Rejection Therapy

Writing = rejection. Not for everyone and not all of the time, but you can’t exactly have one without the other – that is, if you’re going to put yourself out there. 

I have written thousands of words, of short stories, of ideas that I probably will never share with the world. No fear of rejection there. But, the ones that I do want to… The submissions that I have sent to find agent representation… Loads of it.

And, I think there is an art to knowing what to do with that rejection.

There is a certain amount of rejection you just have to be prepared for because the industry is “subjective” and material that resonates with one agent may very well not resonate with another. JK Rowling’s Harry Potter – an obvious example of a huge commercial success – did not land with every agent who read the submission. But, she persevered. Plenty of other authors have the same story. Actors, athletes, musicians, everyone, can think of a time when they were rejected by a job they wanted. It’s how they moved forward. Tom Brady was a low draft pick and is now considered one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. Brock Purdy was the last pick of the draft and led his team to the Superbowl a few short years later. John Krasinski talks about being near giving up on acting before he was cast as Jim Halpert from the Office. Sometimes, it’s about waiting for your moment.

Sometimes, though, there might be changes you can make to improve and earn your moment sooner.

There is a certain amount of rejection that should maybe, possibly, make you take a second look at your submission material. I’m not an expert. I don’t know what the secret formula is. Agents will tell you the commercial genres they feel most confident representing. Then, they’ll say they want characters that pop off the pages, a story that keeps them turning pages, one they can’t put down. And they might not be able to articulate what precisely that looks like either. But, you might be able to gain something useful from those rejections. Maybe there is a common thread or maybe you have an opportunity to straight up ask that agent. From my experience, most agents will not offer feedback if they only read your submission materials. You will more than likely receive a boilerplate form rejection. But, if you have opportunities for an agent to review your entire manuscript, you will probably receive slightly more detailed feedback. 

It will not be “If you make these eight specific changes, you will be a bestseller.” It will more than likely be something along the lines of – “I liked X and Y but due to Z, I didn’t feel like it would be the best fit.” If Z is your favorite part of your story, then don’t change anything. But if there’s a little part of you saying that you agree… just think about it. There’s lots of ways to take feedback and implement it in a way that feels organic to you. But again, I’m not an expert. I’m just someone who loves feedback and I’ll take an opportunity to become better any time it presents itself to me!


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