Rethinking Rejection

Today we’re discussing a great topic: Rejections!  Boo! Hiss! Every writer gets ‘em, every writer hates ‘em! But my friend and author Hildie McQueen gives us some great advice on dealing with rejection, so make sure you read her post and then throw your two cents in because Hildie’s giving away a 5 page critique, a free e-copy of her latest book, AND a $10 gift card to Amazon!

[And don't forget about my upcoming online class No Matter How Busy You Are, You CAN Find Time to Write! (Your tuition includes a free critique or phone coaching session with me.) More info HERE ]

Rethinking Rejections

By Hildie McQueen

It’s finished, your book, the story that you’ve worked on for months is finally written, rewritten, polished, edited and ready for submission to editors.  You write the synopsis. Attach it and the manuscript to an email, close your eyes and hit ‘send’.

Weeks later after the third or fourth rejection, you drag yourself away from the computer and are not sure what to do next.  It’s such a good story. No correction, it’s a great story. How can no one want to pounce on the opportunity to publish it?  It’s inconceivable that intelligent publishers and agents can’t see the beauty of your story.

The truth is although it may be an amazing story, it’s not being picked up for a number of reasons.  Most of them do not make sense, nor will they make you feel better.

I wrote a novel titled ‘Taken by Storm’ six years ago. It’s a great book. To this day I think it would do well, if it ever got picked up and a beautiful cover slapped on it. I spent a year on this book. After completing it, I pitched it to countless editors. Everyone asked for a full.  Everyone also rejected it.  After rewriting it and making the changes a couple of editors requested, I resubmitted it.  Once again, it was ‘not the right fit’ for them, ‘at the time’.

It probably wasn’t.  And here’s why. There are combinations of factors involved that affect a decision to whether accept or reject a manuscript.  Hopefully after you read this, you’ll understand it a bit better and prepare yourself and your manuscript so that it will have a better chance of making it out of the slush pile.

Speaking of which. Slush piles are high. Skyscraper high. Junior editors look at a bulging inbox and pick an email at random.  Based on what? Your guess is as good as mine.  My guess is this. Name recognition and a catchy title.  (More on that later).  The junior editor then opens the attachment, reads the first page or two.  If it doesn’t grab his or her attention, they reject it.  If they don’t have the authority to reject it, they probably forward it to someone who does with ‘recommend rejection’ on the subject line.

If a story catches their attention, they fix a cup of coffee and continue reading.  The chances of an offer are better at this point.  They read the first chapter then skip to the fourth.  Why?  Because most people know the first three chapters of books are polished to death. The fourth however is the most ignored chapter of all time.  Usually it’s a transition chapter with backstory or where flashbacks occur.  If they like that chapter, the manuscript will probably make it through to a Sr. Editor.

Now let us talk about factors that will help your manuscript end up not only on a Sr. Editor’s inbox, but maybe even skipping the slush pile altogether.

  1. Meet the editor in person at an event and win them over with a killer pitch.  Practice your pitch, be comfortable with it. Be excited about your story and convey that enthusiasm when speaking to him or her.
  2. Do your homework. Make sure you are aware of exactly what the publishing house is looking for. Know the word counts and their expectations as far as heat-level of love scenes and what they prefer in a storyline. Ensure that you speak to this at the pitch.
  3. Be an active participant in the literary world.  Attend events, join a chapter, and join online groups related to your genre.  Submit to contests and help run or judge them. Volunteer at events. If you can’t afford to pay to attend, offer to help with set up and organization, sometimes you’ll get invited to attend free of charge.   I know this seems time consuming. It is. But it will pay off.  I was bowled over when I met a very well-known writer; I mean she’s on top of every chart. She told me. “I’ve heard of you. It’s nice to finally meet you.”  Of course I blubbered like an idiot and don’t remember what my reply was.
  4. The dreaded “SM”.  Unfortunately it’s a necessary evil.  Be active in Social Media.  Just one. Choose one and participate daily.  It’s not hard to update your status on Facebook in the morning and then check in at least once during the day.  I keep it simple, with a weekly theme.  Mondays something to inspire a fresh start, Tuesdays I post an excerpt (Teaser) of one of my books. Wednesdays are popular since I post hunks that day.  You get the idea.  I also like to post questions for readers and ask them to help me title a book or name a character. Readers love to be involved and little by little, you gain a following.
  5. Write an amazing book. It should go without saying that you should have more than just your best friend and your husband help you prepare your manuscript. I strongly suggest you join a critique group or ask a published author to critique for you in exchange for beta reads and reviews.
  6. The title.  In my opinion the title is sometimes harder to write than the actual book.  I love to get together with my non-writer friends and throw titles at them over a glass of wine.  We’ve come up with some great ones.  My first bestseller “Where the Four Winds Collide” came from one of these sessions. A title should be not just catchy, but unforgettable.  I always ask people what they are reading.  So many times, they can’t remember the title.  That’s sad.  One last thing on this, search for the title you chose on Amazon.  You don’t want to have the exact title as four hundred other books.
  7. Scrap it and move on.  Yes you read this right. If the story has gone to every editor on the planet and it still does not sell, it’s probably the wrong book for the time. Put it aside and begin with a new one. You should be writing every day anyway, so your second masterpiece should be started as soon as you finish the first.
  8. Editors reject good books for many reasons, so try not to take it personal. They reject manuscripts because…
    1. Too many in that genre in their inbox
    2. The opening is boring
    3. A repetitive storyline (they have twenty  “heroine who moves back to her small home town” books in their inbox already)
    4. The heroine is not strong enough/too strong
    5. The Hero is over the top Alpha or too much of a Beta
    6. They are looking for something very specific (do your homework!)

Don’t give up, enjoy the craft and keep writing. What is out today will once again become popular and you can bring your story back out and either pitch it again or self-publish it.

As for my rejected story, one day I may take another look at ‘Taken by Storm’. I’m sure soon an editor will be requesting submissions for physic Greek FBI agents who can teleport to Florida and open a gift shop.  I’m positive it will happen and when they do, I’ll be ready!

Question for discussion: How do YOU handle writing rejection? Leave a comment to be entered into the drawing for a critique of your first five pages from Hildie, an e-copy of A Different Shade of Blue, or a $10 Amazon gift card.

Author BIO: Hildie McQueen, bestselling author of Western Historical, Highland Historical and Contemporary Romances; Follow Hildie on Facebook at

  • Share/Bookmark
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Rethinking Rejection

  1. Nancy says:

    Rejection is hard. Especially when done by a generic form letter so it isn’t known what needed tweaking. It’s hard not to take it personally, but I know I must take it like a punch to the gut and roll with it. I take time to vent to a few close writer friends, threaten to give up, and then I sit back down and write. Why? Because writing is like eating and breathing. A necessity.

    • Kelly says:

      Thanks for commenting, Nancy. I agree, you get a rejection and it hurts, you sulk for a limited amount of time, but then get right back on the horse. What else can you do? That’s the right attitude!

  2. Kelly says:

    Thanks so much for being here today Hildie! I love this advice.

  3. Thank you for having me Kelly! Its exciting to be on a blog that I’ve followed for a long time.

  4. Hi Hildie!

    Great article!! I have enough rejection letters, but the best ones are from editors that tells me what’s missing. But, I have received the ones that says, sorry, too much in this genre, storyline, backlist… Those are actually the good rejections, it has nothing to do with the story, it’s probably pretty good if you have that response. All the same, I’ve received rejections that make me hang my head. LOL We all do eventually.

    Thanks for making me work harder, Hildie!!

    Dottie :)

  5. Calinda B says:

    Hey, Hildie, great post! Last year, I got a rejection from an agent who I pitched to at a conference. I thought she’d LOVE my book since she seemed so interested in it when I pitched it. She wrote me back months later, saying “The writing’s solid but I’m not in love with the story.” I didn’t really want her anyway, truth be told.

    Rejections from snarky critics are another matter. Currently, I have one whom I am firebombing in my head, like one of those stick figure internet cartoons from years back. I’m also bending the edges of my browser, turning them into spears and hurling them at her. Is it mature? You tell me. Does it feel good to do? Uh, yeah!