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Nobody likes to be rejected. Even the most seasoned, thick-skinned, successful writers hate getting rejections.

Unfortunately, for aspiring authors rejection isn't just a passing disappointment - it's a way of life.

As a writer, you can count on getting hundreds of rejections. And - I hate to say this - your hundredth rejection will sting just as much as the first.

At some point, you will be tempted to throw in the towel.

Don't do it. Try my foolproof method instead.

The method

Before I explain my tried-and-true method for handling rejections, I have to preface it with the admonition that it will take a little organizational work on your part. Ideally, you should do this before you start submitting your work. After all, you want to avoid as much pain as possible. Of course, if you have already started submitting your work and are in the throes of an existential crisis, it still isn't too late.

1) Make a 'top 50 list.' Find 50 places to submit your work and rank them in order of desirability. (For example, if you are submitting a story, the top slot could be the New Yorker.)

If you are submitting a short story, go here, and find 50 literary magazines.

If you are submitting query letters to agents, go to Agentquery and make a list of 50 agents for your genre. (Be sure to check Agents Seeking Clients here.)

Resources for Science Fiction/Fantasy writers are here.

Resources for Children's and YA writers are here.

Resources for Romance writers are here.

Resources for Mystery/Thrillers are here.

2) If your top slot says "no simultaneous submissions" then, immediately after getting your rejection, submit to the #2 spot on your list.

3) If your top slots - or your remaining slots - don't say "no simultaneous submissions" submit to all of them at once. One of them will take you, and your waiting time will be considerably reduced.

4) If you are submitting to agents, make sure you revise and hone your query letter as you submit, but keep working your way down your list. Don't stop.

5) When you get close to number 50 (and I have done this more than once), make a new 'top 50 list.'

Do this doggedly - without pausing to contemplate the futility of writing or the pointlessness of existence -  and you will do just fine. And keep writing! Having several of your works making the rounds on your 'top 50' will increase your chances of success.

You may find, as I did, that by using this technique you will not only avoid the rejection blues, you will get published.

 
 
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It was September 2005. I was out in my garden murdering plants and Communing with Nature when the phone rang. I didn't go in to answer it. I never answer the phone, not even when I am two inches away from it. An hour later, when I'd finished Communing and wiped the blood off my hands, I listened to the message. It was someone I didn't know telling me that RH wanted to publish my books. All of them.

I listened to the message a second time and recognized the name of my agent – a person with whom I had spoken several years earlier and who had never given me cause for hope. After two years of waiting anxiously by the phone, I had given up on any chance of publishing and reverted to the comforts of vegetal genocide.

I called my daughter and told her about RH.

“Hey,” she said. “I've heard of them.”

“Why are you making that sound?” I replied.

“Well (harharhar), I never thought (harharhar) you'd actually get published (harharharharhar)...”

My daughter is the only person on earth who can produce completely incompatible emotions in me.

And thus begins the first emotional stage of Publication: Ecstasy. The other five stages are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. I'll get to those later when I talk about contracts.

Before I could say New York Times Bestseller, I found myself scurrying to comply with my agent's agenda. I was instructed to come to The City to lunch with The Editor and to tour RH. I was also instructed to cut my hair and make myself presentable. (This last task proved beyond me.) I got into a car, then on a train, and then not into a taxi (why aren't there ANY available taxis in The City?), and then ran, in the rain, fifteen blocks to RH. By the time I arrived, I was wet, disheveled, and my stockings had fallen down to my ankles.

“You look just like a children's book author should look,” said the agent's assistant. Her lack of irony was unsettling.

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Silently, my agent bade me sit. 

There was only one place to sit – a bench made out of something very hard and very unforgiving.

“Just take it in,” said my agent in soft, reverent tones.

I took it in. We were clearly in the belly of the beast. BERTELSMANN was displayed in large brushed-steel letters on the wall opposite the entrance. There were matching elevators. A bored young person sat behind an enormous bulwark. Behind me was a huge, brutally lit wall encasing the hundreds, nay thousands, of famous books RH had published.

I knew I was in for it.

After receiving permission to ascend, we took the elevator to the 10th floor where I was introduced to my editor, and to 200 other children's book editors. Some of them shook my hand. Others turned their backs (these were the writers of the Golden Books - a disgruntled lot). I met the person who would be in charge of marketing my book. She gave me the look my attire deserved.

Then we went to lunch. My agent had given me instructions to keep my mouth shut. So, I sat there and ate sanitized quasi-Greek food while my editor and agent spoke in hushed voices.

Why hushed?

Because all the other agents and editors in the publishing industry were at adjacent tables trying to eavesdrop on one another's conversations and potentially steal … something. The conversation at my table revolved around “buzz” and other marketing terms. As it turned out, I actually didn't have to say anything, because there was nothing to say. By anyone. RH was a machine, a behemoth, a juggernaut. Nobody could stop it. Nobody could influence it. We were all just tiny teeth in its gargantuan devouring maw.

“The publishing industry isn't just about bestsellers,” I muttered. “Books are ideas. Sometimes you have to take a chance on a new idea.”

My editor leveled her gaze at me and said, without a hint of remorse, that she had turned down J. K. Rowling because her books were “too long, and nobody would read them.”

It was at that point that I began to enter into the next stage of Publication: Denial.


 

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