Ok, so the unthinkable happened.  Instead of an ecstatic call from the editor or agent you’ve always dreamed about working with, a thin envelope comes back in the mail.  You recognize the handwriting – your own.  And you know it’s a politely worded “no thanks.”  What do you do now?

  • First, buck up.  A good 98% of other writers who have submitted have been through the exact same thing. 
  • Take a look at the letter for any comments or suggestions.  Is there any reference to the pacing, storyline, characters or writing?  The letter may not give you step-by-step instructions on how to fix your work (in fact, rarely is this the case unless I want it revised and resubmitted).  Then again, maybe all it says is “Unfortunately this isn’t right for us.”  And sometimes that happens.  I want to be in love with any project I acquire.  In love enough to spend the next year working to bring it forth, probably reading it three, four or more times along the way.  If I don’t love your book, you wouldn’t want me to buy it anyway.
  • Don’t call the publisher and ask why the work was turned down.
  • Try to refrain from immediately turning around and submitting a different work to the same editor, unless she specifically requested to see something else. 
  • Start making a list of other options.  Who hasn’t seen the proposal yet?  Keep sending it out until you’ve been through everyone possible.  All it takes is one person, and everyone has different tastes.  At the same time, if you’re consistently getting the same feedback, revise to incorporate their suggestions as you continue to send it out.
  • Get honest feedback from a critique partner. 
  • Know when you’ve lost the magic.  After a while, you might be so sick of the story you never want to see it again.  That will come through in your writing.  Stick this one in a drawer to rest for a while and start something new.  Sometimes a fresh energy, complete change of direction or different voice will jumpstart something completely new.  And then, of course, you get to start all over again…