I started submitting THE YUCKIEST, DROOLIEST, STINKIEST, BEST VALENTINE'S DAY EVER to publishers in February, 2003. Over the course of 4 1/2 years, I received approximately 70 rejection letters. 70!! (I bet you didn't know there were that many publishers. Truth be told, some of those rejections were from agents, and some were contests I entered and lost.) One of the questions people ask me all the time is, "How do you handle the rejection?"
Here's how I see it:
Rejection is part of the process. You never hear of an author who gets published without first receiving rejection, so you have to just accept it. In fact, you can celebrate it. You are doing exactly what every author does... submitting work!
I give my rejection letters different grades. There's the form letter that comes back without a signature. I give that kind of rejection a C.
There's the form letter with the one line written at the bottom by the editor, something along the lines of: Thanks! or Cute! That rejection gets a B.
There's the personal rejection letter. That's when the editor actually takes the time to write you a whole letter, telling you what he/she did and didn't like about the manuscript. You should seriously celebrate when you get one of those. That means you are getting very close. You just need to get lucky now! That rejection is an A for sure.
A+ rejections come in three varieties:
1) A request to submit another manuscript. Awesome! That means the editor really likes your writing, but there is just something about this particular manuscript that isn't right for their house. Send something new out today!
2) A phone call rejection. Someone liked your manuscript enough to call you??? Holy cow! Good work.
3) A request to revise and resubmit. That's not really a rejection at all! You are so close, you can practically see your name on the spine of the book. Get to work!!!
Of the 70 or so rejections I received for YUCKIEST, close to thirty were personal rejections, half a dozen were requests for revisions, and one editor actually called to reject me after I did a revision for him that he loved. (More on that later.)
I know that rejections hurt. I know it's hard to wait months, sometimes years, to hear back from publishers. But you have to believe in yourself. Dust yourself off. Take another look at your manuscript to see if you can improve it. And send it out again. YUCKIEST changed dramatically over the years I spent submitting it. It got better and better with each revision, and it finally found a home at Harcourt.
Today I am sending love to all the editors who sent me those personal rejection letters. Thank you for taking time out of your busy day to give me your feedback. You helped me improve my story and helped me to keep the faith!