In life, rejection is inevitable.
In publishing, it’s an absolute.
Over the course of querying three novels and going out on submission three separate times, I have faced over five hundred rejections. And that’s not an exaggeration. Some were very difficult to handle, like the full requests that turned to no’s or the near offers that fell apart during acquisitions.
Learning how to deal with rejection as an author is more important than ever because I believe the people that find success in writing are those that keep going, despite being told “no” many, many times.
I could have stopped after my first one hundred or the second or the third, but I wouldn’t be where I am today if I had. Thanks to a lot of practice, I have found five effective ways to deal with rejection.
1. Change your Mindset toward Rejection
I told myself early on that “no” was just another two-letter word that really meant “Not right now” or “Noble attempt” or “Not today.”
Treating each rejection as though it’s temporary (because it is) makes it easier to deal with them and continue forward. After all, a “yes” could be just around the corner.
And it is true what they say, you only need one “yes.”
My debut novel, The Perfect Marriage, was rejected by every major and mid-size publishing house. I decided to submit it directly to small publishers because I believed in it, and I knew with my ten years of social media and digital marketing experience, I could find my readership. It was published in July 2020 with a small UK publisher and has gone on to sell over 180,000 copies across formats. It hit the Publisher’s Weekly bestseller list, Amazon Charts bestseller list, and Apple Books bestseller list. The film/tv rights were optioned to Picture Perfect Federation, and it’s been translated into nearly a dozen languages.
Even after all of that, I was still getting “Not today” when I began querying another project. Over 100 agents said, “no” to my next thriller One of Us is Dead. Only one (my agent, Sandy Lu) said “yes.” The book got multiple offers on submission and sold in a very nice deal to Blackstone Publishing (out April 26th).
Were all those publishing houses or the 100+ agents wrong for saying no to me? Absolutely not. It wasn’t right for them. But the point is don’t let all the no’s stop you from finding your yes.
2. Treat Yourself
This might sound counterintuitive to treat yourself when you didn’t get the outcome you were looking for.
However, getting a rejection is an accomplishment in itself because you put yourself out there because you took a risk because you’re actively pursuing your passion. And that should be celebrated.
So, if you have a particularly hard knock-back, or perhaps it’s your very first, treat yourself. Get a manicure, buy some new stationery, eat a comfort meal, have a glass of wine; do whatever you need to take care of yourself.
3. Wallow in Self-Pity (temporarily)
I myself have done my fair share of wallowing in self-pity, and I will say it does help if it’s temporary.
It’s completely okay to be upset or frustrated with rejections, and those feelings shouldn’t be suppressed. They’re valid.
Allow yourself to feel them and take a day to be upset, but then get back to work.
Heck, you can even use those negative feelings to propel you forward, because there’s nothing more motivating than wanting to prove your ‘naysayers’ wrong.
You can’t control if an agent says yes or no to represent you. You can’t control if an editor says yes or no to acquire your book. So, it’s time to refocus, or better yet focus on what you can control; and that’s your work.
If you’re out on submission, start writing the next book. If you’re querying a project, start writing the next book. Putting your energy into another book while you’re querying or on submission can help dull the sting of any rejections you might face.
Also, having something else in the works is a great reminder that it isn’t over until you stop trying.
5. Accept the Rejection
As I said earlier “rejection is an absolute in publishing.” You will get rejected. You will get declined more than once. If you’re like me, you’ll get rejected hundreds of times.
Rejection is just a part of this journey and the sooner you realize and accept that, the easier it is to deal with it. So, the next time someone tells you “No” —remember you are not alone.
We have all been there because rejection is a stepping stone in publishing. Some of us just have a lot more steppingstones to cross over, which is fine, because every path to publication is different.
You just have to stay on your path and keep pressing forward until you reach your destination.
Tell us in the comments: How have you dealt with rejection?
Jeneva Rose is the bestselling author of The Perfect Marriage, which has been published in nearly a dozen languages and optioned for film. Originally from Wisconsin, she currently lives in Chicago with her husband and stubborn English bulldog. One of Us Is Dead is her third novel. You can follow her on Twitter, Instagram, or her Facebook page.