Getting rejected by “the one”…

…agent. “The one” agent.

Which in itself is a no-no, I hear, because you aren’t supposed to have one particular agent on whom you place all of your literary hopes and dreams. Which I’m all about, and I actually don’t have one. I have several agents I have queried, and of course I love them all. But every once in a while, I’ve stumbled across an agent that I’ve felt particularly attached to. An agent I’ve felt a connection with, one whose bio I’ve read and about whom I’ve thought to myself, “Holy cow, she is perfect.”

For me. She’s perfect for me. There are agents that I think I might mesh better with, agents whose profiles and wish lists seem to say nothing other than, “‘Red Rain Boots.’ Send us ‘Red Rain Boots.'”

So I did. And two of them have rejected me. Cold, hard, form rejection letters that say, as kindly as possible, that they don’t think they can represent my novel.

Photo source.

And it hurts. It’s soul-crushingly painful. Because it’s not just that they’re rejected you, which is painful enough in itself. They’re rejecting your product, your baby, that thing you’ve worked on for months and poured literal pieces of your soul into. They’re rejecting you without even reading that piece of your soul…

I’m not complaining about the way they do rejections. I understand that agents receive hundreds of queries every week, and goodness, if they had to read partials of every unsolicited manuscript, well…they would probably all quit and then where would aspiring authors be? I’m insanely grateful for agents with open inboxes and a willingness to scan hundreds of query letters, many of which are for projects they have  no interest in. So if any agents happen to be reading this, thank you. You rock.

Of course, it still hurts to get rejected. Especially from someone you thought would be a great match. So what do you do when that happens? How do you pick up and move on to the next? I’m definitely not an expert (although I’m on my way), but here are some small tips you might use to help yourself go onward–whether the rejection is from an agent, a school or a beloved.

  1. Take a moment to grieve
    This is super important. Any time you receive a disappointment, you have to give yourself time to be sad about it. Let yourself grieve. Take maybe 30 to 45 minutes and revel in your sadness, allowing yourself to experience the emotions battling inside of you.
  2. Turn off the grief
    Another really important thing is to make sure you don’t let your grief run all over you. At some point, you have to turn it off. You have to straighten your shoulders, shake your head, and say, “Okay.”
  3. Don’t beat yourself up
    Remind yourself that this is just one person. In the agent world, most of the rejections come with an encouragement to keep trying. And as much as it can seem like that is a condescending pat on the back, it’s a reminder that no, not everyone will love your book; but that doesn’t mean no one will.
  4. Look for someone (or thing) new
    The best thing you can do is literally propel yourself forward. Find something else to look forward to, whether that’s a new agent you can be excited about, a new future or a new haircut.
  5. Move on
    Yep, my advice about moving is to just do it. Don’t let yourself dwell on it. Don’t spend your nights twirling a pen, staring longingly off into the distance, thinking, “Oh, dream agent, if only you had accepted me. We could have gone so far…” Just forget about it. If they offered advice, consider accepting it, but otherwise, take one step forward, then another one, and keep going until you’re past it.

Rejection is hard. But it doesn’t have to kill you. As our dear Kelly Clarkson once crooned, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” You got this, friend.

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