Why Rejection Helps You Become a Better Writer

    Rejection letters are great.

    It means you sent your material out.

    It means you’re ready (hopefully) to take your work to the next level.

    You see, here’s the thing; what if someone told you that the 37th agent you query would get you a book deal?

    You would be so excited every time another rejection letter arrived because you’re one closer to that deal.

    That’s why they’re awesome. Keep querying. Just change the way you think about it.

    Years ago I worked as a door to door salesperson doing cold calls. We’d go knocking on doors all over the neighbourhood and eventually get in. Sometimes it took ten minutes, sometimes an hour. Once in a while it took all day.

    I learned quickly that it was just a matter of knocking on doors before I got in. What I mean is, the more doors I covered, the faster I got in a house to do a presentation and possibly make a sale. So I ran. That’s right, I ran from door to door. It kept me energized and fired up so when I finally got in, I was ready to present and sell.

    I outsold my team month after month. The rest of the salespeople got depressed when a door slammed in their face. Not me, I loved it, because I was one closer to the door that would welcome me in.

    A man was quite interested in a beautiful house a few blocks from the Chicago airport. Prior to moving in he ascertained the runways weren’t directed over his house so he bought it. A number of years go by. The airport’s getting busier. Planes are getting larger. They need to build more runways.

    After a number of months, planes now take off and land directly above his house. Housing values plummet in the area. The man can’t sell. He goes to see a psychiatrist. Doctor tells him to change the way he looks at it. So he goes home and paints, “Welcome to Los Angeles”, on the roof of his house. Almost every time he hears a plane overhead the man laughs.

    Change the way you look at it. If your writing is sound, then your only task is to get it out there.

    No one can hurt you without your consent – Eleanor Roosevelt

    Remember that you are going to query agents that may like the story idea, but don’t love it. You need to keep going until you find one that loves it. Each rejection letter is one step closer to the right match.

    People with book deals have no excuses and people with excuses have no book deals. Query, query, query.

    Zig Ziglar said that failure is an event, not a person. You may have failed with that rejection letter but you are not a failure. You wrote a novel. The more failure you saw when growing up makes success harder to believe in. But yet you miss out on 100% of all literary agents that you don’t query.

    So rejection letters are your confirmation that you’re out there, you’re querying, you’re moving forward. That’s right, moving forward, even when you’re getting a rejection letter.

    Things come to those who wait, but only things left by those who hustled -Abraham Lincoln

    Besides, what’s the worse that can happen? You’re at the same spot as you are now when someone sends you a rejection letter. Send out multiple submissions. Make sure you send queries to the right people at the right agencies. Just make sure you do it.

    Two men were hiking through Northern British Columbia. A bear approached from behind looking ready to attack as it eased ever closer. The one man dropped to the ground and yanked off his backpack. He reached in and retrieved a new pair of running shoes. The other man who was still standing asked,

    “What are you doing? Come on let’s go. What do you think, you can outrun a bear?”

    “Nope. I just have to outrun you.”

    That’s what I’m talking about. Send more queries than the other guy. Don’t focus on the problem. Think prosperous thoughts. Allow prosperity to find you. Get past being stuck. Don’t quit, no matter what. Promise a lot and deliver even more. Be assertive in your actions. Take action. Submit your work. Enjoy rejections because you’re one closer to a book deal.

    Enjoy rejections. Change the way you think about them. Read each and every one like it’s an honour badge. Save them all so one day when you’re a famous, published author you can go back and tell people how many you collected until you got the right agent for you. Rejections pile up, and yet, all they are is ammunition for author speeches.

    They cannot take away our self-respect if we do not give it to them. – Gandhi

    Enjoy rejection. Stand tall. Brush off your shoulders and keep moving forward. Remember that you are one rejection letter closer to a deal.

    Even Harry Potter got rejections…

    About the author

      Daryl Sedore

      Daryl Sedore has written two novels and sold over 40 short stories. He also placed 6th in the 75th Annual Writer's Digest Short Story competition with 4 other stories in the top 60. Daryl blogs about writing and other motivational subjects.

    • Rejection letters can be extremely helpful, especially if the editor take the time to write out points of clarification.

      Instead of the rejection seeming like a disaster, it can be a good learning experience. This is what happened with one of my students. She discovered that she was off track with her submission, and more importantly, she now knew how to fix it. To me, this is a great opportunity.

    • Tarahlynn; Thanks for the comment. Happy to have inspired you. Keep writing…

    • Tarahlynn says:

      Oh this was fabulous and just what I needed today! Thank you!

    • Boris; Thanks for the comment. And yes, persistence does make a difference.

      Patrick; Great story. Thanks for adding quality advice. Always appreciate good voices with great assistance. Important stuff here.

      Melody; good luck to you on your journey. Here’s hoping you only need to go through a few queries before beginning your publishing goals.

      Silvia; Your welcome…

      DeborahB; Say hello to your writing buddies for me. Thanks.

      • Hi Daryl,

        Good ideas inspire more good ideas…commenting on your excellent, helpful article inspired me to flesh those ideas out and post the result on my own blog. =)

    • DeborahB says:

      Super pep talk here. I’m going to share it with my writing buddies.
      Thanks!

    • Silvia says:

      Thank you for such positive ideas! 🙂

    • After reading your post, I look forward to my first rejection because it means I had the courage to send a written work out into the world. I’m just getting started, and I plan to bookmark your wise words and read them often.

      Melody

    • [smile] Rejection is a good thing. I like that, turning negatives on their head. How about turning positives on their head? Using a positive event to recognise what can be done better?

      I once received an acceptance letter providing some subtle lessons in rejection as a learning experience.

      I’d submitted 11 travel stories to a publisher of travel anthologies, ordered from what I considered best to…least best. I pretty much threw in every story I thought to be well written, of some interest to a travel reader and set in the country the anthology was to feature.

      When the offer to publish one of those stories arrived I was elated, obviously. But I was a bit disturbed by the fact that the editor had chosen the ninth story, by-passing eight I thought to be significantly better written, more illuminating, and/or a better representation of the country I’d written the story about. Though I’d had one story accepted, eight “better” stories had been “rejected.”

      That didn’t stop me from cashing the cheque when it arrived! 🙂

      Later, though, I realised that the editor hadn’t rejected any stories. Instead, he’d read through each submission with enough interest and curiosity to read another, until he decided on what he thought to be the most publishable.

      A copy of the anthology arrived several months later. While reading all the stories published alongside mine, I realised how perfectly that one story of mine fit into the other stories chosen by the editor, how much better it was for the publication than all the others.

      What are the lessons about rejection here?

      First: A rejection letter doesn’t necessarily mean your story isn’t any good. It may just mean the editor feels it’s not right for the publication. (Don’t expect every editor to explain this in the letter.)

      Second: Do I recommend throwing every marginally satisfactory story you’ve got into a submission? NO! I was lazy and silly and very lucky. In retrospect, my “top 3” submissions, though excellent stories, were completely inappropriate for the publication I submitted to. Editors spend hours a day reading and if the first item in a submission is inappropriate for their publication, they may not read the rest. So, do your research. Rather than the 3 or 4 best stories you’ve written, submit the 3 or 4 stories the publisher wants. In your submission, you should be able to confidently explain to the editor why your submissions are appropriate for their publication.

      Third: After recieving a rejection letter, perform a post-mortem. This is a learning opportunity. If you can, read the story or article that was published. How was it different from yours; What made it more suitable to the publisher’s needs? This process may provide ideas for changing or editing your story so it’s more publishable. You may realise you submitted the wrong story altogether — however, another you’ve already written is worth submitting. Maybe having another look at it will inspire a whole new story idea. All positive outcomes from a negative experience.

      Keep your nose to the grindstone, fingers on the keyboard and pen to paper.

    • Boris says:

      Daryl,
      Great advice! Persitence makes the difference.
      All the best,
      Boris

    • Ernie; wow, what a story. Shoe on the other foot kind of stuff with you rejecting Random House. Great success story here though. Congrats…

      Barrie; thanks for the comment. I like the “bless” every “no” because it’s so true. You do have to go through the “no” to get to the “yes!”.

    • Daryl,

      One of my favorite motivational coaches and authors, Steve Chandler, suggests that you should bless every “no” that you receive when you are looking for a yes. You have to go through the no’s to get to the yes, so every no you receive brings you closer. The law of averages requires that you eventually will get the yes. You must keep asking. You shouldn’t let a no stop you, it should encourage you forward.

      Thank you for this great post.

      Best,
      Barrie

    • Katie; Thanks for the kind words. I’m happy you got what you needed today. I think the “waiting crazies” should be be over soon. Great job on getting a request for full. Love your site, by the way.

    • Wow, this post is wonderful, and completely true. Even though I try to uphold optimism, soemtimes rejections get to me. This is just what I needed today. Thanks for the wonderful words.

    • Thanks Alyson. Glad you got a good laugh. Also happy to hear about the 4 books later part. Great job. Also glad that rejections only made you stronger. That is the kind of spirit that has those agents “popping out of the woodwork.” Congrats.

    • Failure/Rejection Is the Universe’s Way of Ensuring That Too Much Success
      Doesn’t Happen All at Once

      I first self-published my book “The Joy of Not Working” because I was quite sure no major publisher would be interested.

      Surprisingly, I still failed to get an American publisher after the book had sold 10,000 copies in Canada the first year, which is the equivalent of selling 100,000 copies in a year in the United States.

      In fact, twenty-five American publishers still rejected my Canadian bestseller. Talk about getting no respect!

      This is my favorite form rejection letter that I received from one of the publishers:

      “Dear Colleague,

      Thank you for sending us the proposal/manuscript. We regret that we are unable to use your material. As you know there are many reasons to decline a manuscript, so please do not consider this to be a judgment on the
      value of the work. We just don’t see this particular piece fitting into our list at this time.

      We wish we could respond to each proposal with a personal note, but the heavy volume of submissions we receive makes it impossible to do so. Please be assured that your proposal was given careful and thoughtful consideration.

      Thank you for your interest in Ten Speed Press.

      Sincerely,

      The Editors”

      As you can see, the publisher that sent me the above letter was none other than Ten Speed Press, which eventually published the book in 1997, which it agreed to undertake five years after it rejected the book, because by that time the book had sold 50,000 copies in Canada.

      This gets even better. Shortly after I completed my book “How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free”, I sent the manuscript to twenty-five American publishers and ten British publishers. I thought that I would have no problem getting a publisher, given the success that “The Joy of Not Working” had achieved by that time.

      I was wrong. No respect again! Even Ten Speed Press turned me down. I decided to self-publish after Ten Speed Press agreed to distribute the book for me in the United States.

      Today I am glad that Ten Speed Press rejected “How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free.” I made a lot more money by self-pubishing.

      One last note: When Random House bought Ten Speed Press a little a year ago, they immediately cancelled the distribution Agreement I had with Ten Speed Press, but they wanted to take over the publication of “How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free” in a normal publisher/author relationship.

      Despite the fact many people would love to have a book published a major publisher such as Random House, I had the pleasure of rejecting Random House.

      I immediately got National Book Network to distribute “How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free” for me and it has been selling about 30 percent more copies per month than it was selling in the last eight months it was with Ten Speed Press.

      Moral of the Story: Rejection Can Pay Off Big Time!

      Ernie J. Zelinski
      The Creativity Guy Too Prosperous to Do Mornings
      Author of the Bestseller “How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free”
      (Over 120,000 copies sold and published in 9 languages)
      and the International Bestseller “The Joy of Not Working”
      (Over 240,000 copies sold and published in 17 languages)

      http://www.retirement-cafe.com
      http://www.retirement-quotes.com
      http://www.thejoyofbeingretired.com

    • Joe; A lot of what I learned in sales I take to the writing industry I’m attempting to break into. Thanks for the kind words.

      Tawna; Love your “2 query” idea. Smart thinking from an agented author. Much respect.

      Marci; You are correct about depression. It is so important for people to make a decision to be happy. Decide to be positive and act on it. Someone once said, “How many times would you go to a bad movie? Would you go hundreds of times? Then why do we reply bad experiences in our heads, hundreds of times-replaying our movies?” People need to act and be positive and not allow outside stimuli to alter their course.

      Lauren; It was almost 20 years ago when I was running door to door, but I remember all of it. I was so energized, so excited. That was the kind of attitude that swept me up and got me more of the “yes” answer when closing a sale.

      Thanks for the comments,

      Daryl

    • Alyson says:

      Daryl, Thanks for the insights. I needed a good laugh. Amazingly enough, rejections made me a stronger writer. I questioned my characters more and picked apart plots thoroughly. Now… four books later (not kidding here) I have agents popping out of the woodwork. Crazy, eh?

      Good luck in your agent hunt. I hope the next one is “the” one!

    • Daryl, I loved your story about selling and running door to door anticipating the one that would welcome you in. That’s pretty powerful and a great illustration of looking on the bright side of things. The most important thing is having faith in yourself and your work. If you are proud of what you produce and know what you are capable of, then someone else will too. So keep the faith! Great post.

    • Marci says:

      Daryl,

      Nice post. Perception and thoughs are so important. If you don’t see rejection as a threat, it’s not a threat.

      I know I’m leaping from your topic, but this is where my mind goes. I think this is one of the underlying roots of depression – thinking that others’ opionions mean there is something wrong with you. Not so. Differences do not mean one is better or worse, just different.

      Marci

    • This is excellent advice!

      Back before I found my amazing agent or landed my wonderful book deal, I used to respond to every agent rejection by sending out two new queries (er, not to the same agent…different ones, of course!) It always made me feel like I had plenty of irons in the fire and I was getting that much closer to finding the perfect agent.

      And I did 🙂

      Thanks for the terrific blog post!

      Tawna

    • Very nice post. I blog occasionally, but my main job right now is in sales, and you could not be more correct in the theory that your success in sales (or anything really) depends on the ability to brush off rejection.

      Good looking blog as well, Daryl. I will be reading.

    • Megan; Congratulations on getting so close to being ready. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right, so make sure you take the time to submit and show off that talent of yours. Good luck!

      Gary; thanks for adding how important a book submission is. This isn’t about getting rejections and being happy. This is about submitting your work in a well researched and professional manner. Then, and only then, if rejections come in, get excited. Your work is in front of the right people at that point. A request for a sample or partial is closer than ever…

      Mary; Thanks for the followup comment. I appreciate the post.

      Bamboo Forest; Thank you for the comment and the follow.

      Daryl

    • This article is so well written. Wonderful read. Thank you.

    • I agree with this post but would urge writers to look closely at their initial pitch. A book submission is far more that just a synopsis and extract and many writers fail to see the importance of the cover letter. This first document needs to SELL the book. It needs to clearly identify the book’s readership, target market and genre. A writer needs to give the agent/publisher everything they need to keep reading….

      • I agree with you, Gary. The cover letter is super important. Just like the email that pitches guest posts to a blogger. I think it’s in the cover letter that a book is sold, or a guest post accepted.

    • This rocks. I’m in the final draft (hopefully!) of my book and I’m really scared/excited to get to the Q letter. Because it will mean that I’VE FINISHED my book and I think it’s ready. This is huge for me. I’m loving every step, because I am IN THE GAME. Thanks for the encouragement!


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