Three Ways to Overcome the Rejection Letter

Karen Hardin Priority PR Group Literary Agency Tulsa OK Author Agent

An author wrote an email to me recently which stated,"Even though you said my book wasn't on your radar of books you do, I am still gleaning from what you are doing."

Even though I was not currently acting as her agent, this author had continued studying, working at her craft and stayed un-offended with me even though I didn't feel I could represent her. (There's an entire depth of maturity that radiates from her decision that, let me say, could be a blog post all on its own.)

Back to the point, have you ever heard those same words? "Not on the radar"? Ouch. My meaning to that author was that her book wasn't in the genre of topics where I have been successful as an agent. We each have our areas where we have success and where we don't. Nevertheless those words "not on the radar" can be painful.

When an agent or editor turns down the opportunity to work with you or your manuscript, it can be very disheartening, discouraging and feel like rejection. It can cause us to stop forward motion. UNLESS you make the decision to learn from it. 

What do you do when it looks like your hope for your manuscript to be published is dwindling? Your next steps are important.

Consider the Comments

If you received specific feedback from the editor or agent, consider it, chew on it and determine how and where to adjust. It can help you grow.

I had one manuscript I had submitted to numerous publishers that was rejected over and over. With the rejection came comments from editors as to why they turned the manuscript down. There was some consistency in their comments. Unfortunately the author refused to listen to those words of wisdom, even though they were repeated by at least 3-4 editors. It would have required they do some rewrites, which they did not want to do. They were convinced they knew best and that the manuscript was in stellar condition. The result? The manuscript remains unpublished.

Consider the Source

Anytime you receive criticism of your work, it is important to consider the source, the intent, and the purpose. It's never easy to hear constructive criticism of our work. We want everyone to love it and tell us it's perfect...just the way it is.

Sometimes the tweaks suggested are to help the manuscript better fit the publishing model and audience. Sometimes it is to help tighten up the work. And there are other times, when the publisher or editor isn't the best fit for the manuscript.

I remember years ago when bestselling author and speaker, Lisa Bevere, told the story of when her husband, John was writing one of his first books. This was early in his writing career. No best sellers were already in his name. I'm sure, like most writers, he was working hard to get it right as an author. However, once the manuscript was submitted, his editor wrote him back very critical of what he had written. In fact, her "encouragement" was to discourage him from writing anything further. She felt it was hopeless. Thankfully, Lisa, who had read the manuscript thoroughly, sensed it wasn't so much the writing, but that the collaboration between John and this particular editor wasn't a good fit. Sure enough, when another editor was assigned to the project, everything began to flow and go. Note, it wasn't that John didn't receive instruction from the editor. He did. But he and Lisa were wise enough to also understand when there was an assignment in place to discourage John from fulfilling part of his destiny, which was indeed to write. He has since written numerous bestselling books, including one of my favorites, "The Bait of Satan." Why? Because they prayerfully considered the source.

Consider Your Destiny

Theodor Geisel was a man with a mission. He felt compelled to write children's books. And not just any children's books, but rhyming ones. Unfortunately publishers didn't agree with him. He submitted his story over and over until it had been rejected 27 times. 27! Completely discouraged, he was ready to destroy the manuscript when he happened upon a friend who had just taken a job as an editor at a publishing house. Theodor then had a choice. Risk rejection again, or take one more chance.

He submitted the manuscript and this time it was accepted! It's easy to wonder, what if he had stopped after the 27th try? If you've never heard of Theodor Geisel, you'll recognize his pen name.

He is better known as Dr. Seuss.

What is your destiny? As you consider it, I hope you don't miss my takeaway, because there are three.To get one without the other two is to miss part of the point. Let me restate:

  1. Be willing to listen, learn and improve. We can all improve.

  2. Use insight and wisdom to understand the difference between constructive criticism and destructive criticism. There is a difference.

  3. Be willing to try again.

Pressing ahead in the journey,

Karen Hardin - Literary Agent and Marketing Guru
PriorityPR Group & Christian Literary Agency