How To Stay Alive In a Pile of Query Rejections


In the midst of gearing up for a new round of submitting query packages, a fellow blogger asked me how I’m able to stay so motivated after multiple rejections. That’s a good question and I’m sure a lot of aspiring authors are wondering the same thing.

Earlier this year, I collected eight rejections (five actual responses and three no-response) to go along with the previous five from last year. Thirteen rejections are not fun, but in the publishing industry this is a minuscule number. To pay my dues as a writer, I know I have many more rejections coming my way. That means I have to be ready to take them and keep going.

For me, staying motivated comes down to five basic principles:

Remember that it’s all subjective.

In any creative field, individual judgements are part of the game. Agents, editors, and publishing houses, all have their likes, dislikes, wish lists, and hate lists. A submission is considered through all of these lenses, along with the business side of publishing. A book has to make money. Period. A prospective agent or publisher can love a book, but if they think it won’t sell, it’s all over.

I liken it to my own personal judgements of books. Sometimes I love a book so much it earns a special place on my bookshelf. Then, there’s the books I hate – the ones I can’t sell to Half Price Books fast enough. Yet, someone else out there has read it seven times and loves it every time. Agents work the same way.

Try to remember it’s not personal. An agent isn’t sending a rejection as a personal attack. They are simply looking for a project that works with their individual interests and business goals.

You have to show up. 

Taking a risk can pay off with great success or tank with astounding failure. The point is understanding that if you want something to happen you have to show up and take action. Doing nothing = nothing happens.

You can write an incredible novel or poetry anthology, but if you’re too afraid of rejection it’ll just sit in a drawer and collect dust. Agents and publishers do no send out hunting parties to scope out introverted writers or dig out the next bestsellers from hidden writing rooms. They need writers to come out of the shadows and make themselves known.

If you hide, they can’t find you.

Let rejection be your fuel.

I don’t like to lose at anything, so I turn that competitive edge into a tool.  It’s all about attitude and choice! If I choose to let each rejection become a roadblock, I will lose the game instantly. If I choose to let each rejection be part of the process, then I stand a chance to Pass Go and collect $200.

Every rejection I receive only fuels my fire to try again. A “no” just means I haven’t found the right outlet and I’ve simply eliminated it from a giant pool of prospects. Soon enough, I’ll have it narrowed down to that one “yes.”

Wear Your Thick Skin

Rejection can sting pretty badly if you don’t wear protective armor. My thick skin was developed through enduring beta readers picking apart my work, losing countless competitions, and realizing something I’d written was total crap.

Thick skin is only possible if you’re willing to open yourself up to criticism, rejection, and reality. It is absolutely essential to let these three things sink in and make you stronger. Mainly because you learn that not everyone will fall in love with your work and that’s okay!

Rejections bounce right off of thick skin like one of those super bouncy rubber balls.

It only takes one Yes.

In the end, it won’t matter how many “no’s” stack up in my inbox. What is going to matter is the one “yes.” Keep the focus where it belongs – directly on the goal. At the core of motivation is eternal hope and hard work. Never lose sight of what you’re trying to accomplish and never stop believing that it will happen.

When that “yes” shows up it will erase every single rejection you’ve ever received.

I’m still waiting and working for my “yes,” but I’m pushing forward  with these five principles in mind. As Galaxy Quest so eloquently put it: Never Give Up, Never Surrender!

– – –

c.b.w. 2015

13 thoughts on “How To Stay Alive In a Pile of Query Rejections

  1. I think my biggest problem with querying isn’t the rejections – in fact, like you said, rejections are just fuel – but rather the TIME involved. Too many publishers (in my opinion) have rules against submitting to anyone else while you’re submitting to them, but at the same time they can take months to respond, if they even respond at all. So it becomes this painful game of waiting and waiting and waiting before you even have the opportunity to try someone else. >.<


    • I tend to avoid publishers and agents that have rules against multiple submissions. The more research I do, the more I’m finding most agents understand the time issue and have no problem with multiple submissions. Those that do, fall to the bottom of my list. Like you said, there are a lot of fish in the sea – I’m not about to sit around and wait!


      • Good for you! Honestly, this was one of the main reasons that I decided to self-publish! I’m really hoping to traditionally publish my YA fantasy series though, so it’s nice to know that there are plenty of publishers out there who are okay with multiple submissions!


      • Seriously? I find precisely the reverse. If you snow someone with submissions they are likely to spend less time reading them; send them one good one and they’ll give it due attention. What you have to realise is that there is a person at the other end of the correspondence, albeit a person with a specific job. Their task is one of selective; what you have to do is to discourage it being a rejective process. Cut off the one-at-a-time publishers and agents and you cut one of your legs off.


      • Hmmmm . . . I think we are having a communication snafu. Multiple submissions in my perspective is being able to submit work to multiple agents at the same time. Some agents do not allow this – you’re allowed to submit to them and only them until they reject or accept you.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Ah, got it! Publishers tend to be more apt to do that than agents, I find. Agents kinda expect you to cast around. Publishers not so much. My own agent doesn’t mind; and also he usually promotes authors’ work to a selected spread of publishers, otherwise the process would be interminable.


  2. Rita Ackerman

    All great advice. Isn’t it funny how they all apply to life in general. Sometimes we need a thick skin, we have to show up and do the job. Thank you for sharing.


  3. Yes. Each one of these is so true. Even though sometimes it’s hard to remember that it’s not personal when it’s your baby being rejected, knowing that it’s all subjective makes all the difference. Love the Galaxy Quest quote, by the way! Ha, ha! 🙂


    • Galaxy Quest serves as a main philosophy in my life. 😀

      Learning to let my baby go and face an onslaught of rejection is how I’ve tracked my progress as a writer. I don’t get knots in my stomach anymore and I don’t worry about the coming sting of a “no.” I just send it off and hope for the best, all the while believing in what I’ve written. That’s really all we can do, right! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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