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AAS Q&A 4This month, I asked the All about Submissions team the following questions: How do you cope with rejections? What do you do with the rejection letters – even if they are just form letters? I shared some of our answers yesterday in Part One. Here are the remaining answers plus links to some excellent posts. Please feel free to comment and share your tips for coping with rejections. And remember, if you have questions you would like answered, either ask it in the comment section or contact me by clicking the “contact” button at the top of this page.

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Teresa Robeson, author and artist

teresarobeson.com

Rejections used to get me into a deep funk. I think that’s partly why I gave up writing for a while in the 2000s (that, combined with the stress of homeschooling two young kids during that period). I had some wonderfully encouraging, personalized rejections among the form ones, but it was still so depressing.

I think that, with age, I have grown a thicker skin and now rejections don’t bother me as much. They still do, but they don’t define my self-worth. Also, I’ve gotten fan letters and compliments (from readers and editors) on my published works, and that really helps to sustain me when I receive a rejection.

Because I’m semi-organized (more hypothetically than in practice), I save all my rejection letters in files, either real or virtual. I occasionally, like once every seven years, pull out the encouraging ones to look at, but I don’t do anything with them otherwise. No need to re-live the angst of the form rejections, and I hold the good ones in my heart anyway.

As much as rejections pain me, in today’s world of “we’ll reply only if interested,” I would rather receive a form rejection than no rejection at all!

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Sophia Mallonée, Children’s Writer

www.sophiamallonee.com

Rejections suck. Yeah, your skin might grow a little thicker over time, but there really is no getting used to the rejection process.

For me, my coping mechanisms vary from rejection to rejection. The best rejections are the personalized ones. With those, I like to pick apart the letter and try to view my manuscript the way the agent or editor did. Can I utilize their advice? I’ll pour over my manuscript and try to find any weak links that I might be able to strengthen. I take these rejections as learning experiences. Yes, it still sucks to be rejected. But at least in these cases (most often) I’ve received a little bit of knowledge as a consolation prize.

It’s the form rejections that are the worst. It’s more difficult to take away a great lesson when you receive an “It’s wonderful…but just not for me” type of letter. That always stings. It’s like a breakup where you’re never able to say how you felt in the end, and the closure is never had. Why? Just give me something. If it’s so wonderful, then why is it not for you? It took me a while to let go of those rejections. But I get it. I know that a manuscript can be good and still not connect with you – I read stories like that all of the time – for no particular reason. I understand that to respond to every single query/submission would be a ridiculous waste of time. But still, just because I understand the rejection process, doesn’t mean I have to like it. I definitely allow myself to have a mini pity-party, followed by a phone call or lunch with my critique buddies, where we all commiserate. After that, I’ll write something new. Nothing makes me feel more accomplished and happy than diving into a new story.

I like to keep my rejection letters. I keep all of my electronic rejection letters filed away (even if they’re form) in my email. That way, if I query or submit to the same agent/editor again in the future, I can reference back to any correspondence we might have had in the past.

I don’t, however, keep any paper rejections unless they’re personalized and mailed to me. I don’t have the time or space for extra paperwork.

I’ll mention that I also have a running “Submission Tracking” spreadsheet that I maintain. I track all letters received, dates and any specific notes next to the agent/editor info on this sheet. That way, even if I don’t have the letters themselves, I’m still able to reference specifics quickly.

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Cindy Williams Schrauben, Children’s Writer

Raising Book Monsters – kids who devour books and hunger for knowledge

http://www.RaisingBookMonsters.com

What do I do with form rejections? I log them (on my submission spreadsheet) and forget them. Done.

How do I cope with rejections? This question sounds very straight forward, but there are many variables. I can say, though, that my coping mechanisms have become much stronger over time and I can even say that I am grateful for them – okay, not grateful that they said NO, but grateful for the fact that they responded at all.

My first few rejections were very difficult – I, simply, didn’t know how it worked. I had written a story – a good story, so I thought – and put it out there for the world to see. Time for agents to start knocking at my door, right? Finding that others didn’t share my passion for this manuscript was, initially, really tough. I know now that it isn’t quite that easy. But I can say that I ALWAYS read a rejection like a critique, quickly the first time… let it sit… and then read it again later with less emotion and more objectivity.

Call it rationalization if you like, but I cope with rejections by asking myself a couple questions:

Was this a dream agent? If the answer is no, I tell myself that this rejection is just getting me closer to the right one. If the answer is yes, well, I blubber away for a while and then I eat some ice cream.

Another determining factor is the type of rejection – they are not all created equal. Form rejections, for example just suck; that’s all there is to it. There is nothing to learn from them other than perseverance and a tough skin. One way to help is to go to Literary Rejections and read about all the hugely successful authors who have been rejected hundreds of times.  Their tagline is: “helping writers persevere through rejection.” Their web and Facebook sites both offer commiseration and inspiration.

Personalized rejections are a different story entirely. I recently received one from an agent that included real reasons for rejecting my work. It wasn’t a copy/paste response like: “I wasn’t in love” blah, blah, blah, or “not a good fit” blah, blah, blah, but offered some constructive criticism.  I treat these rejections like gold. They are, in fact, critiques from someone who truly knows the business. Sure, it is just another opinion, but an informed one to say the least.

My final piece of advice/rationalization is to tell myself that I want an agent who LOVES my work. Period. If they don’t… well, they aren’t right for me.

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Sylvia Liu, Writer-illustrator

portfolio: www.enjoyingplanetearth.com

blog: www.sylvialiuland.com

Sylvia Liu is a winner of the Lee & Low New Voices Award. http://blog.leeandlow.com/2014/01/15/announcing-our-2013-new-voices-award-winner/

I am very practical and dispassionate about rejections. I figure it’s a numbers game and I will need to rack up many rejections before I find the right fit. I also look on the bright side. If I get deafening silence, I can imagine that the agent or publisher is still pondering the story. If I get a form letter, I get closure. If I get a quick rejection, I’m happy to move on. If I get personalized feedback, I am thrilled to improve my story and am buoyed by the prospect that it is one step further out of the slush pile.

The hardest rejections are after an agent has requested more work and they end up passing on my work. It’s hard not take that personally, but it does spur me to keep strengthening all my pieces.

I keep all my rejections. In the olden days, I’d get photocopies of form letters that I still have in an accordion file. Nowadays, I keep an “Agent Correspondence” file in my emails. My favorite rejection was one where my husband and I submitted a piece he wrote and I illustrated about six years ago. The rejection was addressed to him, but the line, “Tell Ms. Liu her illustrations are brilliant,” still sustains me today.

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Alayne Kay Christian, Award Winning Children’s Author

Butterfly Kisses for Grandma and Grandpa

Represented by Erzsi Deak, Hen&ink Literary Studio

Before I share this month’s links, I want to make one point. Many of the All about Submissions team members mentioned developing tough or thick skin. First I want to say that a form letter rejection, a kind/helpful rejection, or the emptiness of no response from a manuscript submission can all be perceived as criticism. I believe one excellent way to develop thick skin and practice coping with criticism is to join a critique group. But here’s the thing about critique groups, a critique partner who is afraid of hurting someone’s feelings and therefore is not as honest as they can be about their crit partners’ manuscripts is doing a disservice to their fellow writers. Be honest. Tell what you see, think, feel. Critiques are like dress rehearsals for rejections. The author of the manuscript can decide if they agree with you or not. Of course, you want to give positive feedback as well. Ask your critique partners to help you out by honestly telling it as they see it.

Links:

From Jessica P. Morrell

Three posts (all appear on the same page – if you click on any one of the three links below, you will access the page):

What Editor’s Notice

Top Eleven Reasons Why a Manuscript is Rejected

Tips for staying out of the rejection pile

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From OneWildWorld.com:  SIX GUIDELINES FOR TURNING REJECTION INTO SUCCESS by Carol Despeaux

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From Distractify: 10 PAINFUL REJECTION LETTERS TO FAMOUS PEOPLE PROVING YOU SHOULD NEVER GIVE UP YOUR DREAMS by Averi Clements

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From Kristin Lamb’s blog: HOW TO TAKE CRITICISM LIKE A PRO by J.E. Fishman

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From MORE online magazine: KATHRYN STOCKETT’S “THE HELP” TURNED DOWN 60 TIMES BEFORE BECOMING A BEST SELLER

by Kathryn Stockett

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TOP 10 FAMOUS BOOKS THAT WERE ORIGINALLY REJECTED

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From Schuler Books Weblog: 30 FAMOUS AUTHORS WHOSE WORKS WERE REJECTED, by Michelle Kerns

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Romelle Broas shares a humorous post, REJECTION LETTERS FROM A POSITIVE PERSPECTIVE

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Tidbits from Alayne

Two responses to rejections that I see in the writing community that I enjoy are as follows:

Onword and upword! (spelling intentional)

Now I’m one step closer to publication (variations: signing with an agent, a book contract)

A list of all the ALL ABOUT SUBMISSIONS posts.

 

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AAS Q&A 4DO YOU HAVE A QUESTION ABOUT SUBMISSIONS THAT YOU WOULD LIKE ANSWERED? ASK YOUR QUESTION IN A COMMENT.

Before I get started today, I want to thank the ALL ABOUT SUBMISSIONS Q & A team for their great answers to this month’s question.

When I first got the idea for this series, I asked children’s book writers what questions they would like answered regarding manuscript submissions. Several people asked similar questions about agents and editors. I decided to share all the questions with the team, as I believed it would offer them more brainstorming power. I think if I were to combine all the questions asked, they would lead to two basic questions.

1) How do you manage your agent/editor searches, information gathering, and so on?

2) How do you determine who you sub to?

Here are the questions as asked:

  • How to narrow down your “where to submit” list?
  • I find researching agents and editors overwhelming. Where is the best place to start?
  • How do I know if I am really targeting my manuscript to the right publisher? I know that we are supposed to study publisher’s websites, market guides, read other books published by them in the same genre, etc., but how do I “really” know if mine is right for their list? Are there any tips or tricks that help you to narrow down potential publishers? Are there any “tried and true” methods used by those of you who are published? I don’t know about anyone else, but I tend to feel somewhat overwhelmed when I peruse those market guides.

Once again, the team came through with excellent answers. And once again, they have offered so much information that I will do two posts. Click here for RESEARCHING AGENTS AND EDITORS: HOW TO YOU DETERMINE WHO TO SUBMIT TO? PART ONE

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Sylvia Liu, Writer-illustrator

portfolio: www.enjoyingplanetearth.com

blog: www.sylvialiuland.com

Sylvia Liu is a winner of the Lee & Low New Voices Award. http://blog.leeandlow.com/2014/01/15/announcing-our-2013-new-voices-award-winner/

Here’s how I research and query agencies:

(1) Overall Strategy: Small Batches. The best advice on querying agents is to do so in small batches (4-6) at a time, and include both your top and lesser choices in each batch. That way you can get feedback (or silence, which is a form of feedback), and adjust your query. If you blast out a query that is not working to 50 agents, and they all decline to ask for more, you are out of luck. If you get rejected on your first round of 4-6 submissions, you will still have other top choice agents to send a revised query to.

(2) Initial research. I start researching agencies using Literary Rambles, which has a comprehensive list of children’s agents with detailed interviews of their likes and dislikes and links to other interviews. I also check out lists like the top 25 children’s agents by sales and the many lists on Kidlit411’s agent page.

(3) Excel spreadsheet. I create an Excel spreadsheet with agents I’m interested in, listing their name, website, submission process, and any specific interests relevant to my work. I color coordinate the entries by highlighting my favorite ones in one color and my second choice in another.

(4) More research on top choices. For my top choice agents, I do more research. Their websites usually list their clients. I’ll check out as many books of their clients as I can find and read them (for picture books, it’s easy to read; for middle grade books, I skim or read the first few chapters). This is a good way to see if my work would fit in with the agent’s tastes and to get good personalized information for the query letter.

(5) Send out in small batches and keep track of responses in Excel. I send my query (for picture books, that often includes the story pasted in the email text) to 4 to 6 agents, including 2 to 3 of my top choices, and 2 to 4 of my second choices. I use a spreadsheet to keep track of the date I sent a story, what I sent, and the usual response time (some agents will tell you that if you haven’t heard within x weeks, consider it a rejection).

When I get a rejection, I highlight that entry gray, so I can tell at a glance which submissions are still active. If I get requests for more material, they get a yellow highlight. When I followed this approach last year, I got two requests to see more work, which did not lead to representation. I highlighted those entries in light purple (to remind myself I’m making progress). My 2013 Excel spreadsheet had a lot of lines of gray (rejection) and white (no response), 2 lines of purple, and one bright yellow (my contest win – I also keep track on my spreadsheet all my contest entries).

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Sophia Mallonée, Children’s Writer

www.sophiamallonee.com

Unfortunately, I don’t think there are any special tricks to narrowing down your submission list. The only tried and true method to finding the right agent or publisher is through research. Lots and lots of research.

The thing is, as much as you might not want to hear this, all of that painful time spent researching, is actually really good for you. Think about it. If you find an agent, that person doesn’t simply help you sell your work, they become a partner, working with you to help you mold your career. Speaking not only as a writer, but as an ex-agent (in the photography industry), your relationship with your agent should be just that, a relationship. This is a person who has to not only believe in your work, they also have to share your vision and passion for it too. You don’t want to just sign with anyone, you want to sign with the one.

You need to research, you need to sift through lists and websites and message boards and everything else you can possibly find. Then once you’ve done all that, you can start the courting process. It might be quick and heated, or it might be long and drawn out. But in any case, it is the way it is and the way it should be. None of this is something that can be rushed. This is your career and there are no shortcuts when it comes to building a strong foundation.

As for finding publishers to submit to, the same holds true. Read blogs, read books both in stores and libraries, Google publishers, go to conferences, listen to what editors have to say and in other words, research. This isn’t a race to see who gets published first, this is your passion and your work. Work. It’s not always easy – if it was, everyone would be doing it.

If you believe in what you do, then let your belief be your fuel. You will power through it and eventually, you will find the place that you were always meant to be. Good luck!

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Julie Falatko, Author of SNAPPSY THE ALLIGATOR (DID NOT ASK TO BE IN THIS BOOK) (Viking Children’s, 2015)

Represented by Danielle Smith, Foreword Literary

http://worldofjulie.com/

I found the best way to find agents who would be a good fit was to read a lot of picture books. When I read books that I loved, or that were a little bit like mine, I’d dig around and figure out who the author’s agent is. A few agent names kept coming up again and again, so I moved them to the top of my spreadsheet. I then researched those agents like I was cramming for finals. I wanted to know everything I could. What books do they like? What are they like on Twitter, if they’re on there? Do they seem passionate about books in interviews, or snooty and snarky? And: are they still open to submissions? Are they still accepting picture books? Submission guidelines change, and the biggest best thing you can do is to read them and follow them exactly.

I read advice that said you should simultaneously query huge batches of (well-researched) agents at a time, but I could never get my head around this. Maybe because what I write is kind of oddball, and so it didn’t seem like there were that many agents who might dig my style. Instead I went for a super-focused, very personalized querying approach. It was maybe more nerve-wracking, because I felt like I was narrowing my options, but I think it’s what helped me get an agent. I wasn’t wasting anyone’s time. (I ended up querying eleven agents total.)

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Kirsti Call, Children’s Author of  THE RAINDROP WHO COULDN’T FALL!

http://www.characterpublishing.org/store/index.php?route=product/product&path=82&product_id=60

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ILoU8KRTjRM&feature=youtu.be

www.kirsticall.com

Here are 3 things that help me decide where to submit:

1. I go to the library or bookstore and read!  When I find picture books that I like, I take note of who the publisher is. Then think about which of my manuscripts would be a good fit for that publisher.

2. I search Book Markets for Children’s Writers 20142014 Children’s Writer’s & Illustrators Market and SCBWI’s The Book.  I mark each publisher that fits with the name of the manuscript I want to submit.

3. I network.  People in the 12×12 community or Children’s Book Creatives share what they’ve learned about publishers and then I have a better idea of whether they are a good fit for me and my story. I was lucky with my debut picture book, The Raindrop Who Couldn’t Fall.  A friend in my critique group was published by Character Publishing, so I submitted to them.

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Alayne Kay Christian, Award Winning Children’s Author

Butterfly Kisses for Grandma and Grandpa

Represented by Erzsi Deak, Hen&ink Literary Studio

Between today’s answers and those posted yesterday, I believe the team has done a thorough job of answering the question. Therefore, I have decided to share some links that fit well with this topic. First, I want to mention that Elaine Kiely Kearns, Children’s Writer http://www.kidlit411.com/ will be our guest blogger on March 15. Her blog will be a bonus post for this topic. Not only will she give her tips for researching agents and editors, she will be giving some other tips for agent submissions, including bringing your manuscripts to conferences and sending conference submissions.

RESEARCHING AGENTS PART ONE

Alayne’s Links for HOW DO YOU DETERMINE WHO TO SUBMIT TO? Part Two

Before I give you links to resources, I want to offer some links to a couple Facebook Groups that relate to submissions and agents and editors.

Agent/Editor Discussion This board is for picture book authors. We discuss agents/editors, sending manuscripts, cover letters and queries. We support the successes and celebrate the rejections (that means we are one step closer to a yes). It is a closed group, but you can ask to join on the page.

Sub Six The Sub Six picture book support group’s focus is supporting each other as we work toward our submission goals.

Hot off the press. SO YOU WANT TO GET AN AGENT, by Romelle Broas

http://romellebroas.blogspot.com/2014/02/so-you-want-to-get-agent.html

From PUB[LISHING] CRAWL: RESEARCHING AGENTS by Susan Dennard; INDUSTRY LIFE

http://www.publishingcrawl.com/2013/09/06/researching-literary-agents/

4 THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN RESEARCHING LITERARY AGENTS, from Writers Digest and Brian Klems’ The Writer’s Dig.

http://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/4-things-to-consider-when-researching-literary-agents

HOW TO RESEARCH LITERARY AGENTS, By Noah Lukeman from WRITERS STORE

http://www.writersstore.com/how-to-research-literary-agents

ALL OTHER “ALL ABOUT SUBMISSIONS” POSTS

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One day, after a discussion with my friend about manuscript rejections, she said to me, “We are just going to have to keep writing until we get it right.”

Part of me agreed with her until I woke the next morning thinking, Who says we don’t already have it right?

My daughter loves beets and I hate them. Which one of us is right? Or is the beet wrong for tasting the way it tastes? Sometimes, manuscript rejections might merely be an indication that we have not found the right match for our work – the person who will love our beets. Of course, this thought process doesn’t mean that I won’t keep trying to improve my craft. However, it does mean that I have decided not to let other people’s personal tastes make me doubt that I have it right. There are plenty of famous, extremely successful writers who were rejected numerous times before they found the right beet-eater.

I might not like beets, but I love black jellybeans. As far as other jellybeans go, red ones are okay, and green ones? Yuck! It is all a matter of taste for me. I think I would even reject the green ones if I were starving. I could take or leave the red ones. But I cannot resist a black jellybean.  I had to taste a lot of jellybeans before I could determine which flavor I like. I had to taste beets before I could learn that I hate them. Who knows what writing flavor an agent or editor will love without first offering them a taste? Yes, we can do our best to research what they like. But sometimes, it is a matter of building a relationship and learning their literary tastes.

Image

In the above image, there are very few black jellybeans.

Like an agent with manuscripts, I would have to reject a lot of colorful jellybeans to get to the flavor I like.

I have a friend who signed with an agent earlier this year. That same agent also rejected my friend’s first manuscript submission, and then another and another and another. My friend kept submitting manuscripts to this agent until she found the story that the agent could not resist. That story must have been a flavor the agent loves. Now, my friend is trying to rewrite the first rejected story to see if she can change the flavor enough to get her agent to take a bite.

I hope if you ever find yourself feeling dejected over a rejection that you will take any critique comments into consideration, but also keep in mind that sometimes rejections are nothing more than a matter of taste. Even the picture book/literary genius, Jane Yolen, gets manuscript rejections. This week, she shared on Facebook that she received a rejection from one of her favorite editors, and she will continue looking for the RIGHT editor for that particular book. To me, the RIGHT editor will be the one that loves the flavor of Ms. Yolen’s book.

OTHER POSTS YOU MIGHT LIKE

TWELVE METHODS FOR COPING WITH REJECTIONS

WE’RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER: REJECTION POST #1

WE’RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER: REJECTION POST #2

ROMELLE BROAS – REJECTION LETTERS FROM A POSITIVE PERSPECTIVE

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My friend Marcie Flinchum Atkins has started a blog series for writers titled WE ARE  ALL IN THIS TOGETHER. Each week, Marcie’s blog will feature a different topic, and her writer friends will share their thoughts on the subject. This week’s topic is REJECTION. Marcie has shared some of my thoughts on her blog. I decided I would have a little more fun by offering additional thoughts on my blog. Following are twelve ideas on how one might cope with receiving a rejection letter. I want to warn you in advance that some are tongue-in-cheek fun and others are a little more serious.

1. Scream, cry, and swear. Wad the rejection letter into a ball, throw it at things and stomp on it. When you are done, if you still don’t feel better, consider using it for toilet paper 🙂

2. Print out a photo of the agent or editor who sent the rejection. Draw a mustache, beard, bushy eyebrows, and scars on his/her face. If she/he is smiling, black out some of her/his teeth. If you still don’t feel better, try drawing a target on the photo and throwing darts at it.

Now that I have had a little fun at the expense of agents and editors, I have to say that their jobs are also difficult. They must weed through tons of submissions and make tough decisions. Yet, many of them are kind enough to let us down easy and sometimes even offer helpful suggestions. They are instrumental in forcing us to grow as writers, so I can’t beat them up too much in the name of fun.

3. Grow more bitter with each rejection until you hate anyone who gets an agent or a contract. Really, really hate the writers who are so successful that it seems they have a new contract every time you turn around. Really, really, really hate the ones who have books going into their third printing and are being published in twenty different languages. Hate until you are so green with envy that you are mistaken for an alien. Hate until you can’t stand yourself.

4. Tell yourself that you have no business writing. Tell yourself that you are worthless when it comes to writing. Tell yourself, “What’s the use in trying. I’ll never get anywhere. I give up.” Then stop writing.

5. Once you give up on writing, spend the time you used to spend on writing and submitting by sleeping, staring at the television (on or off) drinking wine and/or eating the most unhealthy foods you can think of. Of course, there is always the old standby . . . eating ice cream straight from the carton.

6. Journal about your feelings or vent to a friend, then get back on that writing horse and write.

7. Meditate or pray until you are at peace, then get back on that writing horse and write.

8. Write a poem or prayer of release, then read it aloud as you burn the rejection letter (or something that represents the rejection). Let it go, and get back on that writing horse and write.

9. Collect rejections as badges of honor. They honor your hard work and dedication, your resilience and your courage. If a writer plays it safe and never submits, a writer cannot possibly get published. Each rejection is proof that you are one step closer to publication. Remember, there are no publishing ninjas sneaking into writers’ homes in search for the perfect story.

10. Keep all your rejection letters in a nice box with a ribbon or some other place that makes them feel like treasured memories. When you get published, you can encourage other writers by sharing how many rejections you received before your first book was published.

11. No matter how many rejections you get, love every person you know who gets an agent or contract. Really, really love the ones that are so successful that it seems they have a new contract every time you turn around. Really, really, really love the ones who have books going into their third printing and are being published in twenty different languages. Love until your heart is so full of joy that you are viewed as a happy and successful writer. Love until you are so encouraged and inspired by these published writers that you believe it can happen for you.

12. Change your perspective. As weights are important to the body builder’s growth, rejections are important to the writer’s growth. With the right perspective, rejections can build your writing muscles and thicken your skin. You can become stronger. And as you become stronger, you will find that each rejection can energize you and push you to work even harder. You have a choice. You can prove those who have rejected your work to be right, or you can prove them wrong. The only way to prove them wrong is to get back on that writing horse and keep writing until you have reached your destination.

PLEASE SHARE YOUR EXPERIENCES

1. What funny things do you do in response to rejections?

2. What self-defeating things do you do in response to rejections?

3. What positive, strength building methods do you have for coping with rejections?

I plan to offer more posts about rejection and perspective. Today I will leave you with the thought that there are many reasons manuscripts get rejected. A lot of them might have to do with personal tastes, requirements, and sometimes even the mood the editor is in. However, sometimes rejections are based on things that the writer can change or improve. Here are a few links that discuss reasons for rejections and one blog post about looking at rejections from a positive perspective.

Marcie’s WE ARE  ALL IN THIS TOGETHER

Jessica P. Morrell’s 25 Reasons Why Manuscripts Get Rejected

Susie Yakowicz, Writing for Kids: 10 Reasons Manuscripts Get Rejected

Romelle Broas, Rejection Letters – From a Positive Perspective

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