Most authors at some point in their writing career have to deal with a rejection letter. The dreaded reply you didn't want to see from the publisher or the literary agent. But indeed we all receive it and have to deal with it.
Today, I received my best rejection letter from a top league publisher that made me feel good! Since I am basking in this glorious feeling, I am also inspired to write this article to be able to throw some light on how to deal with rejection.
Let's examine my case: My rejection letter first mentioned how they liked the story idea and how they read with interest and then highlighted how I need to 'show' more than I already have. Also, they told me that for a book that is mostly set in Tihar jail and features an Indian courtroom, it is tied up too cleanly and what it needs is to be more emotional and dramatic. Also, certain plot points too can be improved – for instance, the fact that Aadesh is so rich, it does not match with how easily he is framed; or that no lawyer takes his case (since there are always lawyers available in India at the right price). Though I do agree that characters can be made stronger or that I can make them more three-dimensional, and I must say, there is some more constructive feedback for me to improve my manuscript for the next draft.
However, I do not agree with everything suggested. My plot may sound unbelievable but then that's the thing, unbelievable events form stories, mundane ones don't! My novel is fiction inspired by actual events, and I don't write what readers want to read. Why write the cliché dramatic stuff, just because it is predicted to sell? What I have at my hand may also sell, if marketed well. Maybe I think differently then. I write because I believe in my work and I do have my tribe that in time would grow more.
1. Should You Blindly Incorporate All Feedback?
There are two approaches one can have to the letter such as I have received. One, change everything in your manuscript as per feedback received. If you show it to four publishers, they will all give different observations and in the end, if you incorporate everything, it wouldn't stay your work and would become what each one wanted it to be. Do you want that? The second approach would be to evaluate the observations with an open mind, as some feedback would indeed be useful and would make your story stronger and relatable, like a part of the feedback I received today. You can choose the approach that best suits you.
2. What 'A Rejection Letter' Is Not?
A rejection letter can vary from one line to one paragraph or more. I have received letters of varying lengths. Most of them are classic one-liners wishing luck for future while politely refusing your work. Very few warm your heart and you can feel the warmth of the person writing to you. The letter tells a lot about the person sending it to you. How sensitive the person is and how concerned, involved or connected with you they feel. It is heart-warming, even when heart-shattering. It is like the famous Indian ad. tagline, 'Zor Ka Jhatka Dheere Se!' Irrespective of the length, rejection letters per se do not mean that your manuscript is terrible. Many times, at the sight of a rejection letter, depression can strike bad! Creative beings as we writers are, at times, we can be hypersensitive, but we need to remember, a story is just a point of view, not every single person may agree with your point of view! It does not mean it's not right; it says it's different than what the publisher / literary agent was expecting!
3. Now That Your Heart Is Shattered, How Do You Mend It?
Does the sight of that rejection letter make you bang your head on the wall? Or run for your prayers? Or acts as a fuel to work harder? Your reaction would depend on your nature and attitude. The most important thing to remember is to remain positive. It can be depressing as you had worked hard and hoped to get that contract but one rejection can mean many more months of hard work and more importantly, another round of querying and more. However, you need to take the refusal in your stride. Get fueled by rejection and stay determined to find a right home for your manuscript! You can either send the query letter to a few new people who are on your list right away or first edit your work and then send it, whatever you do, just don't ever doubt your work! It may take you time, but you will find your tribe!