Saturday, July 21, 2012

Rejection Letters - How to Keep them from Ending Your Career

If you haven’t received a number of rejection letters, then you’re probably not a writer.  Or at least you’re not a writer who is submitting your work to others for publication.  For many, rejection letters sound the death knell of their career.  Yet it’s not the letters that end a writing career, it’s how a writer responds to those letters.  Giving up on your writing is a choice.

In my early writing days, I decided to consider rejection letters as a sign from the universe that I was a writer moving on the path.  I made a conscious decision to be thankful for each letter. AND when I received a letter with a personal note, I danced (literally) around my living room, thankful that someone thought enough about my writing to either give me encouragement or advice.  I’m in good company with this practice.  The first time Kathyrn Stockett, author of The Help received a rejection letter she was thrilled and called all her friends to share her excitement.  With each rejection letter, she went back to her manuscript to "fix" what wasn't working.  She received 60 more letters saying “no thank you” before she found a home for The Help.

I recently received a letter from someone telling me that she felt blocked and stopped writing because of rejections.  With each rejection she felt like a failure.  If you want to be a “traditionally” published writer then rejection letters are part of the process.  Learning to cope with rejection is critical.  

Below are my 5 rules regarding rejection letters.

1.       If there is constructive feedback and it pings with you – use it. 

After submitting a manuscript to an editor who actually gave me some personal feedback, I knew her comment about the depth of my character was true.  I used her criticism to rework the manuscript and submitted it for an artist's grant. I was awarded the grant.

2.       Don’t believe or embrace the negative. 

Rudyard Kipling was told he didn’t know how to use the English language and Emily Dickinson was told her poems were devoid of any poetic qualities.  They kept writing.

3.       Remember it is a person’s opinion.

A publisher told Fitzgerald, “You'd have a decent book if you'd get rid of that Gatsby character”.

4.       If you believe in your work, don’t let anyone tell you it won’t sell.

Beatrix Potter initially self-published the Tale of Peter Rabbit after it had been turned down many times.

5.       Do something with the letters that reminds you it’s not the end and then JUST KEEP WRITING.
Pat Schmatz, author of the award winning YA Book, Blue Fish papered her bathroom with her rejection letters. When she was ready to move, she had to figure out how to take the letters with her.

At this stage in my writing life when I open the mail and receive a rejection I say to myself: “Hmm, not the right publishing house…that means I’m getting closer to find the right match for my manuscript. Thanks.”

 Do you have a unique approach to dealing with rejection letters?  Can you see yourself trying one of the above suggestions?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Mary Jo Guglielmo is writer and intuitive life strategist.  She helps clients break through their blocks and chart their course of action so they can live their True North.

For more information check out  www.donorth.bizor folllow her at: 


Donna McDine said...

I especially like the first and fourth suggestions. I've kept the personal noted rejection letters, but I've tossed the form rejection letters.

Mary Jo Guglielmo said...

Thanks for stopping by Donna. I like the ones with a personal notes because in some ways it chronicles the journey.

Karen Cioffi said...

Mary Jo, great advice on receiving rejection letters. I always remember that Jack Canfield said he and his co-author received 144 rejections for Chicken Soup for the Soul before a publisher said YES.

Perseverance is a key element of writing, and a bit of thick skin. :)

Magdalena Ball said...

Great attitude Mary Jo. All writers - even the most famous - receive rejection letters. Learning to cope with them is part and parcel of the business and your suggestions are good ones. I like to track submissions rather than acceptances. I give myself a pat on the back for submitting and don't worry about what gets accepted or rejected.

Mary Jo Guglielmo said...

That's a really great approach Maggie. Thanks.

Mary Jo Guglielmo said...

I agree Karen, you just have to keep at it and you can't view rejection letters as failures.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Mary Jo! Great advice. Thanks for sharing it.

Shirley Corder said...

I follow the same pattern as you did in your early days, Mary Jo! I see it as a sign that I'm a "real writer". Thanks for a good look at the inevitable topic of rejection!

Debbie A Byrne said...

Great post! I am saving this one.

Mary Jo Guglielmo said...

Thanks for stopping by Susanne.

Mary Jo Guglielmo said...

I think as writers it's easy to forget that rejection is an inevitable part of the process

Mary Jo Guglielmo said...

Thanks for stopping by.

Anne Duguid Knol said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anne Duguid Knol said...

Me too Debbie. It wasn't a rejection but a very cruel critique partner that sent me scurrying for cover a few years ago. When I got over the crit, I found a lot of it helpful but was I hurt and humbled at the time. Thanks Mary Jo and l shall be following Maggie's suggestions too.
Deleted previous comment because of my inevitable typo.:-)

Jonathan Dalar said...

Great post. Rejection letters tell a writer much, even the form rejections. Individually they may not say anything, but as a whole they can point to what's not working in a submission.

Abayomi Prints said...

I've recently recieved my first rejection letter via email (online submission). I keep it both as a badge of honor for finally dipping my toe in the writer's pool and as a reminder to work harder at perfecting my new craft. One day, I'll float, but first I have to tighten the ties and fill in the holes. I look forward to the adventure, especially after reading this inspiring post. Thanks so much for the inspiration.

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