Writers are no strangers to rejection. Barring incredible luck or lots of connections, even the most famous of published authors were often turned down many times before their work was accepted. And in some cases, even once published, their work was rejected by the readers of their own day. Now, everybody has his or her own way of handling rejection, but I’m going to try and give a brief guideline here of some things you definitely should not do, as well as some that you always should.
In many cases, rejection stems from issues the publisher is having, and not necessarily from your work. They might have only a certain number of slots to fill for a given magazine, or in the case of book publishers, they might only have so many they can put out in a single year. The fact that yours did not make the cut when hundreds or even thousands of others didn’t either is nothing to get overly upset about. In some cases, their quota was filled before they even got around to looking at your manuscript, so there is definitely no need to take the rejection personally. Other times there are other issues like submitting the wrong genre or errors with the format of your manuscript (which is why it’s important to always read submission guidelines!). Yes, it can be frustrating to have to wait 3-6 months only to receive some form rejection letter in the mail (if that), but unfortunately it’s all part of the game. That said, this wait time dilemma can sometimes be mitigated by making simultaneous submissions.
On very rare occasions, you might receive a more personalized rejection letter from the publisher or agent. These letters can be as good as gold, especially if they give you any hints as to why it was rejected. Any feedback you can glean from such rejection notices should be taken to heart and implemented as soon as possible before you submit to any more places. Sometimes it will be a more general statement of what they didn’t like, but if any specifics are given, be sure to act on those too.
So, in short, the key to dealing with rejection is not to give up or despair, and it’s certainly not to get mad at the particular editor or agent who rejected your work. Just keep working, keep improving your manuscript by implementing any suggestions you receive, and hold onto all of those rejection letters, form or otherwise. Look at them as badges of honor rather than shame, as they show you’re really making a go of it. And someday, should you finally receive that much vaunted, much coveted acceptance notice, you can look back at the rough road you’ve travelled and appreciate all the more your ultimate success!