Dealing With Rejection

My Journey to Publication

The world of publishing is something I am relatively new to. I have always hidden behind my clients, in that respect. I write the manuscript, make it something they are proud to hold, and then bid them adieu, kind of. What I’m trying to say is that, typically, as a ghostwriter, I don’t have very much to do with the publishing side of things. I know the basics of publishing, but not a lot more. Therefore, the challenge of publishing my own novel is entirely new territory to me. Learning how to research agents, write query letters, write a synopsis and all that other stuff has been completely out of my comfort zone. However, I know that in doing this, not only will I be a published author for sure (hopefully sooner rather than later), but I have gained a lot of skills and experience that will help me to help my clients in the future.

An Update

I’ve always been told that dealing with rejection is part of the process of becoming a traditionally published author. I was certainly anticipating a few rejections along the way, and as of today (19/07/2022) I’ve had rejections from four agents. I know that this is perfectly normal, and I did expect to handle rejection quite badly. I’ve always had an issue with ‘authority’ figures and criticism, but when the ‘rejections’ from agents aren’t at all negative, it’s hard to take it badly, in my opinion.

From the start, I’ve been very selective about the agents I chose to query, and knew that they were probably slightly out of my league as an unpublished (at least not as a ghostwriter) author. For example, I’ve queried Ruth Ware’s agent, so I wasn’t expecting a miracle there. The thing is, I know my book is good, and that it’s worth reading, so it will be published either way: whether self-published or traditionally published. As a first-time author, I thought I’d try the traditional route first and see what happened. I still have a fair few agents that I’m still waiting to hear back from, as many of their reading timeframes are around three months (and some as much as six months).  

The Reasons

On three out of the four rejections, I was given a lovely email detailing why I wasn’t the perfect fit for their agency. I won’t name the publishing agencies here, because I don’t think that’s the right thing to do. However, I will share their reasons, as I think it might be useful to those of you who are considering traditional publishing or going through a similar thing.

  1. They already had a similar project on their roster.
  2. They did not feel passionate enough about the book.
  3. This wasn’t the book for them – but they loved my ‘strong commercial writing’ and would like me to consider sending my next manuscript to them, if I don’t get picked up in the meantime. This one was my favourite rejection, and was from a huge literary agent so I was chuffed!

Each of these agents gave fabulous and supportive emails. They listed the reasons why authors might not get picked up by certain agents, and wished me the best of luck going forward. These emails left me feeling really positive. Writing is subjective, and being an agent is subjective, it’s all about finding the perfect fit for you. That being said, the fourth rejection was pretty much just a ‘no’, which didn’t sit right with me. To me, it isn’t difficult to have an email template ready to go saying ‘thank you for choosing to send your manuscript to us, unfortunately…’. However, you live and learn, and I’m wondering if maybe I dodged a bullet there!

What’s Next?

In terms of what’s next for me… I still have a good few agents that I’ve not heard back from yet, so fingers crossed on that front.  It did say on a few that they might not contact you if you’re not being picked up, which I think is a little bit shitty, but that’s just the nature of the game. I decided today that I’m not querying any more agents. Instead, I contacted three publishers directly with my manuscript, so we’ll see what happens there. Also, and this is kind of exciting, I’ve set myself a deadline…

I’m getting bored and impatient, so here’s the plan… If I don’t have an offer from an agent or a publishing house by the middle of September, I’m going to self-publish! Self-publishing is still relatively new in the publishing game, and it is certainly a very viable option for many people. It was always something I considered doing, and by giving myself a deadline, I have a sensible cut-off point where I need to start formatting, editing, getting a cover designed, and doing all that other fun stuff!

Dealing with Rejection from Publishers and Agents

As much as I want to give loads of advice here, I’m still so new to the game that I don’t feel it’s particularly my place to, especially because I’m dealing with it very well at the moment. I don’t feel disheartened or stressed, angry or hurt. This is, possibly, because it is expected for authors to face so much rejection before they find a home with an agent or publishing house. I also know that I have other options if traditional publishing doesn’t quite work out for me.

I’ve done a little research on the subject, and I’ll link my sources below, but if you’re struggling to handle rejection from publishers or agents, here are some things that might help you out…

  • Understand that not every person is going to love every book. You might love non-fiction books about fighter planes. Whereas, I prefer a good horror story. Finding the right agent/publishing house for you is what querying is all about.
  • Take on board any constructive criticism. But, at the end of the day, you know what is right for your book so don’t feel like you need to change everything around just because one agent, or publishing house, didn’t like something about your manuscript.
  • Give yourself a break. If you’re struggling with rejection and you’re finding it hard to get back in the groove of writing, take a break. Be kind to yourself.  Rejection can be tough, but so are you!
  • Further to that, don’t give up. If you’re ready to query more publishers and agents, bloody do it. If you want to self-publish, do that too. There are so many options out there for authors, more so than ever before, empower yourself to bring your book to market in whatever way you can.
  • Know that you are not alone. I don’t think there’s a single author out there that hasn’t been rejected a good few times. Or, if they have, they’re a rare breed. Being rejected is just part of the process. Handle the rejection with class, too. Don’t go off on the agent just because they’re not the right fit for you. Agents are people too!
  • Reconnect with other writers. Join one of those fabulous groups on FB, LinkedIn, and Instagram. There are plenty of other people who have been through the same situation as you and are more than happy to give advice and a shoulder to cry on.

Remember, rejection is an inevitable part of both life, and becoming an author. Know that no matter whether your book is traditionally published or self-published, you are still a published author and that is incredible. One final thing to add on that note, if Stephen King was rejected 30 times before Carrie (arguably one of his most famous books) was picked up, then you’ll be fine.[1]

As always, wishing you love and books that make your heart skip a beat,

Sarah Jules


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