Tina Wainscott

On Rejection

Most writers, even the most successful, can tell you how many rejections they got before they sold—and even after they sold. It’s painful, it’s humbling, and if we’re lucky, it’s enlightening. Instead of crushing your resolve, each rejection should make you more determined to conquer.

At a booksigning recently, a writer asked me for advice on how to keep from getting discouraged when rejections came in. I gave her some advice off the top of my head, and then thought: wouldn’t it be fun to get advice from authors who have weathered rejections and made it anyway. So here follows some nuggets of wisdom and just some fun advice!

You have to receive a certain number of rejections before you sell that first book. You won’t know this number until you sell. So think of those rejection letters this way: Each one takes you closer to that magic number. Can you afford to quit when you could be one rejection away from selling?

Tina Wainscott

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It may not seem like it at the time, but rejection can be a blessing in disguise. Fifteen years ago I had a fantastic idea for a story, which was rejected by a lot of publishers. Last year, after my paranormal romantic suspense, Killing Moon, was accepted as one of Berkley’s launch books for their new romance program, they asked me to turn in other ideas. I went back to that proposal that was rejected and rethought it. I’m a better writer now. And my ideas have matured. My editor accepted the proposal.

If a proposal is rejected, it may be something that you’re not yet ready to write. Put it away and let it simmer on the back burner of your mind. When you revisit it, you may find you can do a much better job with the book than you ever could have when you first tried.

Rebecca York/Ruth Glick, KILLING MOON, Berkley, Jun 03

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Well, keeping in mind that I’m a writer who has made a career out of publishing books I was told would never sell (LOL), I’ve had a lot of experience with rejection :) In fact, after I sold 6 books, I received the stellar rejection of “No one at this house will ever be interested in developing this author. Do not send her work to us again.”

The main mantra that got me through it was…

The only guarantee you have in this business is if you don’t send it out, they can’t buy it.

A couple of others I’ve used are:
Time heals all wounds, but only a good bonfire and a pint of Chunky Monkey heals a rejection letter.

You can’t succeed until you try.

We all crawl before we fly.

Kinley MacGregor, BORN IN SIN, Avon; also writing as Sherrilyn Kenyon, NIGHT PLEASURES, St. Martin’s Press

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When I get rejected, I head straight to Chili’s for a Molten dessert. It’s chocolate times ten, with ice cream. Then I go home, high on the caffeine and sugar, and write brilliant ideas for new projects, some of which actually make sense the morning after.

Haywood Smith, THE QUEEN BEE OF MIMOSA BRANCH, St. Martin’s Press

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Rejection never really bothered me because I was previously hardened by the art world, where public critique resembles a chum feeding at the shark tank and a really scathing dissection of your work can actually earn applause. Frankly, I was touched by how all the publishing professionals were careful to be so polite and constructive.

I always remained aware that my writing was a work in progress and that I had a long way to go. I was flattered to have been taken as seriously as I was.

Once you’ve polished your work to a professional level (and why bother submitting before then?) you find that rejection or acceptance is really a matter of timing. Emotionally, it removes the issue from being a judgment to more of a lottery situation. The right manuscript across the right desk at the right moment–what are the odds? The only way to add an element of control is to be persistent beyond all boundaries of sanity.

Celeste Bradley, THE PRETENDER, June 2003, St. Martin’s Press

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Don’t take “no” for an answer. Never, ever give up. It took me four novels, and thirteen years before I finally got a “yes.”

Carole Bellacera, UNDERSTUDY, St. Martin’s Press

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To take the sting out of receiving a rejection before I was published, I would always make sure I had multiple things out at the same time. Of course that didn’t help when I got five rejections on the same day. Ouch! I’d try to remind myself that it wasn’t me they were rejecting, it was this work at this specific time for reasons that may or may not have anything to do with the writing itself. I don’t allow myself to grieve more than one day. I move on to the next thing. I have very thin skin, so it’s always surprised me how well I handle rejection—maybe it was the practice . I don’t throw things away either. I’ve sold several projects that sat gathering dust for years.

Sylvie Kurtz, UNDRR LOCK AND KEY, Harlequin Intrigue, May 2003

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The first time I got a major rejection, I spent days going through a grief process – stages of denial, despair, acceptance, etc. Now, when I get a rejection, I still feel the pain just as keenly, but over time I’ve learned to process it faster – sometimes as quickly as a minute or less. Of course, sometimes I think I’ve processed it, only to find my thoughts returning to it when I least expect it. When all is said and done, I don’t think rejection ever gets easier – you never submit a piece of work expecting it to get rejected, so it always comes as a blow – but experience has made me a lot tougher and better at handling it.

Toni Blake, MAD ABOUT MINDY … AND MANDY, Harlequin Duets, April 2003

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Back when I mailed off my first few manuscripts, I immediately addressed a mailer to the next publisher on my list, hedging my bets. (I didn’t have an agent for my first half-dozen books—this was in the very early 80s.) I got lucky and wasted a few mailers, but I always felt better having that bit of insurance.

Dixie Browning, UNDERTOW Silhouette single title, July 2003

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After one particularly scathing rejection, I channeled all of my infantile anger into an essay about the whole ridiculous cycle of query letters and rejection.