Saturday, April 21, 2007

The 8 Rules of Rejections

I've been reading, where people post the decline letters they've received and talk about how the letter made them feel.

"How it made them feel"?! Hoo-hoo!
Thus, today's list:

1. Rejection letters are the opposite of personal. They might even be the inverse.

2. The people who write them are sometimes wrong.

3. Most of the people who write them are nice, and not trying to make you angry or suicidal.

4. The rest are not interested enough in you or your manuscript to offer you any real advice.

rules 3 and 4 mean that

5. Most rejection letters are a long, long way from direct, forthcoming, or meaningful.

which means that

6. Most rejection letters mean nothing. Nothing. (Except that you can cross that publisher/agent off the list.) You need to internalize this fact however you can. Chant it in the bathtub. Write it backwards on your forehead. Listen to a tapeloop of it while you sleep. No matter what the editor/agent says, no matter what words they use, rejection letters mean nothing.

7. The only possible exception to rule 6 is specific constructive criticism.
a. if it is not specific, it means nothing.
b. if it is not constructive, it means nothing.
c. if it is not criticism, it means nothing.

rules 6 and 7 mean that

8. Ignore the flattery. Ignore the snark. Ignore the polite phrases that may be new to you, but trust me, have been repeated so many times by the person who wrote that letter that her boyfriend knows them by heart from hearing them muttered in her sleep night after night. Ignore, in the end, the rejection.

This, readers, is how to approach rejection letters. Absorb this, go forth, and prosper.


Stephanie J. Blake said...

I needed this today!

Anonymous said...

Thank you! I have started to use my pile of rejection letters as a foot rest - so they are useful for something!

Unknown said...


Anonymous said...

Ignore the flattery. This is good advice. Lately, I've been getting a lot of compliments in my rejection letters and I've read them over and over like letters from a lover. I need to get over it and move on to actually sale a story rather than look for flattery.

Anonymous said...

If they are not interested in seeing manuscripts, why are they editors or literary agents in the first place? And who said these people are any smarter than the writers?

If agents and editors were so talented they'd be in the same shoes as the authors.

Sick of the condescending attitude.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous - I think the point is that they *are* interested in manuscripts, but not the ones they reject.

Cam said...

I just got my first rejection letter today, and the turn around time was about 1 day, and it was a form rejection... all I thought was "Damn, that was fast!"

Jonathan Ball said...

Rejection letters do mean something. They mean your work was rejected. But that is all they mean. No emotional reaction is warranted. They are business letters announcing a business decision. By submitting your story, you entered into a professional correspondence. So act like a professional. Rejection letters are not your concern. Writing is your concern. When it gets rejected, your job is to either rewrite and/or resubmit elsewhere. Your job is not to get pissy or whiny. If you are going to get pissy or whiny whenever your work is rejected, then consider a more fulfilling line of work.

Theresa Milstein said...

It is difficult not to take a rejection personally, especially if no details are provided. I try to tell myself that it wasn't what they were looking for, rather than the quality of my writing. The problem is that if I'm not provided with specifics, I let my imagination run wild. I'm a writer after all!

However, the ones that provide feedback have made me a writer. I'm hoping the changes I've made to my manuscripts as a result will eventually get me representation and a book contract.
I wrote a post about types of rejections I've received:

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