The Evolution of Rejection


Used with permission from Debbie Ridpath Ohi at

As we all know, rejection is a big part of this business.  Like Nora Roberts said, if it were easy to get published and stay published, then it wouldn't be special.  However, that doesn't make rejection any easier to take.


I attended a panel at RWA called It's For Your Own Good: What You Can Learn From Rejection.  The panel was led by Brenda Chin, senior editor at Harlequin Blaze and two authors who she had rejected in the past (but had since found success.)

Bravely, the two authors shared their own rejection letters from their past and deciphered the language of the letters to show what the author should take from it.  Really, there are positives in rejection.  No, seriously, there are.

Okay, so here's what they had to say about the different types of "no"...


Type one:  The dreaded form rejection

What we hear: You suck
What it can mean:  Pretty much anything...
Story type not right for the agency/publisher
They already have clients that have projects too similar to yours
It just didn't fit that person's tastes
Your writing isn't strong enough yet
They don't think they can sell it
You didn't follow guidelines
You may actually suck or you may be brilliant--you just don't know.



Type two: The no but here's a positive nugget.

What we hear:  They like me!  But not enough. This is the "really enjoyed your (insert attribute), BUT (insert reason)--usually it's I just didn't fall in love with it.
What it means: You're making progress!  You've done something well!  But it's still a no.



Type three: The I enjoyed it, but I'm not sure there's a market for it.

What we hear: No one is going to want to buy your book.
What it means: For whatever reason, this agent doesn't feel like they can sell it. However, it doesn't mean that someone else won't want to.  AND, someone actually liked your story!



Type four: The this project isn't right but would be open to see something else from you in the future.

What we hear: NO
What it means:  THIS project isn't a right fit, but I liked your writing enough to ask to be subjected to  it in the future.  So, you've got skills, baby!



Type five: The no, these things are an issue, but good luck somewhere else.

What we hear: No, go inflict yourself on someone else.
What it means: They thought you had enough potential to take the time to give you personalized input--don't underestimate how big a deal that is for people who are so darn busy.  And now, you've got usable feedback!  Celebrate!  Take the things they suggested and make your manuscript better.



Type six: The revise and resubmit

What we hear: Houston, we've got interest!!!
What it means:  They liked your story and you don't suck!  So much so that they want you to fix things and read it again.  *throws confetti*  So get your butt in the chair and get to work.  And remember, resubmit to that agent, don't just fix and move on to another agent.  Give the person who gave you the feedback the chance to see it again


Each of these different types (outside of the form rejection, which doesn't tell us much) should be seen as a small victory and a step in the right direction.  Like I talked about earlier this week, persistence is the name of the game.  At each stage of these rejections, people give up and stop writing.  Don't be one of those people.  The only way to guarantee 100% that you'll never get a "yes" is to bow out of the race.

So, what do you think?  Have you experienced these different types of rejections?  What types am I missing?

Also, don't forget to stop by next week.  I'll be talking about my own experience so far in the query wars.  :)


**Today's Theme Song**
"Don't Go Away Mad, Just Go Away" -  Motley Crue
(player in sidebar, take a listen)


*picture credit: