Rejection isn't personal-- it's trite but true

Oct 9, 2012

We hear it all the time-- "rejection isn't personal." When I queried my first book, I never felt like I personally was being rejected, but what was hard was feeling that rejection was personal to my story. It wasn't so bad when I got a rejection on a simple query. At that point, I figured the "not personal" thing really was true, and I was (mostly) okay with that.

Source
What stunk was rejection on a full or partial. Even when it was a "positive" rejection (if there is such a thing), and the agent specifically said they simply didn't connect with it because of this or that, I always had this niggling suspicion they were LYING. They hated  the book! Of course, that wasn't true and I knew it, but it was hard to remember that they weren't making a judgment on me or my book-- except that it just "wasn't right" for them.

When I queried my current book and was in the position where I was actually the one choosing between agents, I learned something interesting about rejection. Each of the agents I talked to was so excited about my book. They were all very friendly, and I liked them all. They were all very professional and I knew they could sell my book. But each of them had different ideas on where to go with my book, and some of those ideas just "weren't right" for me. In that way, I had nothing personal against them when I made the difficult decision to tell them no thanks.

There was one agent that I felt really GOT the book. We connected not just in terms of vision for this book, but of what I wanted with my career and our agent/client relationship. When it came to saying YES, that was personal, in the sense that it was an individual choice that was right for me.

Maybe I'm wrong, but I think that's kind of how it is with agents accepting or rejecting manuscripts. Rejection often doesn't even mean the agent doesn't like the book-- it's just not one they really loved and connected with enough to read it multiple times and champion it to editors. Acceptance means that's exactly how they feel about the book. Not everyone can LURVE your book like that, and that's okay. The thing that stinks about that is you have no control of it.

It's hard to remember that when the rejections come in, whether from agents, editors, or readers themselves. After all, WE love our books an awful lot. But rejection is part of the game from beginning to end, so I thought it might be a helpful thought-- at the very least, for me to look back on from time to time!

So, my friends, what are your thoughts? How do you approach rejection?

18 comments:

Angie said...

I approach it with chocolate. =) It's so true that it isn't personal. I have been the bearer of rejection many times, and I didn't ever think that the author was horrible or would never make it. It was just that a particular story didn't work for me. I was always happy when I was able to accept a great story from an author who'd been rejected before.

Julie said...

You're so right. I know, I know. It's not personal. I get it. I'll repeat it. But I still sometimes allow myself a little bit of sulking and wallowing before I buck up and get on with it.

A good reminder to look at both sides.

David P. King said...

A lot has been said about rejection in the blogosphere lately (to which I've contributed), which is odd considering the huge volume of authors who've been picked up recently (it's like author harvest season or something!). This, however, was the post I needed to read. Completely spot on. :)

Meredith said...

Rejections on fulls are the worst! I have pretty thick skin when it comes to criticism or rejections, but that one's tough. So glad you found an agent who saw your story the way you did!

Teralyn Rose Pilgrim said...

When I first started querying agents two years ago, I did it in mass... dozens at a time! This was a bad idea, but it made rejection much easier. Now I thoroughly research an agent, decide we were meant to be together, and feel devastated when they say no. My advice to other writers; don't get too attached to individual agents!

Cherie Reich said...

I think that's a fantastic way to approach rejection. I figure the story wasn't for them and move on to the next one.

i'm erin. said...

When I was rejected, I ate a lot of junk food and worked out like a mother. I'm glad to be back to blogging and see how you're doing. You're pretty awesome!

Carrie-Anne said...

I took rejection very personally when I was first querying too briefly 10-11 years ago. The worst was being sent back all the materials unopened, returned to sender, after spending all that money to send it through the mail out of state. I'm glad most queries are done through e-mail these days, so you don't waste postage money or printer paper on a potential rejection.

Rachna Chhabria said...

I agree with you Shallee, that rejection should not be taken personally. An agent/s may not connect with the story emotionally, maybe the plot is not up their alley, or the way a writer has handled it.

All we have do is to keep writing and learning from these rejection.

Btw..I tend to take rejections a bit personally. After few days it stops stinging :(

Tara Tyler said...

wow, choosing a direction? choosing representation from multiple offers? staggering! that is a whole nother set of worries! thanks for the perspective!

Laura Josephsen said...

I completely agree with you. It's a business, and it's so subjective.

Christine Rains said...

Great post! I'm another chocolate lover. I had a rejection this morning and I moped around a bit before I got back in the saddle, submitting it to somewhere else. Persistence is something I can do!

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I just shrug off rejections. I've been in the position of rejecting an offer because I didn't connect with agent. I didn't feel like she was the best person to represent my book. I'm glad you find that person for you, Shallee. :D

Madeline Jane said...

A late congratulations on the agent! I disappear for a bit, and when I come back you've got an agent. Huge congrats! :) Great post. It's like how there are a bunch of guys in the world. Some you'll like, but in the end you only marry one.

Traci Kenworth said...

I think you're right, it just comes down to personal preference for an agent/and I would venture to say an editor as well. Although we'd love every query we sent out to be "the one" and everyone to love it, it's just not realistic because everyone's taste runs different. And that's a good thing in a way, because it means "the one" will champion our book more.

Miranda Hardy said...

Thanks for sharing your journey. It is tough to be rejected, and I can see the rejection of the full to be more painful than the rejection of the query.

Lynda R Young said...

absolutely! You definitely want an agent who will champion your story. It's worth the wait and the nail-biting ;)

Elana Johnson said...

This post hits it on the head. It's exactly how it works. And you know what? That translates to readers too. Some readers just "get" your book and they love it. And others don't. I'm sure we've all felt that way about books we've read, right?

 
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