7. Ignore it. It takes a healthy ego to even put pen to paper. And there’s something to be said for the tenacity of a person who sees every rejection as nothing more than a left swipe on the way to true love. But be careful not to confuse confidence with arrogance. The quest to find a publisher is best approached with a posture of humility. I was shocked beyond belief that three different editors were interested in what was probably the 15th manuscript I sent out on submission. Floored that it sold. If I had taken personally the cumulative rejections of the 14 previous manuscripts, I would have never made it to the one that got the yes.
8. Celebrate it. There are two professional writers in my household, and we pause to commemorate all publishing news. That means both good and bad. A great royalties statement? Dinner at our favorite restaurant. An exceptional review? Clink the glasses. Dismal sales? Clink the glasses anyways. Ditto a book rejection. Because any publishing news at all, whether good or bad, means that you are still in the game. You can still learn. You can still grow. You can still rewrite that manuscript for the seventh time. The celebration of a rejection is simply the kick-off party for the next submission.
9. Use it as a reason to ask for help. Writers are notoriously helpful. Better yet, there are hundreds of online and in-person opportunities to meet and interact with other writers. These opportunities, whether conferences, workshops, chat rooms, or social media feeds, often include successful published authors as well as the odd industry gatekeeper trolling for new material. When and if you get a chance to engage with a writer who has accomplished the level of success you would like to achieve or the industry gatekeeper who can help you achieve it, I highly suggest looking for a way to get advice about your latest rejection. (Keep in mind this may be through a paid critique, which are common at writers’ conferences.) “The last time this went out on submission,” you might say, “one editor told me they loved everything about it but simply did not connect with the main character. Do you have any suggestions on how to make a character more sympathetic?”
Pro tip: Writers love being seen as an expert on story craft. If you were to ask that question of a writer, editor, or agent, and then sat quietly to let them be the expert and share their wisdom, you would most likely make a new friend and, more importantly, a writing ally.
10. Put it in a drawer (along with the manuscript). Enough similar rejections citing similar problems likely indicate that a story needs revision. But the day to revise is not the day that you receive the rejection. The day you receive the rejection is a day to go fishing. To stop thinking about it. To find the thing that brings you joy and focus on that instead of wallowing in disappointment. Imagine if your crush told you they were simply looking for someone with a better sense of humor and all of a sudden you started texting them jokes. (I doubt it would go very well.) A formal rejection means no thank you, not now, please move on. I recommend letting a manuscript sit on the shelf for 5 to 6 months once you are certain it needs revision. After that, feel free to open it back up and try again.
11. Bonus - as I was finishing this article, I ran into a friend of mine who does sales. Big, multi-million dollar projects. And yet he gets rejected daily as part of his job. I asked him how he handles rejection. I thought his response was worth sharing:
“Recognize that your personal value is not tied to the rejection. The solution you have to offer just isn’t the right one for that person at that time. Commit to trying again, even if you need to take a moment before you do.”