recent fall day, I decided, just for the sake of it, to go back and re-read my abandoned novel. As it turns out, it was rejected for good reason!
What I wrote and was sending to publishers was boring and safe. There was nothing about my novel that stood out whatsoever. And, if I’m being brutally honest about my own work, the feeling I got from reading the first page alone reminded me of the dread and boredom I got when I had to read books throughout high school and college.
That’s when I decided to re-evaluate what I actually sent to professionals. As it turned out, getting rejected from indie and Big 5 publishers alike was the best thing that could’ve happened to me.
These rejections taught me a few things:
- Just because you’re “finished” writing doesn’t always mean it’s done. You have the opportunity to add or remove as much as you want at any given time. And sometimes, like with the first dozen or so drafts of my novel, re-editing is for the best. It can open up a whole new literary world for you to explore and tap into.
- Rejection doesn’t mean you’re a terrible writer. All it means is that what you’re writing isn’t what they’re looking for at that time. Either keep editing and try again with that publisher or try to find other publishers that work specifically in your genre. You’d be surprised at the number of indie publishers who only look for certain subgenres of fiction. I found at least twenty fairly large indie publisher who only published horror and thrillers.
- Don’t give up on writing or yourself. Like I said before, rejection doesn’t mean you’re a terrible, unpublishable writer. Keep writing what makes you happy. It’ll be difficult at first, but try to remove the idea that you’re writing to be published. You’re writing for yourself. Whatever comes next is to tackle after you’re completely, 100 percent satisfied with your work(s).
All in all, try your best to turn the heartbreaking, gut-wrenching experience of having your work rejected into a positive adventure. I’m not saying you don’t have the right to be upset, because trust me, it sucks being rejected. After a day or two, go back and take a look at what you submitted and see where you can make improvements because there are always improvements you could make. Most importantly, never be ashamed of getting a rejection letter or two. Maybe you’ll find yourself in a similar, positive experience as me and only grow from the rejection.
Plus, when the time comes and you’re published you can silently laugh at the publishers who turned you away. And, when you inevitably become a best selling author, you can go fully Pretty Woman on them!