Originally Posted On 6/10/14
I sent my first story out in February and now I have my first rejection. What am I supposed to do with it?
– Rejected and Confused
First, congratulations on sending your story out! That’s a big, scary, terrifying, and exhilarating thing to do and I bet you’ve been biting your nails ever since!
And now for the rejection letter… let’s start with the basics.
1) Don’t respond. Unless the agent/editor has asked for a response don’t send anything back, not even a thank you note. I know it seems terribly impolite (especially if the agent/editor has offered advice) but the average publishing in-box has over 100* submissions piling up every hour and a thank you note isn’t going to change anything.
2) Don’t argue. Never in the history of publishing** has a combative email swayed an agent or editor. Most the time the email will wind up being circulated over gin and tonics as Agent Swanky and friends laugh about their near misses with bad clients and consider asking for combat pay because Crazy McAuthorcrazypants has sent them six queries and two death threats today. This actually happens. Don’t be Crazy McAuthorcrazypants.
3) Don’t rant about it. Even if it’s your dream agent. Even if it’s the only editor you will ever love. Even if it’s Tor***. If you’re furious and ready to cry, step away from the computer and phone a friend. Don’t blog, tweet, facebook, instagram, Tumblr, or Vine your reaction to the rejection. You are a fabulous author and this rejection is between you and the agent. The agent will forget about you 2.3 seconds after deleting your query, you should drop it just as fast.
Those are the three cardinal rules of querying. Now, as for what to do with the actual rejection letter… that’s a little more personal.
Some people keep their rejections letters. If I had a rejection letter signed by Janet Reid, let’s be honest, I’d frame it. Janet is one of my all-time favorite agents. I love the advice she gives. I love that we once tweeted to each other about avocados. And if I ever wrote a book in a genre she repped I would query her in a hot second. But I don’t, so I won’t.
Still, if it’s a rejection from your all-time favorite agent (or editor), so ahead and frame it! View it as a mark of accomplishment that you made it through the Plot Bunny Massacre, the Perilous Opening Chapter, the Long Dark of Editing, the Soggy Middle of a Novel, and all the other perils waiting to ensnare and destroy unwary pen monkeys.
You can keep the rejection. Place it in a special folder and look at it as a way to encourage yourself… I’m not actually sure how this works, mind you. But I know authors have shown up at conferences with suitcases full of rejection letters that show that they tried, and they never quit. If that’s your cuppa tea, sweetie, drink it up!
Personally, I delete them. I have an Excel sheet with agents, editors, and agencies so I don’t query twice, and once a response to a query arrives I mark it down and move on.
I do collect royalty checks. I keep them in my writing desk with the a nicely penned VOID across them after I’ve put the money in my bank account. For me, that’s a sign of success. Someone is paying me for my books.
You get to decide what you want to collect and what you want to delete.
* I made this number up.
** Please note that I don’t have an MFA and this might be a lie.
*** I LOVE YOU TOR!