So, you’ve written and perfected your query; you’ve written and perfected your manuscript; and you’ve sent both along to a variety of literary agents. Then the waiting game began. You were patient (even though it was painful to wait) and finally, an email has arrived in your inbox! You scramble to open it and scan the first few lines…and it’s a rejection.
Maybe this is your first rejection, maybe it’s your fiftieth. Either way, rejection is never easy to deal with and it can hurt a lot to get your hopes up about an agent, just to find out that he or she didn’t feel the same connection to your manuscript.
So how do you cope?
Dealing with Rejection
Those first moments after reading an agent’s rejection email can be rough. Your mind might jump to all the reasons that the agent is wrong or that things should’ve gone differently. That’s fine, but don’t dwell on that anger for too long.
It’s very important to accept rejection gracefully. Don’t send an agent an angry email. Don’t reply and say, “You’ll be sorry you didn’t want to represent me!” First, take some time for yourself. Never answer a rejection email while your emotions are running high. After things have calmed down, feel free to send a brief note that says, “Thank you for your time. I wish you the best in your endeavors.” or something similar.
Sometimes rejection emails don’t even necessitate a reply. Often agents won’t expect any response from you after they have declined to move further with your manuscript, especially if they’ve sent you a form rejection. However, no one will slight you for sending a gracious note along after the rejection.
If the agent has taken the time to write a personal email telling you why your manuscript didn’t fit with their list or what you can do to improve it for another agent, then it’s good form to send a thank-you email in reply. It’s likely to be your last communication with that particular agent, so being polite is a good idea.
Why It Might Have Happened
Maybe you will get a personalized note from an agent you’ve queried explaining why your manuscript was rejected. This is a best case scenario. It’s fine to take agents’ advice or explanations with a grain of salt—since every agent and reader will have a different opinion and view on your manuscript—but this can be very valuable advice if you choose to take it.
An agent might reject your initial query, but ask you to revise and resubmit. However, if he or she doesn’t specify this, it’s safe to assume that this agent didn’t feel the manuscript was right for him or her. Querying a second time will likely be a waste of time.
More often than not, however, you won’t receive an explanation of why you’ve been rejected. And this can be incredibly frustrating. I advise all writers to accept the idea of not knowing before they ever begin querying. It might seem like something you’ll never want to accept—you’ll always want to know why someone didn’t connect with your manuscript!—but it will save you a lot of stress and grief if you do accept it. Here are just a few reasons why even a good manuscript might be rejected, but there could be dozens of explanations, and sometimes we just can’t know.
It’s almost never appropriate to email an agent who has rejected you and ask him or her why your manuscript was rejected. That email will certainly be ignored. Instead, understand that you might not always know and have that acceptance be part of your healing process.
What This Means for You
First of all, you have to understand: this does not mean that your manuscript is bad, or unpublishable, or doomed.
There are many, many other agents out there, and just because your manuscript isn’t right for some of them, that does not mean it isn’t right for one of them. And one is all it takes.
There are a lot of sources online about coping with rejection and moving forward with the process. Of course, you’ll find a lot of different methods, but the most important thing is not to let this destroy your confidence. Remember that you’ve written a manuscript. That’s more than many people can say! And if you persevere, you will find it an agent that’s right.
If rejection has gotten you down and you need some time to wallow or grieve, that’s fine. Remember though, that when the wallowing ends, it will be time to move forward.
Thank you as always for reading. Come back next week to find out your next steps once you pick yourself back up. Keep on working, revising, and improving! You can do this!