Publisher Rejection Letters: How to Bounce Back And Move Forward

“There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in. ” Leonard Cohen

I’ve got my ghostwriting hat on for a client this week, so want to write about the pain of receiving a rejection letter.

You spend months of research, writing, editing and tweaking your book proposal.  It positively sings.  You thought you had a winning idea.

But then you receive a rejection letter.  Possibly one after the other.

However nicely they’re worded, they’re still a big, fat ‘no’.

Firstly, you’re not alone.

Rejection letters sent to famous authors include the first Harry Potter book, which was rejected by 14 publishers, Agatha Christie, whose publisher Bodley Head apparently took 18 months before they agreed to publish it, and Rudyard Kipling who was told, “I’m sorry Mr. Kipling, but you just do not know how to use the English language.”

But secondly, and more importantly, they bounced back and so can you.

How do you cope?

Remember the song “Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start all over again”? There’s wisdom in that little ditty.

Reflect

Don’t doubt your ability, or allow feelings of inadequacy to settle in. Do reflect on what you could have done better.

Did you pitch to the right agent or publisher and in the right manner?  Many book proposals are rejected because they’ve been submitted to the wrong publisher or agent.  You do need to research very carefully the type of books they have already published.

Did your proposal carefully follow submission guidelines?  Publishers will usually detail on their own website what they want you to submit and how to submit it.

How strong is your proposal?  The secret of a winning proposal is your platform, how many connections you have, how many readers you reach (now) and how many readers you’re able to bring to your publisher through your own marketing efforts.

Take time to reflect on how you can make your proposal better and quickly move to the next step.

Rework

Rejection letters from publishers vary. Some give helpful feedback (often the smaller, independents) in which case, you can use their feedback to rework.  Others don’t. There’s not much you can do with a letter which simply states, “Sorry, but this is not for us.”

What you can do is seek advice from someone who’s been through the experience before.  What lessons were they able to take away from this?  What helpful pointers can they pass on to you?

It’s difficult to critique your own work, so if possible, hire an agent (in fact, some publishers will not accept a proposal unless it has been submitted by an agent).  Alternatively, pay for an appraisal service.

If you are feeling particularly stuck and can’t see what you could have done differently, try stepping away from everything for a change of scene.

Get out there and network, hit shows, festivals, conferences or talks.  Granted, as a busy business owner, time is of the essence and you just want to see this through – pronto! But a change in routine will help you see things from a different perspective, a new and unique angle – and that’s a big plus when it comes to a winning proposal.

At the very least, using rejection as an opportunity to rework and improve is a great way to channel those pent up emotions on doing something constructive, rather than moping around feeling fed up.

Resubmit

Resubmit a revised and reworked proposal as quickly as possible.   This doesn’t necessarily mean to the same publisher – although it won’t do any harm. That largely depends on why they rejected it in the first place.

The main idea is to move forward as quickly as possible, to simply take this in your stride and use it as a learning curve.  Just submit it to the next appropriate publisher and keep busy with the business of running your business to keep your mind fully occupied.

Your book deserves to be out there in the hands of the hundreds, if not thousands of people upon whose lives it can have an impact.  The harder you try the likelier you are to succeed.

The alternative?

“Before success comes in any man’s life, he’s sure to meet with much temporary defeat and, perhaps some failures. When defeat overtakes a man, the easiest and the most logical thing to do is to quit. That’s exactly what the majority of men do.”  Napoleon Hill

Do you want to join the hundreds who quit?