Thursday, October 29, 2009

Tips for Accepting Query Letter Rejection

GIMME CHOCOLATE, NOW! Dealing with rejection, written and submitted by Molli Nickell (we thank you Molli!)

Heart pounding, you open the mailbox. Digging through bills and letters, you spot something familiar. It’s the SASE (self-addressed-stamped-envelope) you’d submitted with your manuscript. Woo-hoo! Your heart dances with possibilities. “Finally, I can order ‘Published Author’ business cards.” You rip open the envelope and yank out the letter. Then . . .

There it is. That letter. You’ve seen it before. Crookedly copied, coffee-stained, unsigned, offering the same sappy platitudes—“blah blah blah, not right for our list. Best wishes for placement elsewhere.”

Your reaction? “GIVE ME CHOCOLATE, NOW!”

Or, you pull the mail out of the box. “Hmmm, there’s my SASE.” You carry it inside and open it. “Oh well, not a good match. I’ll cross this not-right-for-me agent off my list.”

Same situation, totally different reactions. What makes the difference? Mindset.

The second example demonstrates the reaction from a writer who understands the nature of the publishing business. Instead of the emotionally shattering, kicking-screaming-chocolate-cramming reaction, they simply remove this non-match from their agent list.

Is it easy to adopt a this mindset? No. Can you do it? Absolutely yes!

The next time you receive a non-acceptance letter and wolf down some chocolate, pause for a moment and consider the “why” of your reaction to the situation. As a writer, you’ve created something uniquely yours. Your manuscript is a product of your heart and soul, something that was inside of you, screaming to be written. You listened and loved it well enough to put your BIC (butt in chair) for the required hours, days, months, or years to bring your manuscript to life. Then, the time arrived to send your manuscript out into the world.

Moving from “telling” to “selling” can be a difficult, gut wrenching step. You open your manuscript to scrutiny, and release its fate to the actions of someone else. The feeling is similar to how you might have felt the first time you left your precious child at day care.

However (here’s where the situations differ), you probably never retrieved your child and found a crooked, photocopied note pinned to their little shirt. “Dear Parent, thank you for bringing us your child. So sorry, but he/she is not a good match with the other children in our program. Perhaps another school will feel differently.”

Nobody likes rejection. It doesn’t feel good, especially if your mindset tells you it’s personal . . . which it isn’t. However, some writers (maybe you) build up a case in which non-acceptance becomes vindictive rejection. You decide the person returning your query or manuscript hates you, your ideas, your writing skills, your family, your dog, your haircut, your grandmother, and so on. You expand your “rejection-it-is” to include your entire world.

If you must jolly yourself out of rejection depression, imagine the person who sent you the letter sprouting a wart on their nose (or developing a rash in a place where it’s not polite to scratch).

Then, consider this basic truth about the publishing business. It’s a business. When your query or manuscript is returned, it’s a business decision. The “no thank you letter,” (or no response at all) means that, for one or more of a zillion reasons, what you have offered isn’t what that particular agent is looking for at the moment.

So, what to do? Prepare your query or manuscript and send to the next agent (s) on your list. Give up mailbox angst. Start another project. Hold the thought that eventually you’ll match yourself up with the most appropriate agent to guide you through the publishing maze to publication.

Former publisher Molli Nickell helps writers create effective queries, synopses, first pages, and book proposals. Her “teaching” websites include:, and


L. Diane Wolfe said...

I also recommend hitting the Read 'Em And Weep website! Your rejection letter can't be as bad as those posted on that site!

The romantic query letter and the happy-ever-after said...

I needed this today, just got a form letter rejection from eharlequin undone line so thanks for sharing.

Colette Martin said...

I've loved chocolate all my life. I only recently became a writer. Who knew that so many in my new profession would have the same favorite food!

Great post!

Sheila Deeth said...

I'm reserving the chocolate for personal rejections - the one's where the manuscript actually got looked at first.

Carol said...

You all are great! Thanks for the wonderful (and funny) comments!

Jill said...

Yes, yes, yes. Move on to the next agent or publisher on your list or begin the next project.

Steel your nerves before sending the query letters and steel them before opening letters from agents or publishers.

A writer friend once said to me that it doesn't matter how many rejection letters you get (he got 125). Th eonly letter that matters is the one that says "yes" - in his case letter #126.

You cannot take rejection letters personally. There is a lot of truth to the cliched lines, i.e. "it doesn't fit with our list... we already have too many XXX (mysteries, romances, cookbooks, etc)."

If they offer any advice or suggestions in the rejection letter, pay attention to it and try to learn from it.

Then mail the next letter.

Cheers, Jill

Carol said...

Gone With The Wind was rejected 38 times!!

Joanne Olivieri said...

Great article and a good excuse to eat chocolate. When I began writing and sending out my poetry decades ago I received rejection after rejection. It hurt and destroyed my confidence until one day my attitude changed to " fine if you don't like it someone else will. " From that day on I look at rejection letters as a challenge and with that mindset I'm able to deal with it.

Glynis Peters said...

when the time comes I will buy stamps and chocolates, thanks for the advice! :)

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