Guest Post: A Ranting Writer’s Survival Guide to Rejection…

Today, I’m delighted to be joined by another ‘ranting’ writer Michelle Flatley. Michelle is – like me and many readers of this blog, I’m sure – going through the whole process of submitting her manuscript to agents at the moment. It can be a frustrating experience, especially those dreaded rejection letters. Here, Michelle gives a few tips on how to handle it.

Derek has kindly invited me to write a post and I am thrilled to be here to share some thoughts about my writing journey, so far. I know it’s the start of a new year and most of you writers out there are feeling positive and hopeful, just like me. But what about when things don’t quite go to plan and your writing dream appears to be in tatters? Yes, I am talking about the dreaded rejection email or letter. I’ve been crafting a novel for a year now and have so far totted up 21 rejections. Out of these, just two agents have given personal feedback, six agents never replied and the remaining sent me a generic email.  So how do you deal with the ‘No, thank you’? Do you scream and rant? Do you get depressed and swear you will never write another word, ever again?  Here’s my guide to surviving what is often an inevitable part of the writing process.

Expect and accept rejection. The chances are, unless you are extremely lucky, exceptionally gifted, or you have a famous name like Pippa Middleton, that rejection is a strong possibility. Remember most agents get 1,000 manuscripts a month. Ouch! Did I mention my husband is related to Michael Flatley, the dancer! True, albeit, distantly. I think I need to write a book about dancing…

Ask yourself why your book got rejected. Did you send it to the right agent? Did you think you were Virginia Woolf and spend a year structuring a clever literary experiment that no ‘normal’ person would ever read, or buy. Guilty!  Analyse your own book. YOU wrote it. Dissect it and do a thorough book biopsy.

Take advice. If you are lucky enough to get feedback, consider and act on the advice you are given. If a literary agent has taken the time to comment on your work, they have thought about your writing carefully. One agent suggested my book was ‘overwritten.’  How dare they say such a thing about my tribute to Virginia, Charlotte Bronte and the rest! What a cheek? Ahem… they were absolutely right. But don’t tell them I said so.

Read and research books that sell. One of the ‘best’ rejections I got was from Carole Blake at Blake, Friedmann, who suggested I buy her book From Pitch To Publication. Some of you might be thinking ‘What! You bought her book when she wouldn’t publish yours?’ Ok, I did buy it, after a little sulking. You see, I am human, after all. And as I read the book I realised something very important. Just when I thought I was ready to send my book out into the lion’s den that is the literary world, it suddenly became apparent that the book wasn’t ready, and worse still, neither was I. If only I’d read this book BEFORE I wrote my novel!

Despite everything, carry on. If you can’t take rejection, writing novels for publication is not for you. Experience is a wonderful thing. Getting that ‘no’ is not the end of the world. It will give you more time to polish your book, give you more time to make your book the exceptional work you want it to be. So, keep writing and you never know what might happen! And thanks for reading.


18 thoughts on “Guest Post: A Ranting Writer’s Survival Guide to Rejection…

  1. Really sound advice, Michelle. You have to be able to sift through the criticism for the stuff you can work with – and if you do get published, your editor and agent will become your biggest critics! In a good way of course. So it helps to toughen up at the outset.

  2. Although I am not a writer Michelle, having read your blog if I were to have a go – I would be buying Caarole Blake’s ‘From Pitch to Publication’ first !! … Good advice, hard shell required ! Best of luck… and good luck Derek. Gold Star.

  3. Great advice Michelle. Nice anecdote about you smarting at the agent who recommended her own book but then realising it was really useful. Thanks Derek for another post worth bookmarking.

  4. All positive stuff, thanks for sharing, Michelle. I was one of the lucky ones having only nineteen rejections before a publisher said, yes. I gave up on agents after early rejections & concentrated on publishers instead. A publisher’s editor did tell me, you’ve more chance of finding a publisher than an agent. Although I’m aware realise many publishers won’t look at unsolicited manuscripts.

    I’d like to say to any, yet to be published authors out there – If I can do it, so can you. Good Luck.
    Liz xx

  5. Great advice! I’d like to add, be persistent! I submitted to 82 agents, rejected by all, but discovered other ways to publication. There are legitimate publishers who do NOT require agents. Go you!

  6. Nice post Michelle.
    I think we’ve all been here: Submit, check emails twenty times a day, generic rejection, have a little sulk, make pot of tea/coffee, edit, Repeat until successful 🙂

  7. Thanks for sharing your experience Michelle. I haven’t finished the novel yet but I’ve already received three rejections for prose and poetry this year – and it’s only 19 January! Thank God for the few that make it through to keep my spirits up . . . Will definitely pick up a copy of From Pitch To Publication. :o)

    1. Thank you for reading, Susan. I found From Pitch To Publication really useful. When I first sent my novel out I wasn’t on twitter and blindly sent out manuscripts. It’s good to stop and think about whether your book is what the market wants, or needs. Good luck! When it comes to rejections, you certainly aren’t alone:)

  8. I needed this, Espicially today of all days. Thanks a mil guys. You have cheered me up no end!


  9. The tips here were terrific. I’m not writing a novel (yet) but I am writing. The fears of criticism and rejection prevent many from even approaching publishers. Thanks Michelle and Derek.

    ps giving away my WordPress handle now so Derek will know who I am. Does this mean I’ll have to start posting my stuff and risking criticism instead of keeping it all on my pc?

  10. I’ve been there, and it’s really understandable how so many people just give up once those rejection letters start landing on the mat. I actually GOT an Agent (we never met!), but when my book didn’t get picked-up straight away she unfortunately decided she could live without me!

    That was VERY hard to deal with and I almost gave up in despair (after feeling I’d come ‘so close’), and although my biggest dream is still to see “Just Good Friends?” in ‘real’ bookshops, I decided to Self-Publish and am starting to see a nice, steady growth in sales on Amazon/Kindle – which is very exciting!

    It still takes a lot of hard work (Marketing etc) even now, but I’m glad I kept at it and would urge all demoralised writers to do the same!

  11. Michelle, thank you for the wonderful advice. I haven’t been to that point yet, but when I get the book finished and a potential rejection, I’ll recall this post. Thanks, Derek, for always having inspiring posts to share with us.

  12. You are so right, Michelle. In amongst the criticism is often sound advice. Best to try and use it positively – after a little sulk. That’s allowed. Pssst, I have Carole Blake’s book, too – and I just got pubbed. Yay! Keep going. Good luck! 🙂

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