Marji Laine

I Love a Good Mystery!

Dealing with Rejection


I’ve been watching some of your Facebook posts and it seems like this is a season of decision. The agents and editors have reached the bottoms of their piles from the ACFW conference and are attempting to clean off their desks before Christmas. I’m not speaking fact, just my take on what might be happening. Suddenly there are little bits of good news here and there and lots of rejections. 

Happy Holidays …

I feel for the agents and editors. They can’t possibly take on even a tenth of the projects that come their way. Well, maybe a tenth? But that still means that have to dole out nine frowny faces for every smiley faces they get to share. How tough is that? Sorta like the army chaplain who has to pen all of the “we regret to inform you” letters during the war.

And then we, who are on the other side of those merry little notes, that slice through the heart of our confidence, are left with a handful of Kleenex and a “back to the drawing board” message. No happy anticipation or enthusiasm for a new project because likely this one will be just as ill-received as the last one, right?

Is this resonating with anyone? Have you been dealt a rejection? Are you experiencing a “why am I bothering?” type of moment?

Before you give up on your dream, analyze a few things:

Everyone Gets Rejected.

  • James Patterson had more than a dozen rejections.
  • Twilight author, Stephanie Meyer, had more fourteen agent rejections.
  • John Grisham scored sixteen editor rejections.
  • A pre-published Debbie Macomber was advised by an editor to throw away her manuscript.

Those who keep working to improve, keep asking for and using the advice they get, those are the ones who will be published. Strive for perfection, then push for something even better.

Rejection Comes for Many Reasons.

Even a book destined for the Best Sellers list can be rejected if the timing is wrong for the genre. An agent who already has an author who writes just like you might not want to sign you as well because his clients will be in constant competition. Likewise, an editor may have all the historical romance they need for the next several years and no places for your book no matter how good it is.

Think about each of these situations.

  • What if the Best Seller didn’t wait for the perfect timing. What if it got accepted too soon and didn’t sell all that much?
  • What if the agent went ahead and signed you? She has a commitment to her other client as well and can’t play favorites, so you might only get half of the exposure on the opportunities that come by?
  • Same situation for that historical fiction that’s bought. Woohoo! But it will be four years before it comes out. With the changes in the publishing climate, that’s a long time to wait and hope.

It’s hard to find a silver lining in that big-R email or letter, but you don’t know the future, and you may never learn of the undercurrents that precipitated your rejection. Don’t take it personally and don’t stop trying!

Rejection Offers Opportunities.

I’ve only had three rejections so far. One came because the book I shared didn’t fit the mold of the company I shared it with. That’s my bad. The other two came because the the suspense in my romantic suspense wasn’t intense enough. Hmm. That’s a harder solve, but still doable. And if I want to sell my book as a romantic suspense, it looks like I’ll need to make some changes.

But in truth, I took that as a challenge, not to make that story better, but to infuse the next one with LOTS of suspense. And boy did I! The cool thing is, all of these editors would be happy seeing something else from me. I have a feeling that they will!

Don’t Set Yourself for Rejection.

I’ve read that some submissions only take three seconds to be rejected. What? The editors or agents can know that quickly? Well … yeah.

If someone hasn’t done their homework, like sending their Christian novel to an erotica editor or vice versa, the receiver doesn’t have to really look at it to know it won’t work. How annoying to have to write that rejection!

But it goes further than that. When I sent out my manuscript to agents, I first hand-picked the people I wanted. Then I examined what THEY wanted and HOW they wanted to see it.

I’m a teacher. I require my students to put their heading (name, assignment, date) in the top left corner of their paper. I even require a specific font, font-size, and spacing and I’m only grading a class of essays! Why shouldn’t an agent or editor want to view certain data and see it a certain way? They have to wade through hundreds ever week. Most editors and agents have their requirements on their websites. They also display whether they’re even accepting submissions at this point. Don’t bother submitting when they aren’t – thinking that they won’t have to weed through a slush pile to see yours! They won’t. And they probably won’t even respond, but you might make a name for yourself, though not in a good way.

Likewise, if someone only accepts emails, don’t send them paper. And the same thing, the other way around. You’re just assuring a silent pass from those folks and you proclaim to them that you don’t know how to follow directions. Do you really want to be that person?

Send, Send, Send

Sending in submissions between now and the New Year probably isn’t a good idea, so spend your time study your craft, and honing your story. Don’t lose heart! Keep trying. Analyze every verbal rejection you get and use it to make your stories better. Be particular in who, how, and when you send your submissions, and don’t give up on your dream! God gave it to you for a reason!

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial! James 1:12

Author: Marji Laine

Marji is a recently "graduated" homeschooling mom whose twin girls have blessed her by sticking around the nest for a little longer. She spends her days directing the children’s music program at her church and working with the authors of Write Integrity Press to put out the best possible version of their books. Raised in suburban Dallas, she got her first taste of writing through the stories of brilliant authors of their day, Mignon Eberhart and Phyllis A. Whitney, and through stage experience. After directing and acting in productions for decades, Marji started writing her own scripts. From that early beginning, she delved into creating scintillating suspense with a side of Texas sassy. She invites readers to unravel their inspiration, seeking a deeper knowledge of the Lord’s Great Mystery that invites us all.

4 thoughts on “Dealing with Rejection

  1. Hi Marji, you’ve reminded me that Yann Martel’s “Life of Pi” was rejected five times before it was published in 2001. Since then it’s won numerous international awards and is currently a major motion picture. Not everyone recognizes greatness when they see it!


  2. Yes, I’ve sensed that too–it’s a season in which agents/editors are moving. Sometimes it feels there’s no GOOD time to query/propose due to vacations, ACFW, etc. But it’s nice to realize the wheels are turning, for good or bad. Many times, CLOSURE is all the author needs to move on, either with that next book in the series or with something totally different.

    Trying to never give up hope! Easier said than done!