So you’re a starry-eyed writer and you’ve just mustered up the courage to hit that button and send a piece of your SOUL out on submission to agents or editors. You’re feeling jittery but hopeful. Good things happen to people. Why shouldn’t they happen to you? But then the NOs start rolling in…
Rejection. What a word. It cuts deep. It feels personal.
‘Rejection’ might even bring so many old memories to the surface, however unconnected to writing, sending you into a downward spiral and crushing your confidence. Anyone relate to that? You’re not alone. And it doesn’t stop after you have an agent or after you’re published. A great editor once told me that the thing that makes us great children’s writers – our ability to feel and think so deeply, to care so much – is the very thing that makes us so vulnerable to rejection.
If that’s not you, and you just brush off those NOs and skip past them, that’s great. If you can wear them like a badge of honour, a step towards your goal of a YES, brilliant. But if not…
Think about reframing those rejections into PASSES.
No one rejected you (unless you’re downright mean or rude!). They passed on your book. For me, this reframing has been life-changing. It’s helped me remember why agents and editors pass on things. Assuming your brilliant books are fresh and fantastic, perfectly paced and polished until they sparkle, it could be for all kinds of reasons. For example:
- It’s not the right ‘fit’ for the agent or publisher’s list. (They have a vision, a plan, and gaps you can’t see.)
- It’s not the right time for it. (Maybe they think that wave has passed (for now!) or it’s an idea that is too ahead of its time. Or something else happening in the world makes this a harder sell.)
- It clashes with something else they’ve published or something they have hidden away in their pipeline.
- It’s just not their thing. (Sometimes a bit of social media stalking – ahem, RESEARCH! – can help you work this out but not always. People have obscure hidden pet hates. For me, it’s onions.)
- They can’t visualise your book (but maybe someone else will!).
- They love your writing and they like this book but it isn’t The One. They’re not IN LOVE. This sounds so hard but you need an agent/editor to be in love. It’s a long, long road ahead. (A twist on this is an agent looking at a portfolio of picture books where one or some of yours are really not their cup of tea and that style of book means a lot to you. You need someone who gets that and loves you for it.)
What do you notice about these reasons? They’re commercial choices and personal choices. They’re not about YOU. These are PASSES, not rejections. I know that’s still tough – and tougher still if you don’t have any YESes sprinkled in between those passes – but it might help take the edge off. Might stop it feeling so intensely personal. It’s not failure – it’s business. And that’s out of our hands.
Try it. Reframe it. Let’s get rid of that R-word. Then, we do what we need to do to take care of ourselves. And then, we keep moving forwards.
Want to learn more from Rashmi?
Rashmi is 2022 Picture Book Writer-in-Residence for the Hub, WriteMentor’s community learning platform that connects like-minded storytellers and provides all the tools they need for writing success.
Find out how you can access member-exclusive content delivered by industry experts like Rashmi.