Usually I take rejection letters in stride, but every now and then one comes along that makes me want to eat enough chocolate until I’m sick. Yesterday I received such a letter. I don’t know why it bothered me so much. It was just a standard rejection letter with comments like “While your writing is good, unfortunately I must pass on this project.”

So what made this one different?

I had to find an answer. Especially if I had any hope of lasting in this highly subjective business, because I must confess I became determined never to write again. For the pain burrowed deep into my soul. I had such high hopes for this manuscript. After all, the editor had requested a full after praising my initial proposal. It was book one in a series and destined to be my first major sale.

So why...God...why?

The reason for my sorrow soon hit me. I’d put all my eggs into one basket. While I have other manuscripts, all my hopes and dreams of selling my novel rode on this single novel. And when ‘my baby’ got rejected I was devastated.

Good thing I was sane enough to pick up the phone and call my critique partners. As usual they offered lots of encouragement, and I even managed to laugh. With words of wisdom they reminded me my novel had only been rejected by one editor at one publishing house. There were plenty more chances to sell it.

These are things I already knew. But when I opened the editor’s letter, all rational thinking left me. In its place I was left with a sick feeling in my stomach. A sense of rejection dominated my entire being.

After I calmed down, I asked myself how I could use this experience to grow as a writer? How could I use it to reinforce the things I already know? The answer is easy, keep doing what I’m doing but just work at it harder. Write consistently, flood the market with proposals and queries to agents and editors, develop my writing skills, enter contests for feedback, and stay informed on the business aspects of writing.

Everything else is out of my control.

If I see rejection as not the end, but as a sign I’m doing everything I can to achieve my dreams, I’ve won already. And odds are one day I’ll answer a telephone and an editor on the other end will say, “Hello wonderful author, I must buy your book.”

Then all this angst will have been worth it.

30 comments

  1. Scarlet Pumpernickel // January 28, 2010 at 11:01 PM  

    Pam, been there done that! Recently in fact. I have a difficult time dealing with rejection. Don't have any words of wisdom to offer, I haven't found anything that helps lift me out of the doldrums of rejection except time. But time is too valuable a thing to squander so we much march on. I'm sorry you were rejected. Eat chocolate and then get back to work girlfriend!

  2. Autumn Jordon // January 28, 2010 at 11:38 PM  

    Ah, Pam. I'm so sorry, but you're doing exactly what you should be doing after recieving the R.

    If the letter doesn't give you any feedback, trash it and move on. There could be many factors that made the publisher's decision not to look harder at your work. Business is especially tough right now. For newbies it worse. Publishers don't have money to put into advertising new names, so they're sticking with established authors. They could've just signed an author with a book similar to yours already. The market stats might show that tides, where your book fits, are changing. Not to worry, tides change again.

    Let the work sit for a few weeks and then read again. If you still feel it's ready, send that puppy out. If not, edit and then send it out.

    (((HUGS)) AJ

  3. Mary Marvella // January 28, 2010 at 11:38 PM  

    Gotta get back on that horse after you wallow a SHORT while.

    You're a talented writer!

    Hugs, Mama Mary

  4. Scarlet Pumpernickel // January 28, 2010 at 11:44 PM  

    Now, I've just got to say this and I'm only gonna say it once, so listen up pilgrim! Our Dear Pammy was one of the few people who received follow up from the first Harlequin Presents contest on the loop last year. She got a note from an editor who openned the door for her to submit. I on the other hand heard narry a word. Nada, zip, not even a "This sucks." Pammy rocks!

  5. Mary Marvella // January 28, 2010 at 11:47 PM  

    Pam and Scarlet, I didn't hear back either, not even you gotta be kidding!

  6. Joelle Charbonneau // January 29, 2010 at 12:21 AM  

    Rejection sucks. Funny, I've managed to pick several careers that all involve high numbers of rejections - acting, singing, modeling and writing. Yep....a gluton for punishment. One thing I learned about rejection in all these fields is sometimes it really isn't you. Your manuscript can be fabulous. The characters pop off the page. People can't put your book down. And still you get rejected. My favorite personal example of this came this summer. An editor at Berkley loved my book. The editorial board loved my book - BUT - they didn't love that it was a roller skating book. Turns out, they had an ice skating series a few years back that didn't do well and they were nervous about anything related to skating. Go fig.

    I guess the one thing I've learned in my mulititude of rejections is that we tend to believe rejections occur because we did something wrong. But the truth is - often it has nothing to do with you. The editor might have just purchased a similar book. They might have had a book two years ago that didn't perform well and yours reminds them of it. Heck, the editor might be reading your manscript on the day after her divorce became official and is not interested in reading about anyone's love story - even if it is her job. As much as it stings, remember that you can only craft the best story you can. Then you wait for the stars to align. And if you eat a lot of popcorn and chocolate along the way - that works, too.

  7. Rebecca Lynn // January 29, 2010 at 12:44 AM  

    I'm feeling your pain. I got a similar letter this week, and it's been similarly difficult for me.

    I think I may take the rest of the week off so I can nurse my wounded ego and make a fresh start when I get to Calgary on Monday.

    Thanks for the post. I felt some solidarity in my frustration. And it reminded me to call my crit partners, so they can talk me back out of my tree.

  8. Mary Marvella // January 29, 2010 at 12:51 AM  

    Welcome, Rebecca Lynn!

  9. Judy // January 29, 2010 at 8:35 AM  

    Wow! Been there...actually cried over one judge's comments on a contest entry. After I wiped my tears I decided to pick apart what I sent in and, yes, she was right about some things. I've redone it and it's out to an editor. That nasty episode taught me a lot!!

  10. Autumn Jordon // January 29, 2010 at 8:38 AM  

    Rebecca, I have a mentor, NY Times author. She as adviced me many times over the years. I remember once I was wallowing in self-pity over a rejection. I felt I was really close, but got a no thank you.

    Her advice, "Suck it up."

    She shocked me, but she was right.

    "This is business and not everyone is going to get you. The best thing to do is move on."

    This pass week she congratulated me on my release day, told me I could enjoy day, but the next morning get back to work. She is tough as nails and I love her for it.

    SO to you I say, "Get back to work."

  11. Pamela Varnado // January 29, 2010 at 11:07 AM  

    Scarlet, thanks for the words of kindness. If Mary hadn't been available I don't know how I would have pulled myself out of the doldrums.

  12. Pamela Varnado // January 29, 2010 at 11:10 AM  

    Autumn, it's the not knowing why that hurts. If I don't know what's wrong, I can't fix it. But I'm not giving up. Tomorrow is a new day full of opportunities.

  13. Pamela Varnado // January 29, 2010 at 11:11 AM  

    Thanks, Mary. FOR EVERYTHING. I've learned that having you for a friend is better than any comfort chocolate can offer.

  14. Pamela Varnado // January 29, 2010 at 11:13 AM  

    Scarlet and Mary, thanks for reminding of my successes. My journey to publication isn't always paved with rejection. Sometimes a ray of hope surfaces.

  15. Pamela Varnado // January 29, 2010 at 11:20 AM  

    Joelle,
    I have to remind myself that it's not always about my manuscript. Lots of thing can influence an editor's decision. And you're right, something as simple as a editor going through a divorce could turn into a major NO THANKS for a writer. Sometimes life sucks and that just the way it is.

  16. Pamela Varnado // January 29, 2010 at 11:23 AM  

    Rebecca Lynn, I might have given up on my dream long ago if it wasn't for my three critique partners. They are all lovely ladies and have become a part of my family.

  17. Pamela Varnado // January 29, 2010 at 11:29 AM  

    Judy, the strange thing about this busines is that when all the emotion is worked through and you take a look at your rejection letter, you usually do learn something from the editor's comments. (If you're lucky enough to get them) That's why I'm trying to look at this as a learning experience.

  18. Mona Risk // January 29, 2010 at 11:57 AM  

    Pam, we all received Rs letters. I still hate spelling the word because they hurt so much. When I received one that almost ended my writing career three years ago, I couldn't write for two months. It was that bad, almost spiteful. When I finally recovered I promised myself it would be the last time I'll allow myself to cry about Rs. I went on a rampage of submissions and sold.

  19. Barbara Monajem // January 29, 2010 at 12:35 PM  

    Hugs, Pam. I hope you enjoyed the chocolate, at least. If not, let's get together some day when you're in a happy mood and we'll go REALLY enjoy some chocolate.

    I love how you put your whole heart out there in your posts. They're so eloquent! Even if what you're writing about isn't always happy, the writing itself is a pleasure to read.

  20. Pamela Varnado // January 29, 2010 at 1:06 PM  

    Mona, This rejection was a wake-up-call for me. I'd invested so much time in to this one prospect that I failed to shop my manuscript around to other publishers and agents. Now I know better. I still believe in my story and plan to send it out like crazy.

  21. Pamela Varnado // January 29, 2010 at 1:09 PM  

    Barbara M., I couldn't help but pour my heart out. My angst was so acute it numbed everything else. A day later I'm still struggling with the rejection, but I'm slowly coming back. The chocolate made a big difference.

  22. Mary Ricksen // January 29, 2010 at 1:48 PM  

    When I got my first rejection letter I cried for three day.
    But after a couple more I realized that fate might have a lot to to with it. I had to be the right place at the right time. Don't ever give up, you will never be able to fill the hole that it would leave in your heart. I know that time and editing and trying will someday pan out for you. If it was only you, I could see you feeling bad. But I have been told by the best that they got those rejection letters too. So If they could make it to publish, so will you. You are never alone. We are all here for you and know your pain. But try to put it out of your head and get busy with something!
    Big hugs for Pam!

  23. Pamela Varnado // January 29, 2010 at 2:35 PM  

    Mary R., being in the right place at the right time has a lot to do with it. Of course, your writing has to be sellable also. In the meantime, I'll just keep working beyond the pain.

  24. Anonymous // January 29, 2010 at 5:03 PM  

    Pam,

    Your solution is the best one. Keep writing and improving and keep sending your stuff out there. You can't get published unless you're sending your baby out.
    You've got talent and don't forget it.
    BTW, I'm not that crazy about chocolate, but a good cookie will do it for me everytime.

    Connie Gillam

  25. Pamela Varnado // January 29, 2010 at 6:41 PM  

    Connie, unfortunatly anything loaded with sugar works for me. chocolate, cookies, candy, PEPSI. I'll keep working toward my dream.

  26. Beth Trissel // January 30, 2010 at 1:10 PM  

    So sorry dear. This is all too familiar. "Chins up," as I say to self and onward ho. You are a highly talented writer!

  27. Your Wonderful Daughter // January 30, 2010 at 7:54 PM  

    Mom,

    I'm sorry, but you know that your story is great. And it will be their loss in the long run. Continue to work hard at what you do and you will see that all that hard work will pay off! I love you Momma and the boys and I miss you dearly. Good things will come!

    Love....Tina

  28. Pamela Varnado // January 30, 2010 at 8:31 PM  

    Tina, thanks for the encouragement. You've been my biggest supporter and I miss having you close. Take care, and I will see you soon. Momma

  29. Joanne // January 31, 2010 at 11:11 AM  

    Pam,
    We've all been there and Joelle has great advice. It has little to do with you. Sometimes all the stars have to be in alignment. Just keep writing.

  30. Dayana // January 31, 2010 at 4:22 PM  

    Wonderful post, Pam. I am sorry for your rejection but your crit partners/friends are right. That was only one editor's opinion. I love the fact that you rose above the pain to rationalize the experience then turn it into a positive and motivational prompt to get you moving.

    Best of luck with your new series. I know you will attain you goals. Thanks for sharing your wisdom.

    Dayana~