Would you believe I’ve never had a manuscript rejected? Of course you wouldn’t. Facing up to rejection is a huge part of being an author, and it doesn’t go away for writers who’ve had 5, 10, or even 30 books published. If you're going to stick your neck into the publishing world, you'd better learn to deal.
Rejection hangs around even after you’ve sold your manuscript. The publisher may reject your title—Fairest of Them All was originally Crowning Glory, your main character’s name or age—Ori grew from 14 to 15 in one stroke of an editor’s pen, your favorite subplot--Rhonda's secret past went down the drain, even your book’s ending.
I’m pretty flexible when it comes to changing names, ages, and book titles, and I’ve deleted some of my favorite passages with minimal pouting. I haven’t been asked to change an ending, yet. That could be tough. But it’s been my experience that editors know what they’re talking about, so I’d try to listen with an open mind.
Back to the big question. How do I deal with having a manuscript turned down by a publisher or two or seven? Before I wrote Fairest of Them All I collected enough rejections to earn my Masters Degree in Rejectionology. For a couple of years, I let being rejected get me down to the point where I stopped sending out manuscripts. And it took several swift kicks in the rear—and tons of encouragement--from my writing group to help me get my courage up and try again.
Now that the giving-up stage of my writing life is over—Oh, yes it is!—this is my new process for dealing with rejection:
1. Forward the offending email to my writing group. I’m guaranteed a “How could they?” response within the hour.
2. Print out the email and turn it face down on my desk for a day--two days if it's really harsh.
3. Turn the email over and try to objectively read the details. One of the many perks of having an agent is getting meaningful feedback from editors. The generic “It’s not right for our list” we writers get from the slush pile doesn’t give us anything to go on.
4. Take another look at my manuscript and see if the feedback makes sense.
5. Drink wine, eat chocolate, and do what needs to be done!