A Reject’s Lessons Learned

rejectionIn the writing world, rejections are so common that Dictionary.com uses “The publisher rejected the author’s latest novel.” as an example for how to properly use “reject” in a sentence. In other words, if you want to be a writer, you have to learn to handle—or at least live with—rejections.

It took me a long time. I wanted people, specifically people in the publishing world, to love my stories and characters as much as I did. They didn’t.

The thing is, I’m stubborn, but for the most part open minded. I will keep banging my head against the wall, but I’ll also listen to anyone suggesting a better location on which to smack my forehead, or a better method of walloping my head against hard objects.

I finally sold my first book just last month. This particular book was rejected forty-seven (47!) times by editor and agents. I had fifteen full requests that ultimately ended in rejection. (I blogged about the whole crazy journey on my personal site.)

It is the third book I’ve finished, and queried the heck out of those two other books as well. So yes, I’m familiar with rejection. I also know that there are good rejections, the kind that teach you something new, or give you invaluable advice on how to better position your book in the market.

VALHALL’S KING, my debut book, will be released sometime late summer or early fall of 2015. I’ve rewritten the manuscript twice since I first queried the book. Those edits were all based on great feedback from editor and agents. I learned from their comments and am forever grateful that they took the time not only to read my work, but to say what they thought about it and suggest how I could make it better.

You think think that I just started the query process to quickly, maybe I did, but I my first pitch was after the project placed second in On the Far Side, The Fantasy, Futuristic, and Paranormal RWA chapter’s contest for unpublished writers. The editor judging the contest thought it was publication worthy, but rejected it because of a pet peeve. She didn’t like mythology mixed with Sci-Fi. So I figured I would find another editor that wouldn’t mind those elements of the story and I did, but it took two years and loads of more rejections.

I don’t like rejections—who does—but they are part of a writer’s life and the only way for me to live with them is to turn them into something useful. Cheryl’s Lesson’s from a Saleswoman posted earlier this month are an excellent way to learn how to do just that. My hardest lesson was #3: Reflection and Introspection. It’s easy to get carried away and give too much weight to all rejections. When I first started pursuing publication, I didn’t have enough confident in my own writing voice. I listened to every critique partner and every rejection, trying to incorporate their advice. Guess what happened when I received conflicting comments? I had a complete meltdown. It took some time, but I finally learned to listen to all feedback, but only use what resonates with where I want to take the story.

That said, I still have what I refer to as “I may freely address you as piss midget” moments when my inbox is showered with nos. The name comes from Dylan Moran’s character Bernard Black, a frustrated novelist and the owner of Black Books. Here’s one of Bernard’s rejection moments. Mine can look like this, minus the smoking.:-)

What’s the best rejection you’ve ever received?

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About Asa Maria Bradley

2014 Golden Heart Finalist. Romance writer, news junkie, physics instructor, and diver. Loves Norse mythology, ranch dressing, and cop shows. Lives with husband and used dog of indeterminate breed in Washington State. Represented by Sarah E. Younger of the Nancy Yost Literary Agency. Book 1 of Viking Warriors is a Fall 2015 release. More at www.asamariabradley.com and @AsaMariaBradley.

Posted on July 21, 2014, in Asa Maria Bradley and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. Great post, Asa! Rejections are never fun, but sometimes they take on an absurd quality which helps – like the one where an editor judging the final round of a contest asked if my manuscript was set in the future, because he/she couldn’t tell . . . despite the first line stating it was November 1942. I laughed, chalked it up to him/her being overworked and rushed (what editor isn’t?) and let it go.

    Congratulations on your sale, and look forward to meeting you in S.A.!

  2. Congrats on your persistence, Asa. May it be the beginning of your growing confidence as a writer.

    To answer your question about my best rejection, I’ll answer my funniest rejection or the one that just made me roll my eyes and laugh. It was for a job at a university where I was one of five finalists for the position. I received the we-have-evaluated-the-finalists-and-you-were-not-selected letter in the mail two months after I’d been offered the job and accepted. Made me wonder about the efficacy of the HR department.

    • That’s hilarious! I wonder if there were two Maggie’s in the applicant pool. Somewhere out there is a Maggie still waiting to hear whatever happened to her application for that job. :-)

  3. Love your persistence! Can’t wait to see you in SA and rub elbows with a soon-to-be-published author.

    I guess the best rejections I’ve received are the ones from agents who say they love my voice. The YA voice was something I struggled with early on, so even though I haven’t signed an agent, I know my writing is improving. Got to think positively… Right?

    Hugs!

    • I can’t wait to meet YOU! After the GH nomination, you should never doubt the quality of your writing and always take the rejections as a reflection of not a good fit for other reasons or the state of the market. :-)

  4. I think rejections are good because they make your final acceptance story that much better :) Congrats on doing the work, sticking with it, and doing MORE work until you go the YES!

    • Thanks AND thank you for your amazing feedback on the story. I sold from the slushpile pre-Jessa edits, but the editor asked for pretty much the same thing that you had pointed out in the resubmission offer, so I’d already incorporated them. Thanks to you, I now have a reputation for lightning-fast edits. :-)

  5. Asa –

    What an inspiring post! My Golden Heart MS has been compared to Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil but sorry we’re not sure where we’d place it…. Then there’s the ever popular editor loves it but the sales department doesn’t know where to place it. The hope inducing ‘this project isn’t for me but please send anything else Ms Mulhern writes.’ I could go on. My answer to all that rejection was to write another book. THAT book sold in less than three months.

    So very happy for you! Wishing the best of times in SA.

    • It’s hard not to think that the rejections are a reflection of the quality of your writing, but the truth is that after a certain point they aren’t. I’m still happy dancing because of your sales. Wish you were in SA with me!

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