Today, I celebrate a milestone. I’ve gotten my 30th rejection email from an agent.
Should I be sad? Probably.
Am I? A little. It’s never a good feeling when someone rejects your story.
But, if I hadn’t gotten all these rejections, I would never have figured out a lot of things about my story. I went from querying a 15k, 90 page novella in 2018 and crossing my fingers that some agent somewhere would want a novella, to querying a 77k, 360 page, finished novel in Summer 2019 and feeling great about my story.
When I started querying my old novella in early 2018, I hadn’t done my research on the industry. If I had, I would have discovered that novellas rarely, if ever, are picked up. I could have saved myself a lot of pointless sitting-by-the-computer-and-hoping time if I had confessed to myself that I really didn’t know what the heck I was doing.
By this point, I had gotten around 20 rejections on a novella that I really didn’t believe in. It was at this point that I made myself STOP, sit back, and rethink this. Why wasn’t I getting the answer I wanted? There was nothing wrong with the agents, but rather, me. I was keeping myself from making my story the best it could be because I wanted my dream to happen RIGHT THEN. I was impatient.
I had a revelation around December of 2018 that I would stop trying to limit myself to this story I knew deep down would never get published, and that I would write the story that I had always wanted to. YES, it would take time. YES, it would be hard. But dreams were never fulfilled just by sitting back and doing nothing.
July 2019. I had done it. I had written my novella into a full book, keeping the best parts of the original idea, and adding new characters and themes that made my book the way I wanted it to be all along. My childhood dream was now a reality, and I had written an actual book. I started querying again.
There was still something wrong, though. I didn’t feel like I was confident in my querying process. For about four months, I submitted to agents with a synopsis and query letter that I was not proud of. Unfortunately, the realization that I was not proud of it came too late. I had gotten about 8 more rejections.
I sat back. WHY was this happening again? I had just begun to feel good about my story! What didn’t these agents like about my synopsis? Why were they rejecting me? I had AN ACTUAL BOOK now. Again, it was me. I didn’t feel good about my synopsis or my query, so why would agents feel the same? I had to swallow my pride and woman up. Sometimes, asking for help is the best thing you can do, and even though it hurt, I asked for help.
I thought I was this invincible thing that could brave the dangerous waters of publishing, and querying, and writing all by herself. REALITY CHECK. I am not. The first step was admitting that, getting writing help, and listening to other people who probably know a heck of a lot more than you.
Four brilliant women helped me with my synopsis and overall query letter, and without them, I would not have understood that I don’t know everything. I thought just because I had read how to do it, I could do it. Nope. Nada. Forget that. Through them, I realized that I needed other eyes on my work who would be discerning and tell me, through their constructive comments, exactly what I needed to hear: I don’t know everything.
September 2019. 1 more rejection. They weren’t coming as frequently now.
Flash forward to now. November 2019. I’ve been humbled. I understand that, hey, not everything I write is perfect and brilliant. There are flaws. Things aren’t going to happen for me right then. Being patient is key, and not throwing all your hopes onto that one agent you thought would be perfect is not a great idea. I now have a query letter that I am very proud of, a “back cover blurb” that I’m even more proud of, and a full synopsis that may or may not reveal *all the spoilers.*
A week ago, I started querying again. I started out feeling great about it, got my 30th rejection email very quickly, felt crappy, and then picked myself back up.
SOMEWHERE out there in the world, there is the right agent for me. I just haven’t found her or him yet. That doesn’t mean that I query a ton of agents all at once, or keep refreshing my email waiting for that one full manuscript request. Nope.
I keep trying. I realize that I am flawed, that even though I love my story and am obsessed with my characters (and really want someone to make fan art of them one day), agents may not feel as strongly. And it’s nothing against my writing or me personally, but it’s not right for them at the moment. That’s what has been the hardest for me to grasp. I wanted my publishing journey to start RIGHT THEN, but that’s not the way it works.
Through all these 30 rejections, I have realized many, many things, as you’ve read above. Even though sometimes, yeah, it hurts, I wouldn’t trade them for anything. They’ve made me stronger as a writer and as a person. One day, I will be able to see my book on shelves and I’ll have fulfilled my dream of becoming an author. But I won’t stop there. I will write more books, and publish more books. But, because my work isn’t perfect, I’ll have to keep writing when I think I should stop, take those rejections emails, listen to people’s criticism, and learn from all that.
That’s damn hard. But I will put the work in to do what I love and to see my dream accomplished.
So, to all the writers out there who feel bad about that new rejection letter, feel bad. Then, get over it, listen to the people who might know a little more than you, brush it off, write that book, and then feel amazing about it.