Yeah. I know pretty sad.
In the past two years of on-and-off querying, it’d be a lie to say I haven’t faced it myself. But I guess that is the one way all authors can relate. We’ve ALL been there. Whether you’re a published author, trying to publish, or are just starting out writing, you will in some way eventually face this. (And probably sooner than later.) It doesn’t always come in the same form. For authors trying to traditionally publish, you might face this more in rejections from literary agents and publishing companies. For indie authors, this could be in the form of rejection from readers, such as in a negative one-star review on GoodReads. If you’re a new author, it could be rejection from friends or family. Let’s be honest. The real world ain’t easy on us authors, and often times, it’s SUPER easy to let this rejection get the best of you. But you don’t have to let it beat you up. Today’s post I’m going to be breaking down the best tips to handle what I think are the three biggest forms you are most likely to face in rejection.
This one is very likely to be the first form of rejection you’ll face. I’m sure a lot of us are SUPER open to feedback. We recognize that our stories aren’t perfect and want help from others. Whether that’s from a beta reader, trusted friend, editor, etc., authors understand how important it is to have someone else look over your writing and give their honest opinion. But even while we are asking for this feedback and really do want it, sometimes it’s hard, especially the first time, to take it. It’s typically an eye-opening moment where you realize, hey, my story needs work. I mean, it could just be me, but I remember the first time I had betas and truly had someone be honest about my writing and what I needed to improve on. It wasn’t easy, not in the slightest. And I think first being honest that constructive criticism isn’t always easy to handle, is a good step. However, it DOES get easier the more you take feedback. I just finished having a lot of betas on a project of mine where I got a TON of awesome advice and have really felt my writing improve that much more, and it was nowhere near as hard as it was that first time.
The first thing you can do, is make sure you’re getting feedback from the right people. Let’s say you just completed this epic fantasy novel and are getting some beta readers. You have one reader who is constantly telling you his/her opinion on a lot of the novel’s best parts. Maybe this reader is saying that you’re novel having magic or dragons or is set in a made up world is WAY to unrealistic for a reader to handle and you should just cut it out and put it in a small-town America setting where they eat hot dogs, ride horses, and show an undying love for the word “y’all”. You are, of course, immediately hurt and saddened by this, because you want to be able to take the feedback you’ve been given but doing so would mean to completely change your novel.
Was this advice wrong? Not exactly, but it IS wrong for the book’s genre. While, yes, if you’re writing a sweet contemporary novel that has dragons and fantasy elements, this beta would be spot on that you should consider changing it, but for your epic fantasy novel, this advice won’t work. That’s what makes your novel exciting! And that’s why it’s important to make sure you’re getting feedback from the right kind of beta readers. Hence why I see a LOT of beta reader sign-up forms ask what your favorite genre, author, and/or book is. That’s just something to keep in mind that will prevent getting the wrong kind of feedback, that can be really damaging.
(If you more advice on getting beta readers and what to and what not to look for in one, lemme know in the comments below, and I’ll see about doing a post on it!!!)
Now you’ve got your beta team assembled. Maybe you’ve been excited about this novel and have such high hopes for it, but when the feedback starts rolling in (the good kind that you need to take) you find that excitement diminish. You find the pain stabbing deep. And all you want to do is curl up with your favorite book, eat some chocolate, and cry. Okay maybe not to THAT extreme, but you get the point.
Something to remember is not to take it personal, because it’s not an attack on you or your writing. It’s a simple nudge to help you get where you wanna be, and this will help you improve as a writer. My biggest advice for handling this is when you get the feedback to not go and immediately edit. You might find yourself ignoring more suggestions than accepting them, because maybe the pain is too much. I’ve found that when I first get feedback and my initial response is to defend myself but then when I take a step back and return to the story with fresh eyes and look again at what a beta was trying to explain, I realize just HOW right he/she was that this needed to be changed. But also remember, that it’s okay not to take every piece of feedback you get because you know what’s best for your story. But as long as you have good betas, you’ll probably find yourself taking about 95% of suggestions!!!! I know how hard editing is and realizing how far your story has to go, but hang in there because you’ll look back one day and be grateful to all those who have helped you improve.
If you plan on going the traditional publishing route, you will face rejection from agents, publishers, etc. But having a more positive outlook can drastically alter how crushing this rejection can be. The first thing to keep in mind that not all rejection has to do with the quality of the story itself.
Yup, it’s true. In fact, a lot of rejection is for subjective reasons. You may have a super awesomely wonderful story, but it just wasn’t that specific agent’s personal taste. While it may still hurt, this rejection is actually for the best. Think about it, wouldn’t you want your story in the hands of someone who absolutely adored and would champion for it? Another thing to remember is that this is all part of the process. Instead of viewing rejection as what’s keeping you from your publishing goal, view it as taking the next step toward it. Take it from someone with a ton of experience, just this minor outlook really does make the rejection sting less. Of course, it’s going to sting either way, and that’s okay, but changing your outlook on it makes it easier to move on from that rejection and keep submitting! (Also, as a side note, on the occasion that you get a reason for the rejection, such as maybe the plot was too weak or the main character wasn’t well-developed, take a moment to step away from the rejection and story. And then return with open eyes and you might find that the agent was right!)
Finally, whatever you do, don’t take rejection personal. Because it’s not! It has nothing to do with you as a person, but for whatever reason this specific agent or publisher just wasn’t in love with your story, and that’s okay. It’s actually good to understand that not everyone will adore your story because when the time comes to put it into readers’ hands, you might find yourself realizing this hard truth. But you’re stronger than this rejection, so don’t let it keep you down! Get up, move forward, and never stop writing!
Negative Book Reviews
(Though there are exceptions to this rule. I know some self-published authors who do take feedback on their books after publishing because they plan to rewrite or they want to improve their craft. But outside of those instances, you just don’t listen to the negative book reviews.)
In fact, if you’re worried about not being able to handle a negative book review, there IS an easy way out. Simply just don’t read them. I know plenty of authors who say that they don’t read the reviews. Some only choose read the five and four stars and some choose not to read any. And, y’all, that really is okay. If someone’s trashing your book in a one-star GoodReads review, you don’t need to offer them any of your attention.
In the end, do what you can best handle. You can’t please everyone and some people are just critical reviewers. Even if you had changed what they thought should’ve been changed, they will still find something wrong. If you’re a Christian, you write for an audience of One, and if you’re not, remember that there will always be SOMEONE who loves your book, and that’s who you write for!!!
Rejection is inevitable in the writing career, but don’t let it beat you up. Every author has to face it, so you’re not alone in your struggles. Just focus on why you’re writing, who you’re writing for, and keep persevering, no matter how hard! Someone out there will champion and love your story. Someone out there will think of you as their favorite author one day. And those are the readers who make struggling with rejection worth it.
Until the next post.
Stay bold, keep strong, and journey onward,