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Dealing with rejection


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#1 lawoman

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Posted 16 April 2012 - 03:08 PM

No doubt there as been many posts regarding the r word - rejection. Although I realise that rejection comes part and parcel with being a writer, I still cannot help feel a blow to my stomach everytime an agent says no to my manuscript.

To be fair, I have only had two rejections so far - one from a US agent saying that although my premise was intriguing, they'd pass, and another just saying that they will have to say no for now.

I know I have to be stronger, but how does everyone else manage to stay so calm and positive after a rejection? Do you have any tips?

Also, I am just new to this business so could anyone possibly give me some advice to where I may be going wrong with my query?

Here is a sample of my current query. Any help would be much appreciated as I don't want to waste my time with it if it is no good. Thanks in advance.


I am seeking representation for a memoir book based on my experience with anorexia. I understand you are currently accepting submissions and I hope you may be interested in my manuscript.

An intensely honest, raw and detailed account of one girls addiction to hunger, STARVED brutally describes just how powerful the voice of anorexia can be.

The memoir of Lisa Boyle - who at the age of 14 - makes a deadly pact with anorexia, leading her to take a sickening plunge deep into the dark side of reality.

Her best friend Kelly is gone, her mum is becoming more ill by the day. However if she loses some weight, things will become clearer, sharper, more in control. Things might be better if she just disappeared…

It starts off as a diet. However when she finds outher mother has cancer, her ‘diet’ soon becomes an obsession. She must control her food intake for things to get better.

She’s starting to get too skinny, but she likes the new pelvic bones which jut like pyramids. She likes the surge of power it gives her. If she eats - god forbid - then the voice will cut her like a knife, telling her she’s just as disgusting and weak as she already believed.

Yet in mirror-land, she is god - the starving actress, the star of the show. She must push her body as far as she can go, test the boundaries, savour the proximity to death.
She is eventually hospitalised weighing just 54lbs with a week to live. She must eat or die.

STARVED takes readers a journey through hell as it explores the dark, vicious mind of a teenager controlled by the voice of anorexia. The book delves deep into many psychological and physical aspects of anorexia as well as exploring its brutality and shocking consequences.

Readers will be able to relate to the pressures felt to obtain the perfect body, and just how far one might go to achieve it.

On a personal note, I am the editor of online and upcoming Scottish magazine Styletto. I have a BA Honours degree in Journalism and have been writing and publishing stories and articles from the age of 16.

STARVED is a story of madness, obsession, food, weight, society, teenage angst, illness, fear, death and recovery. Unlike many other stories on eating disorders, this is darkly humorous, gritty and insightful.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

#2 E.B. Black

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Posted 16 April 2012 - 03:28 PM

If you want your query critiqued, post it in the query critiquing forum, the one above this one on the main page.

The hardest rejections to handle are the personal ones. Those are always the ones that make me cry. The form letters are so routine and so impersonal that they mean very little to me. I have a giant pile of them.

The first ones are harder to handle than the rest of them. You'll get used to the form rejections at least.

And awesome, you got complimented by an agent. That's actually a good sign. For my personal rejections, I've only been told that my first chapter was boring and for my short story, I was told that I had no plot and that I rambled a lot.

And what gets me through it is hope. Hope that maybe in the future one of them will sign me on and if not, maybe I can make some money self-published anyway.

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#3 lawoman

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Posted 16 April 2012 - 03:50 PM

Thank you for your reply. Apologies as I am quite new to this site and am a little confused as to where to post certain topics.

I think it is because this is the first time I am submitting my manuscript, I just felt like I was punched in the stomach after reading my rejection email. Although I was already expecting it, it still hurt.

I have to try and be stronger and fight the demons that tell me I am not good enough to be in this industry but I just hope I will receive some more positive feedback in future to encourage me to go on.

Many agents can be rather mean, this is something I am a little scared of but I suppose I have to go through with it.

#4 E.B. Black

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Posted 16 April 2012 - 04:36 PM

Well, I don't really think it has anything to do with whether or not you are good or not. No one's born good in my opinion. People underestimate how much writing is something you learn with a lot of hard work over a very long period of time and not something anyone is born with. In my opinion and I've been argued about when it comes to this, I think almost anyone could be a good writer, but it means being corrected over and over again.

I study the English language. Have been for awhile and I still don't know how to spell certain words and mess up grammar rules all the time. And that's just superficial stuff. I was told "show, don't tell", but I'm still learning what that means exactly. I've had to work on describing things better and writing better dialogue. I sucked at characterization in the past and am just beginning to learn how to do it right now. (If you count rough drafts that I never editted to completion, this is technically my third novel that I am working on right now and I still didn't know any of this stuff BEFORE now. Ridiculous!)

Also, the first novel I ever wrote sucked and the first query I ever wrote was even worse. I posted it on here and I still don't think I know how to write queries.

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#5 Dan Genovese

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Posted 16 April 2012 - 05:50 PM

I can't offer any advice on how to stay positive, but I can say you are not alone in how you feel after rejections. Blow to the stomach, yes.

You will hear people tell you not to take it personally. Not having gotten anything but form rejections...I find them frustrating because with all the words they put in them, they don't really tell you anything. There is an agency that decided not to even send out form rejections (you'll just never hear back from them...ever) because they felt there was no worth in doing so. I disagree. I'd rather have a form rejection then nothing at all. It still hurts, yes, but it gives some closure.

As Serena said, we rely on hope.

#6 scubasteve4

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Posted 16 April 2012 - 09:18 PM

Dan, the no-reply rejection is becoming the norm. Most agents reject that way now. We will someday tell our children about the days when agents actually bothered to form reject.

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#7 lawoman

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 07:35 AM

I think agents should take the time to give a small amount of feedback so that we can query the way which they want. No wonder they get frustrated at times because there seems to be no set way to approach a certain agent and they give little feedback on how to make it better!

#8 E.B. Black

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 09:16 AM

I think agents should take the time to give a small amount of feedback so that we can query the way which they want. No wonder they get frustrated at times because there seems to be no set way to approach a certain agent and they give little feedback on how to make it better!


They genuinely don't have the time to give feedback like that with all the submissions they receive daily. Yes, it would help us a lot, but I don't blame them for not doing it. Not to mention, it would take even longer to hear replies from them (and it can take a year or more sometimes as it already is) if they personalized all of them.

Not to mention, it's not like their jobs involve only reading queries all day. It also involves working with their current clients to perfect their novels, talking to publishers and signing contracts to get their authors published, and I'm sure other things that I can't even think of right now.

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#9 Peter Burton

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 12:27 PM

Dealing with rejection?

About the only advice I can give is what works for me. It may, or may not work for anyone else.

One; although I love writing, and won't stop for any reason I know of, it is NOT the key to my happiness. Happiness is an inside job. The odds are, a person who is not happy with themselves will not be happy no matter what they accomplish.

Two; rejection by a single person, or a group of people is NOT the end of the world. It's pretty much the same as the "cool" kids in school rejecting you. (Unless you happen to BE one of them. I wasn't.) Big deal! I still had friends, and they turned out to be better than the so called friends of the "in crowd." There are more ways than one to get to Rome.

Three; who am I trying to please? The agents, the readers, or myself. My answer is the readers, and there are more ways to reach them now-a-days than there has ever been in the history of storytelling. At one time the only way your story to the reader was through a publisher. That is certainly NOT the case any longer. After that, all that matters is what I'm willing to put into the work.

Last, but not least; in the end I'll leave this world with the exact same things I brought into it with me. NOTHING but myself. No amount of accomplishment, money, fame, or glory is going with me. All of that is left back here for others; I won't know a damned thing about it. The only thing any of us really possess is ourselves, all the rest is nothing more than temporary window dressing. So, why should I, or anyone else for that matter, allow these temporary things define us, or our happiness with ourselves? That’s akin to trying to put out a forest fire by pissing kerosene on it. It just isn't going to get the job done.

Rejection is temporary; being happy and comfortable with yourself is as permanent as you allow it to be.

"But that's OK. There's treasure children always seek to find.

And just like us, you must have had, a Once Upon A Time."

~Elton John


#10 Dan Genovese

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Posted 18 April 2012 - 08:29 AM

Peter, that is a healthy and inspiring attitude. Even my pessimistic side likes it!

As for agents not having time: for me, it comes down to common courtesy and professionalism. There are some things that just come with a job. If you are open to submissions, you should at least give the decency of a response (or have your assistant/gatekeeper do it). I've read a few agent websites that are written with such attitude, I wonder why they are even in the business.

#11 RC Lewis

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Posted 18 April 2012 - 09:57 AM

When you hear about the atrocious ways some writers respond to the simplest form rejections, it's not hard to understand why several agents have given up even sending those out.
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#12 JayMG

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Posted 18 April 2012 - 10:04 AM

I got over my fear of rejection when I started subbing short stories to literary magazines. You're more likely to get personal feedback, which helps, but also there's a better sense of 'reasonable' reasons for rejection, eg:

- they already have enough stories for that issue
- your story doesn't fit the theme of the issue
- your story doesn't quite fit the style of the mag
- they have too many similar stories already
- they have a personal preference and your story doesn't fit it
- and, it has to be included: your just story isn't good enough quality

I used to send out upwards of 30 stories at a time, and watch the rejections come rolling back in (along with a fair proportion of acceptances, if I was lucky and had worked hard on editing) - it's not necessarily a case of becoming numb to it, but you develop a 'hey ho' relationship with the whole process. And that's all it is - they're not pointing their finger at you, as a person, and saying: YOU ARE TERRIBLE. They're just saying: "not for me, right now, because of any of the reasons above, and probably more besides, like 'I just don't have time to go through all these queries with a fully open mind' or 'I just sold a book on the same theme and I can't do another one' or 'I have a quota for x-type of stories' or 'I had a great aunt who was exactly like your main character and I hated her, therefore I can't bear to read about it'..." and on and on.

I'm no good at percentages, but I'd bet the split between luck and talent is very unbalanced. Yes it sucks to get a 'no'. But it's not going to kill you. You have to keep going and adjusting and honing, especially if you're getting a string of 'no's. Every time you get a personal, with some decent feedback (even if it's just a line saying: "I really liked XYZ but it's not for me"), treasure it and take hope - because as others have said, most agents don't bother to give you a 'real' reply. And then query someone else...

Oh, and I think people really underestimate the benefits of researching your agents thoroughly. You can't just submit to every agency who represent your genre. Look at the agents themselves, their bios, the types of books and authors they rep. I submitted to a big agent because I loved his author list and wanted to be up there with them. He politely declined, but passed me onto a colleague, who represented a whole list of very similar stories to mine - I hadn't really looked properly at her because I didn't know the authors' names, but she would have been a much better fit. (She passed too, natch, but still, lesson learned). Check out the new/junior agents who are looking to build up their client base - they're more likely to give your work a proper glance and take a chance (ooh, that rhymed, maybe it should be a slogan).

Think of it as a job interview - you don't get 'em all. Sometimes there's someone more suitable than you. Sometimes things just don't fit together. It's not a personal jab, it's just business, unfortunately.

#13 patskywriter

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Posted 18 April 2012 - 11:48 AM

To me, the word "rejection" is over-the-top emotional and sets up sensitive souls for major disappointment. I agree with JayMG—it's just business. When I go shopping, I can't imagine the Jiffy peanut butter folks freaking out because I buy Skippy. Naturally, they'd prefer that shoppers choose their brand, but they know that it's not likely that all of us have identical tastes and preferences. The various peanut butter companies strive to improve their products to appeal to those who appreciate the qualities that attract them.

It's a bit more touch-and-go for us because we're not creating "commercial product" …

… or are we?
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#14 vondrac

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Posted 18 April 2012 - 12:10 PM

Somebody told me "if they don't believe in your work as much as you do, they're simply not the person you want representing you."

#15 JayMG

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Posted 18 April 2012 - 01:44 PM

It's also easy to forget that agents are people, with individual tastes and opinions. They don't simply sort 'good' from 'bad'. Where's the line? Where's the subjectivity? I try to think of it like music. I might not like certain bands, but that doesn't mean they make 'bad' music (well, some of them do, but the analogy still works). Sometimes I can't say why I don't like a particular song, but I can tell you that I wouldn't buy it. Some bands are okay but I wouldn't go and see them live. And really there are only a handful that I have on my music player that I listen to over and over again - and I own every single album they've ever made. Because I invested in them, not just because of one song, but because of their style, their discography, and on the basis that I can almost guarantee I'm going to love whatever they come up with next. Agents don't just go, "yay!" and "nay!" on a whim, it's a massive decision for them, too.




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