I know a poetry teacher who encourages his students to submit their poetry to as many magazines as possible. Getting published is not the reason. “I want you to get used to being rejected,” he explained.
Unless you’re writing in your journal, being rejected is a huge part of writing. It generally takes a boatload of rejections before you find the right publisher. Surviving rejection enough to keep submitting your work is a common obstacle for writers everywhere. When I was trying to get a book deal for my first book, Awakening the Healer Within, I got rejected so many times, I literally picked up the manuscript, tossed it into the closet, and slammed the door. I got it back out in a day or so, but being rejected with no rhyme or reason is a hard road to hoe.
If and when you break through that brick wall to finally get published, now you’re facing more rejection as the critics begin writing reviews. While I was in the submission phase, my sister Jill sent me a gift. It was a book by Andre Bernard and Bill Henderson called Rotten Reviews and Rejections: A History of Insult. I scanned the pages and found some helpful information about authors who had been rejected.
Bestselling mystery writer, Agatha Christie, took five years to find a publisher for her first book and then went on to sell in excess of two billion copies.
Louis L’Amour was rejected 200 times before a publisher took a chance on him. Now he can boast 330 thousand books sold.
The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter was rejected so many times, she decided to self-publish. It has sold 45 million copies to date . . . and still counting.
So here’s what I do to deal with rejection:
• I get in bed and pull the covers up over my head. I take a day to mourn the loss of a publishing deal but I only give myself twenty-four hours. Then I pull myself out of bed and remember that the rejection was only one person’s opinion. If you let it buzz in your head, you will drop into a downward spiral and it’ll be hell to get back to yourself and continue sending your manuscript around.
• If a publisher sends me back a form rejection letter, I simply move on.
• If a publisher doesn’t send a rejection form letter but actually gives me notes, (this is rare-, I see if they are on point enough to make a difference in my writing. The person who rejected me may not know any more than I do. Or she may know less. It’s my book and I can decide to do with it what I please.
• I keep on submitting and try to distract myself from waiting.
Remember that over 300,000 books are published each year in the US and a small minority sell. That leaves hundreds of thousands of writers who don’t manage to sell their books. Does that mean they are failures?. A reporter once asked Thomas Edison how it felt to fail ten thousand times. He said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found ten thousand ways that won’t work.”
The point is that you should never give up your dream. Imagine how many wonderful books, paintings, plays or symphonies would never have seen the light of day if the artist didn’t have a will of iron and the ability to keep on going until they see their dream realized.