Wednesday, March 25, 2015

On Dealing With Rejection

Perhaps the hardest aspect of pursuing a career as an author is dealing with rejection. Any writer who desires to be professionally published will have to deal with editors or agents continually turning down their work. Even successful authors are not immune to this problem; while they generally deal with less rejection from editors and agents, they make up for it with inevitable negative reviews, harsh critics, and vitriol from fans and non-fans alike.

How you deal with rejection and criticism once you're famous and successful is up to you. Some authors prefer to ignore it and focus on their successes. Others prefer to confront their critics. Your methods of dealing with such problems should depend on what makes you feel better, on how you wish to be perceived by the public, and on how you handle conflict.

But dealing with rejection before you're famous and successful is another matter entirely. At this stage in your career, most of the rejection you face will come from editors or agents. Some of them will not be gentle; some of them might be outright rude or harsh. Even gentle rejections or criticisms can be difficult to handle, especially when you have to face them over and over and over. In those situations, the most important thing for you to do is calm down and don't lash out.

Don't respond angrily to the editor (or agent)

Remember my post about being humble in your cover letter? Everything I said there applies to all interactions with editors and agents. When I first began working at a literary magazine, I was astounded at how many writers would respond angrily, defensively, or condescendingly when they received a rejection or critique from us. These weren't simply passing comments in the cover letter of the next story they sent us; they went out of their way to compose a reply and mail it to us. Don't be that person. It won't do you any good.

Don't try to correct the editor

Similarly, writing to editors to inform them that their comments on your story were incorrect is useless. You're not going to convince an editor that your story was actually better than they originally thought. You'll only make yourself look arrogant and unaware. It might hurt to be rejected, but lashing out at the editor will only hurt your chances of being published in the future.

You might think, "Well, I just won't submit to that editor or agent again." But editors move around a lot. They work on side projects, they move to new companies. I have, on more than one occasion, had stories pitched to me by authors who didn't realize that I was the same person that they'd once arrogantly chewed out for rejecting a story. Publishing is a smaller world than most people think.

Don't badmouth the editor

Venting is a useful method of dealing with disappointment and the hurt of rejection. If you're upset with an editor or agent that rejected you, feel free to complain to some close friends, to your spouse, to your siblings, or to your parents. Find a sympathetic shoulder. Do not, however, badmouth the editor or agent to other editors, to other agents, or to other writers. Like I said, publishing is a smaller world than you might expectodds are pretty good that the professional that you're complaining to will know the person that you're badmouthing. They might be friends. Either way, you won't make yourself look good by criticizing someone with more experience and clout in the industryyou'll just look arrogant and petty.

And this should go without sayingdon't badmouth the editor or agent on Twitter, Facebook, or other social media. The internet is a public forum; don't post anything anywhere that you don't want the whole world to see.

The road to publication is difficult enough as it is; if you allow rejection to make you angry or bitter, if you lash out at the people who could potentially publish you, you'll just make your road that much more rocky, steep, and difficult.

1 comment:

  1. Very good advice. Go shout at a tree or an inanamate( my spelling!) object, but DO NOT respong angrily to the editor. They have a job to do too.