10 Hidden Gifts of Rejection Letters

1. Rejection letters take you out of submission limbo. Familiar with that hell whose name is Waiting? Is the agent reading your submission? Chortling with her cronies over it? Using it as a doorstop or drink coaster? With that rejection letter in hand, you now know where you stand. No more wondering. No more worry. Of course no more hope either. Time to move on. Next.

(How can writers compose an exciting Chapter 1?)

2. All it takes is one rejection letter to make you an instant life member of a club whose luminaries include Walt Whitman, J.K. Rowling and Dr. Seuss. What published writer has never received a rejection letter? These are our badges of determination. Of striving. And on bad days, of lunacy. Take heart. No one’s, and I mean no one’s, first query snags an agent and a book contract. Unless of course you are Madonna, Jamie Lee Curtis or Fergie.

Guest column by journalist and essayist Debra Darvick, author of
This Jewish Life: Stories of Discovery, Connection and Joy. Her
second book, I Love Jewish Faces (a children’s picture book
celebrating Jewish diversity) was published by the URJ Press in
May ’09. Visit her blog at debradarvick.wordpress.com.


3. Rejection letters strengthen you, build courage, determination and belief in your work.

Where would you be if you didn’t rail at your most recent rejection letter: “Agent Babe, you are WRONG! I will NOT make my overweight heroine svelte, my gay character straight or turn my borzoi into a chihuahua!”? Rejection letters give you practice taking a hit and moving on.  Are you going to let one agent’s (or one dozen’s) opinion make you give up your intention to publish your book?  Hell, no.

4. Rejection letters can be stockpiled for future use: wallpaper; bonfire kindling; shredded for an environmentally sound substitute for Styrofoam peanuts.
Personally, I’m going to turn them into a necklace. My other creative outlet is beaded jewelry. I’ve just found a way to roll paper strips into beads.  I plan to make a necklace from paper strips cut from my rejection letters and wear it to my book signings, the National Book Awards Ceremony and Dinner, and the Academy Awards. OK, OK, I’ll start with the signings and take it from there.

5. The good ones (offering constructive criticism) help you develop as a writer.
And you will get some good ones in amongst the ones who used your manuscript as coffee coasters and doorstops. Thoughtful rejection letters, in addition to being a balm to your weary writer’s soul, afford the opportunity to revisit your work, to consider it through another’s lens. Such letters may lead you in a new direction.Or you might just add them to your stack of kindling. Good rejection letters are a clue that you are on the right track and getting closer. Take heart.

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6. Get a few rejection letters beneath your belt and you can blog authoritatively on sites such as absolutewrite.com’s Water Cooler.

There are more web-based communities devoted to the world of submissions than you can shake a keyboard at. At the abovementioned Water Cooler, bloggers share their agent experiences. Which ones don’t follow through? Which ones are reputable? Which ones should be drawn and quartered for asking for a full and then never getting back to you? Rejection letter in hand, you can add your voice to the fray.

7. All it takes is one good one to renew your faith in agents.

Number Seven is a corrolary to Number Five.  There are good agents out there – human beings who love books as much as you do.  Why else would they be in the business of trying to link their authors with publishers? Or take home reams of manuscripts to read over the weekend when they could be training for the New York City Marathon instead? A good rejection letter, whose tone is sincere and offers advice, can revive your flagging spirit.

(How many agents should you contact at one time?)

8. Rejection letters keep the USPS in business.

The Internet has taken a huge toll on the USPS.  Mail carriers may go the way of the Maytag man. And then what will happen to the stamp designers? To the workers who assemble all those annoying circulars that come thru the slot as fourth class mail? To the Neiman-Marcus Christmas catalog? Rejection letters might mean you can’t quit your day job but they do help others keep theirs.

9. Rejection letters let you know who your true allies are.  

Are your loved ones sympathetic when a dreaded rejection letter falls through the slot?  Do they bring flowers or send sweet e-mails of encouragement? Or do they chide you and say, “NOW will you get serious and put this silliness away?” Rejection letters let you know who you want on your team in this endeavor.

10. The number of rejection letters you receive is proportional to the euphoria that will envelop you when you do get The Call.

Think about it.  If an agent signs you up three queries into your search, you’ll be ecstatic. And perhaps kind of blase. But get that call after slugging it out for a year or so and man will success be sweet. So sweet you can taste it even now, can’t you?


Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:



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5 thoughts on “10 Hidden Gifts of Rejection Letters

  1. paula

    I, for one, would love to purchase one of your “rejection necklaces”.
    Will you be selling them as well?

    : )

    Seriously, this is a great way to look at rejection.
    It makes us stronger and lets us know how we can either make changes to our work or make changes to our viewpoint of which agents will be a good fit for us.

    Thank you for sharing such a great post with the Writer’s Digest World!


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