“Once a bitch always a bitch, that’s what I say.” ~ William Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury
No one likes to be rejected. That’s a well-understood fact.
That’s what makes sending out manuscripts so scary. It’s like offering up your child for potential sacrifice—your story is something that you’ve nurtured, an idea that you’ve birthed, cared for, seen grow from a scribbled outline on the corner of a napkin to a 350 page masterpiece.
It’s hard to ship off your manuscript to an impartial third party, one who’s had no idea the sacrifices you put in to create the story, the sleepless nights you suffered as the plot unraveled of its own volition, the brain callouses you developed while dreaming up the perfect conclusion, and the terrible posture you developed spending hours hunched over your laptop and notepad. The agent has no idea how you’ve agonized over the story. What they will read in ten minutes may have taken you years to craft.
So yes, sending out your manuscript is scary. We all know before we sent out our submissions that the odds of it finding a home right away is slim to none. It’s happened to everyone.
Stephen King’s first novel Carrie was rejected 30 times.
C.S. Lewis received over 800 rejections within his lifetime.
Dune, possibly the most successful science fiction novel ever written, was rejected 20 times.
For every one agent who requests my work, another 15 reject it.
We all know that it happens. We just wish it didn’t happen to us.
But when it does happen (and it will), please keep this in mind:
The agent who rejects you today may be someone who would like to work with you tomorrow. Yes, they may have rejected one manuscript you send them, but there are so many other stories you have within you that also need agents. Don’t burn bridges that you’ll need later to cross into the world of publishing.
Too many people respond to rejections with bitterness, anger, or condescension. Remember, agents aren’t only looking for a great project but an author that they want to work with for years. They don’t want to work with people who call them names, swear at them, or tell them how they’re “making the biggest mistake of their career”. “Have fun looking at my book on the NY times list and crying,” people have written.
Even if your next submission to us is one of the greatest things we’ve ever read, you’ll be hard pressed to find someone willing to take you on. The publishing world is smaller than you think. Agents talk to each other. We’ve all received scathing responses to our rejections and we all talk about it with each other.
If they don’t think you’d be good to work with, they pass that information along.
Yes, rejection hurts, but please remember that there is a person on the other side of the computer who sent that letter. We know that it’s crushing and disappointing, we wish we could sell every story we come across, but not every agent can sell every story they read.
We say no to you now, knowing that somewhere along the line—if you persist in sending out your story—someone will say yes.