Surviving Rejection (RWA 2010 Blog Series)

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Today I’m blogging about the “Surviving, Overcoming, and Learning the Truth About Rejection” Workshop presented by Christie Craig, Rose Hilliard, Faye Hughes, and Kim Lionetti.

Rejection.  Whether a form response to a query, a personalized rejection, or criticism from critique partners or contest judges, we’ve all been there.  And it’s never fun!  But in an industry filled with rejection, getting personalized rejections or criticism can invaluable to an author.  So how can you use the rejection to improve your writing?

  • Look for key words that suggest you should be writing in a different genre.  Maybe you’re writing historicals but your voice is more suited to contemporary.  Don’t forget to take a step back and really listen to feedback.
  • Evaluate all your rejections for common themes.  If everyone says the market you’re targeting is not selling right now, maybe you shouldn’t write another book just like it.  If 3 out of 5 agents tell you to work on your characterizations, you know what you need to do.
  • If you’re told your book isn’t different enough, you need to concentrate on your hook/high concept.
  • If you are getting a lot of positive feedback but the agents or editors state that they just don’t love it enough, this can mean you need to ramp up your tension or characters’ emotions, or that your story isn’t high concept enough.

Editor Rose Hilliard says her biggest reasons for rejecting a book are that it’s not high concept enough or that execution is not up to par.

Do you have any personal tips for overcoming rejection?  For me, I generally curse up a storm while rummaging the kitchen for chocolate, let the rejection (or bad critique) sit for a day or two, then sit down and review it in depth.  I can typically find at least one good piece of information in there that will help me become a better writer.


8 thoughts on “Surviving Rejection (RWA 2010 Blog Series)

    Julia Rachel Barrett said:
    November 5, 2010 at 10:28 am

    I find the two biggest obstacles to overcoming rejection to be form letters and the non-response.

    A form letter tells me nothing about why the work was rejected and if the form letter comes back immediately, that would seem to indicate the submissions wasn’t even opened.

    A non-response is self-evident – I learn nothing whatsoever about any issues with my submission.

      Rosalie Lario responded:
      November 5, 2010 at 11:55 am

      I agree, Julia, those are the worst. Even though I understand why agents have form responses, it is still a very frustrating part of the industry.

    Mary Abshire said:
    November 5, 2010 at 12:15 pm

    Hi Rosalie,
    If an agent or editor tells me specifically what they don’t like, I will go back and review. But, what one agent/editor doesn’t like, the next one might think the work is fine.
    Basically, I don’t let rejections bring me down and I shop around more. I think we have better opportunities now to get published with the market mostly e-pub. If I can’t get an agent, I go directly to an e-publisher. There are plenty of good ones to select from. My advice is to never quit or give up.

    I like your idea of chocolate and cursing, mostly the chocolate!

      Rosalie Lario responded:
      November 5, 2010 at 12:32 pm

      Mary, you make a good point. This business is so subjective. A lot of the advice you receive has to be tempered with your own gut instinct. If an editor or agent doesn’t love one particular thing but you feel strongly about it, then maybe you shouldn’t listen to their advice. But if several of them are telling you the same thing, that might be the time to take note.

    Maeve Greyson said:
    November 5, 2010 at 5:43 pm

    I’m always careful to send a heartfelt “thank-you” when an agent or editor takes time out of their harried schedule to “reject me in detail”. Form letters tell me nothing. Detailed explanations as to why my submission didn’t work for them could very well be the key to making it work for the next guy.

      Rosalie Lario responded:
      November 5, 2010 at 6:01 pm

      Good tip, Maeve. I think it’s sort of funny that, as a newish author, I’m actually excited about getting rejections. Just as long as they have some detail in them. But I suppose that’s the nature of the business…

    Nancy Lee Badger said:
    November 6, 2010 at 6:25 am

    After hundreds of rejections (mostly form letters which are no help at all) I found a great critique group. Invaluable! They helped make my first books sell.

      Rosalie Lario responded:
      November 6, 2010 at 7:40 pm

      A sound reason to join a critique group, Nancy (and to take the time to find a good one)! I’ve heard over and over that a good critique group is worth it’s weight in gold. 🙂

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