Thursday, April 02, 2009

Rejection--it's not personal

I've done a bunch of posts about being rejected by agents in the last few years, but I thought it was time for another one.

When you get rejected by an agent, it's not because you're a bad person. You're probably a lovely person. Many times, it's not because your writing is that bad either--Jodi and I really try to point out to people where their writing is good and the rest of the novel needs work. A lot of the time, especially in this economy, your novel is rejected because it's not the right book for the current market.

But I think what a lot of people lose sight of is that even if your novel is rejected, that doesn't mean you should stop writing. It doesn't mean the agent who rejected you is a bad person. It doesn't mean that you won't connect with that agent another time. It's just because your writing was not the right book that they were looking for at that time.

To use an example from my life:

Many of you know that in my limited spare time, I write too. Mostly short stories, although there is that mythical novel which may get finished before I die.

And while I'm good at submitting my client's work, I am notoriously bad at sending out my own stuff. My hard drive sees all the good stuff. =) It's a very well read hard drive.

Part of this is the same fear of failure and rejection that many of you experience when you send your novels to agents. Part of this is because I *always* assume that my work will be rejected; I am a student of years of careful pessimism about that.

But on occasion, I do make myself get off my butt and submit work.

In the last week, I got rejections from Clarkesworld Magazine and Fantasy Magazine on the same short story (they are damn quick). It's now at Strange Horizons, where it will most likely be rejected, as I do not have great luck at Strange Horizons. I have a second short story at Orson Scott Card's Intergalactic Medicine Show, which they've been sitting on for 60 some days.

I'm expecting rejections on both stories.

But that doesn't mean I think it's because the editors hate me and are rejecting me personally.

I know Neil Clarke who runs Clarkesworld, and I enjoy talking to him at conferences; he's a good guy and lives in NJ too. I'm friends with Cat Rambo and Sean Wallace, who edit Fantasy Magazine. I know some of the editors at Strange Horizons. And I'm also friends with Edmund Schubert, who edits IGMS.

When any of those magazines reject me, I don't assume that Neil, Cat, Sean, Edmund, or the Strange Horizons folks hate me. They just don't like the story that I've sent them. Sometimes they send encouraging rejections; sometimes I get form rejections, like everyone else in the world. It doesn't mean that I'm not going to talk to them the next day, even if occasionally I want to kick at something for a few minutes after getting the rejection.

I have become fairly decent at dividing the professional out of personal in terms of rejection. That doesn't mean that I like getting rejected; that's quite the contrary.

But I've learned that it's not me. And that I have to get back up and send that story out again, or my computer is the only one who's going to read it.

Do the same with your novels. Send them out. Brace yourself for the rejections. And while you're doing that, write another novel. =)


Dawn said...

I can understand the disappointment at being rejected, but I find it surprising that there are people out there who take it personally.
Thanks for this.

Kristin Laughtin said...

I think it's good that you made this post. I'm sure that most people, when they think of their dream agent, want someone they can connect with (not to be best friends or anything, but just someone with a compatible personality to make the working relationship easier), and part of that comes down to understanding the frustration and sad feelings that come with rejections. While I'm sure most agents can empathize, you're showing us you do, rather than just telling us.

acpaul said...

Rejection hurts, impersonal though it is, but it does not excuse unprofessional behavior.

Unfortunately the people who most need to hear messages like these are those who are least likely to read, and understand, an agent's blog.

Aun-Juli said...

Thank you for the post, I thought it was a great perspective that, in a sense, we are all in this together one way or another.

I know it sounds horrible, but I can't wait for my rejections. Don't get me wrong, I'd love to have something published, but I get excited with the prospect of feedback and having the opportunity to improve upon something I've written. If my rejection is because it isn't polished enough, GOOD. I want to clean it up and have the best possible piece to show off. If it's for any other reason, that's fine too.

In the end, there is always something to be learned from a rejection. Hopefully, when the acceptance comes, it will be that much sweeter from all the hard work.

Good luck with your stories. :D

Lisa Iriarte said...

I also appreciate this post. And it's true. It's not personal. I've become friends with several agents who rejected me in the past. One is even coming to speak at my school this month, at my request. And just because one novel wasn't what thrilled her, that doesn't mean my next one won't.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the perspective!

I too am one that tends to be pessimistic, especially when it comes to my writing (it took me YEARS before I would let anyone ever read anything I wrote). Rejection does hurt, and it's understandable to be upset for a little while.

Thanks again for the insight!

Anonymous said...

Oh yeah, can't take that stuff personally, at all. I'm glad you posted this. It's a nice reminder.

It's so hard to send stuff out sometimes...because our writing is so close to our hearts...but we need to get a thick skin to survive in this industry, right?

Thanks for this. Have a great day.

Glen Akin said...

Glad to know that even top agents get rejected. Thanks for your perspective on the matter

Edmund R. Schubert said...

"I have a second short story at Orson Scott Card's Intergalactic Medicine Show, which they've been sitting on for 60 some days."

I don't know that it's entirely fair to say 'sitting on,' since you were the one who asked for permission to resubmit a revised version of the story and you only sent that in 30 days ago...

..but other than that you raise good points.

Jenny Rae Rappaport said...

Edmund, it wasn't revised... it just had no strange yellow highlighting on it. Same exact text. And thank you for taking it without the strange yellow highlighting that appeared on it... =)

Anonymous said...

The fools, the fools, eh?

Did you know you got an Honourable Mention in this quarter's WotF though?

You're in the Thursday March 12 list.