Sunday, August 10, 2014

Rejections (And How to Shrug Them Off)

As many of you know, I am currently wading through the slush piles of literary agents everywhere. Recently, I got back a handful of rejections on some fulls I had out. Now, I know what you’re thinking next: Oh no, Jessica, don’t talk about the rejections you got or bad mouth agents or say anything that could get you blacklisted!!! Calm down, I’m totally not going to do that!

I’m not going to list who I was rejected by or respond directly to any feedback they gave. I appreciate the time they took to review my work and give any feedback at all. The point I want to make by bringing it up is that EVERY rejection I got came with feedback, and each piece of advice or suggestion was DIFFERENT from the others. It wasn't like they all said one thing – I guess that can happen sometimes with feedback. But not this time. It was all very detailed opinions about what THAT agent was hoping to see more of, and it just didn't come through.

Where does that leave me?

Well, in quite a predicament. Obviously none of these agents connected enough with my story to want to work with it further, so what is it missing? According to each of them, something was missing, but it was different for each of them. This is what needs pounded into each aspiring writer’s head at all times:


Now, that doesn't mean that is ALWAYS the case. You might have character development issues or pacing issues or mood issues or “dead genre” issues. I’m not saying that every book is truly publishable and that is always comes down to an opinion matter. But a lot of the times, IT IS.

You could have one agent really love a particular secondary character and want to see more of them, and then you can have another who thinks they are not needed and they should be removed from the story completely. I did.

You could have one agent say the pacing is too slow while another says they thought the pacing was well done. I did.

You could have agents who absolutely love the concept and request right away and then have agents who don’t get past your query because it just isn't right for them. I did.

The point is, for every person who might pass on your novel, there is probably someone out there who would love to read it in a heartbeat. I’m not just talking about agents anymore, I’m talking about all people. Living, breathing, book-loving people who are looking for the next story to touch their hearts. It might be yours. If you gave up because one agent said “this isn't for me,” then you might miss out on the one that says “this is exactly what I've been looking for.”


  1. The exact same thing happened to me! Got some very nice rejections from some very nice editors who all gave different reasons for passing. (Sigh). So frustrating, but in the long run, it did help me focus on what I was willing to change and what was off-limits, and in the end, I did find an editor who "got" my story. Keep going!

  2. You're absolutely right, and this is important for young (or new) writers to know. Whether a character should be deleted, or emphasized more, or whether a book is slowly paced or fast-paced, is not a matter of universal truth, but purely one of opinion.

    I use Critique Circle a lot. If I critique a story that six other people have critiqued, there will be seven different opinions, some 180 out. There is rarely much, if any, overlap.

    You're doing very well to get meaningful feedback. Your writing must be very good.