To write is to deal with rejection in one form of another, but dealing with rejection as a writer is never easy. Submitting work to publications that practice editorial discretion comes with many benefits, but you are the one who has to get better at letting the inevitable rejection and criticism roll of your back in order to continue pursuing your writing and getting it before the widest audience possible. Author Ammar Habib is here today to offer his thoughts on dealing with rejection letters.
This year I will be covering formatting mistakes, publishing goals, doing a print run, knowing comp titles, and blogging a book. Feel free to explore Word Bank’s archive of publishing posts. In particular, you might find 5 Reasons to Crowdfund Your Next Book of interest.
Official Bio: Ammar Habib is an award winning & bestselling author who presently resides in his hometown of Lake Jackson, Texas. Writing has always been a passion of Ammar’s. He enjoys crafting stories that are not only entertaining, but also have something useful to say to the reader. Novels by Ammar include Dark Guardian, Dark Guardian: A New Dawn, Dark Guardian: Legends, and Memories of My Future.
Dealing with Rejection as a Writer
Those two words are something every aspiring author fears. When I first entered the industry as a young author back in January 2013, I did not fully realize how many rejections I would end up receiving over the next few years. However, after enduring over a thousand rejections between publishers, agents, and magazines, I do believe I’ve learned how to properly deal with rejection letters. And having landed an agent, published several novels, short stories, poems, and winning some awards, I have experienced some of what waits on the other side of rejection letters.
One important aspect of any author’s success is to learn how to properly view rejection letters and criticism. An improper mindset towards them can absolutely derail an aspiring author’s chances of success. At book signings and author events, I meet a lot of aspiring authors who have a ready manuscript. However, what I find is that many authors give up on publishing their book after twenty or thirty rejections. If they had a proper viewing of rejection letters, they’d be able to push through and achieve their dream of becoming a traditionally published author. I want to share some mindsets that helped me go through all those initial rejection letters as a way to help aspiring authors.
You Aren’t Being Rejected as a Person
This is the most important thing to realize. A rejection from an agent isn’t an insult to you or a metaphorical punch to the gut (although some of the more rudely written ones can feel like a cheap shot). It just means the agent doesn’t think they can make your work successful in the marketplace. A lot of times it’s just timing. It may be that the agent already has a similar project they’re trying to sell. It may be that they don’t think there’s a market for the project. Or, your project could be the perfect manuscript, but it may just not connect with the agent. You never know exactly why your work is turned down. However, it is never an insult to you as a person and is always a business decision.
This distinction is important for new writers. New writers are usually nervous about getting responses to their work because they haven’t built up their writing self-image yet. This means they are at more risk than a seasoned author of taking criticism to heart. I took rejections pretty hard when I was new, so I completely understand what it feels like. However, sometimes you just have to be stubborn enough to get through them.
Another important note is that just become one or two or fifty agents don’t think your book will sell, that doesn’t mean it won’t. Just think of Stephen King’s novel, Carrie. Countless agents didn’t give him the time of day before he finally managed to get the book published. Just imagine how many of them were kicking themselves after the book became a national sensation.
Everyone—Yes, EVERYONE—Goes Through Rejections
We’ve all heard the famous stories. Dr. Seuss was rejected by countless publishers. JK Rowling couldn’t get the attention of any publisher for Harry Potter when she first wrote it. Andy Weir went through well over a hundred rejections before deciding to self-publish The Martian.
However, the train doesn’t end there. Even after an author becomes successful, they still don’t get their work accepted everywhere they go. One of my friends, a NYT bestselling author due to a famous series he writes, mentioned something to me recently. He wrote an original novel a couple of years ago. For the past year or two, his agent has been unable to get any publisher to bite on it, so the author is now considering the self-publishing route for this particular work.
The point is that rejections are just a part of the trade. No matter how successful an author is, they’ll still have to deal with rejections. The quicker an author can accept that and learn not to take them personally, the quicker they can get over that mental hurdle and the more attention they can pay to the actual craft of writing.
No two authors have the same road to success; some rise up quicker than others. However, that is what makes this craft so unique and fun! Always remember: failure and success are not opposites. Instead, success often waits on the other side of failure. The only way to truly fail in this industry is to quit. As long as an author is willing to submit their work to one more agent, the hope of success will always burn bright!
What tips can you add for dealing with rejection as a writer?
You can connect with Ammar Habib on his author website as well as explore his books on Amazon.
Images courtesy of Amar Habib. Please share responsibly, Jeri Walker 2018.
Whenever I read about authors who are rejected, the first thing I think of is how some of the wotld’s most brilliant authors have been repeatedly rejected. Ammar mentions a few in his article. How would you like to be the genius who rejected Dr. Suess?
I’m sure everyone who rejected Dr. Suess spent a long time kicking themselves for that decision 🙂 I’m glad you liked the post!
It’s definitely not personal.
This business is all about timing. Some writers give up before their time arrives.
Very true, Alex! Timing is everything!
Writing is such a personal thing.. it is hard not to take it personally!. No matter the genre, I guess each puts a lot of himself as he writes.
However there are many “curious stories” (to say the least) involving great writers who have been rejected until some publisher finally decided to give their manuscripts a try. I am now thining of Gabriel García Márquez, colombian writer and Nobel Prize. His most famous novel “100 years of Solitude” is an example of repeated rejection … and subsequent absolute success. So I guess authors should keep on trying, always …
Great guest post. Thank you Ammar & Jeri. Love & best wishes 🙂
Thank you very much! I’m glad you liked the post! Gabriel is a great example of consistent efforts and commitment! 🙂
I love the idea of remembering what’s on the other side of rejection. It’s so hard to keep perspective while enduring criticism and rejection, but it’s an important part of the artistic endeavor. Great article!
Thank you, Meredith! I’m glad you enjoyed the article 🙂
If Dr. Seuss and JK Rowling were rejected by publishers, we don’t have to get disheartened! Determination in one pocket and perseverance in the other could steer us to our destination. Thanks for this inspiring post Jeri and Ammar!
Thank you Balroop! Determination and perseverance make all the difference 🙂
Great post, Ammar and Jeri! The advice is solid and true. Thanks for sharing.
Rejection is a tough part of being an author, that’s for sure! The insights in this guest post are great as they remind us that it’s the work being criticized not us personally… but I still get a bit deflated as the work is like my child, I’ve given birth to it and now taken it out into the world!
I’m querying a mystery (edited by Jeri!) and am prepared for at least 100 rejections. If that’s what happens, fine, if I find an agent before that, groovy. But I love the story, I think it’s fun, well written and well edited (a big deal in today’s self-publishing market). No matter what happens. I keep writing! Best of luck with the books.
John Grisham is another one–A Time To Kill was rejected 30 times. Now that doesn’t sound like a lot, but back then it was. Those agents are probably onto new careers like the others mentioned.
I’m glad to see that so many people enjoyed my guest post! Thank you again to Jeri for inviting me to write it 🙂
It’s true, hey, Ammar, like you said, an author can be both published and successful and STILL get rejections.
I’ve learned that you pretty much have to be stubbornly persistent. You get a rejection, you try again. You get another rejection, you try again, twice. And so on. Also, my philosophy has become to “side door” it. I haven’t followed a traditional path to publishing, so I’ve sniffed out the back roads and went around the gatekeepers.
Great insight on rejection. It does hurt, but it can also help us improve.
Nobody can say writers aren’t tough! Thanks for the pep talk!