Coping With Rejection

A key part of being a writer is handling rejection, but before you can deal with it you need to understand why it happens.

Image Credit: 
© 2016 Epytome / Used With Permission

As everyone who has worked in sales knows, there is a pattern to rejection. Door-to-door sales work on the 10% rule – for every ten people they speak to, one will buy what they are selling. The acceptance ratio in publishing is much lower than 10% but the principle still applies.

© Chris Martin / Used With Permission

© Chris Martin / Used With Permission

Whether you are querying agents about your book, submitting short stories to magazines, pitching articles to newspapers, or sending poems to collections, you will encounter rejection. Not just once, either. It will happen again and again and again, and will begin to feel like an unclimbable staircase, so you need to understand how to deal with it.

The first time someone rejects your work will hurt the most. You sent it off with hope, with love, with passion, believing they would adore it, they would fall over backwards to buy it from you, offering more than you could imagine for the privilege of publishing it. You’ve waited six months for a response, patiently checking your inbox every morning and evening. And then the response arrives. Your heart races, your breath quickens, you force your eyes to focus as you read what will surely be an outpouring of praise. Instead, you are faced with something that boils down to a single, simple word:

No.

It feels personal. It feels angry. It feels painful.

It’s not.

Imagine, for a second, that you are running a magazine. You are open for submissions. You get a hundred submissions a week. Would you really have time, after reading each and every piece of work, to then tell the writer how good it is, or how you like it but it doesn’t quite fit, or how it almost meets the criteria but that one grammatical error let it down? Of course you wouldn’t, you’d just send a copy-and-paste rejection email to 98% of the submissions, except the two that you accept each week.

It’s not personal. It’s not angry. It’s not painful.

It’s just a rejection.

As a writer you will receive these rejections over and over again until one day some of your work will be accepted somewhere. Just like the door-to-door salesperson, who gets told ‘No’ ninety times just to find ten people who will say ‘Yes,’ you need to keep going. Yes, you’ve waited six months for that rejection. Yes, it’s not pleasant. But you’re a grown-up, you can handle it. You can keep seeing the negative responses because one day you will open an email and it will be a different message, one that translates into a different, single word:

Yes.

Seb Reilly is a writer, fiction author and occasional musician. He lives by the sea in Thanet, Kent, with his family and two cats.

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