Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Proactive or Reactive? How to respond to rejection

I'm currently ensconced in the cycle of submitting one of my novels to literary agents, which means a lot of research, crafting carefully worded query emails, checking word counts and rigorously following submission guidelines. There are lots of dos and don'ts out there to help unpublished writers find their way through the process, but there's just one of those that always boggles my mind: how to respond to a rejection.

Option one: react. React angrily. Rage and shout and send an angry email. Tell the agent just how ridiculous and stupid and ugly they are, and how they'll regret not recognising your genius when they had the opportunity.

Unsurprisingly, this is the "don't". I'm flabbergasted than anyone even needs to be told this. Surely this is just common courtesy, ordinary human decency, to avoid this response? But apparently not. Every agent will be able to tell you about writers who reply to rejections, sending emails that are full of insults and threats and the bile that's thrown up in the heat of the moment. Would you reply to a job rejection like this? Possibly, but you really shouldn't. If you asked someone out and they said no, would you rail and curse at them? I hope not! (If you would, then I do not want to be your friend). Apart from the fact that it's just plain rude, do the people who behave in this way think it's going to make the agent change their mind? All they're doing is showing they'd be difficult to work with.

Option two: be proactive. Take it on the chin and keep going. Accept that it's part of this business and move on.

I've now reached the dizzy heights of rejections in double figures (admittedly for three different novels, over several years, but still...) so I think I'm qualified to comment. Of course rejection is HORRIBLE, especially when it's the agent you desperately wanted to love it, but sitting and rocking in the corner of your bedroom isn't going to get you published. This week I've had three rejections, but I've also sent out more submissions. I am determined to keep going, because somewhere out there is the agent who will absolutely love this novel and believe in me as a writer. I'll only find her/him if I keep looking.

I'm not saying never respond to a rejection: I've responded to some myself, but only ever politely. Most of the time I've had form rejections, but some have clearly been worded specifically for me, so if that agent is willing to take the time to do that I'm going to thank them for their time. But that's all you should ever do. Take the energy that comes from disappointment and use it to keep you going - above all, be proactive.

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