Here’s What to Do With a Query Letter Rejection



If yesterday’s Writing Challenge didn’t make it clear enough, writing query letters isn’t easy.


You have to dot your I’s and cross your T’s at every single step of the process – asking yourself endless questions along the way.



Do you have the right literary agent’s name after sending out 15 other query letters that week?


Did you look up that agent’s agency’s submission guidelines?


Did you make your pitch as passionate – but not over-passionate. Not desperate – as you could? Were you suitably descriptive while still being vague enough to make them want to know more?


Did you include all the details you needed to in there without going overboard?


Figuring out the answers to those concerns is enough to drive you nuts the first time… much less after the 55th.


And, alas – I truly hate to break it to you – but you might honestly get up that high in your query letter-sending quest. You might easily get higher, in fact.


It can be a brutal process, to say the least.

The fact that sending our query letters can be such a brutal process is precisely why today’s Writing Rule exists.


And it is most certainly a writing rule. A hard-core one too. There are no exceptions.


Not a single one. No matter what publishing future or non-publishing future you’re going to ultimately have.

You are not worthless.


If that sounds like a very odd Writing Rule to promote in a publishing post, it’s actually not. The truth is that looking for a traditional publishing contract, whether through a literary agent or not, is almost always a humbling process.


Literary agents and small publishing contacts are difficult to pick up. They have crazy-busy jobs and sometimes snotty certainties that they’re God’s gift to the industry. So don’t take it too hard when you get a rejection (or non-response) from them. Just evaluate and move on accordingly.

If you need something more substantial than just my word on this one, I get it. But all you need to do is search for “famous authors who were rejected” or some such thing online.


If you want a good laugh in the process, I’d recommend Mental Floss’s “17 Famous Authors and Their Rejections.” It’s amazing how wrong the “experts” can end up being.

Some of the rejection letters those 17 famous authors got really are entertaining. Though, for their recipients in the moment, I’m sure they weren’t so easy to shrug off.


On the plus side, you won’t get any such commentary about your work these days. You’ll be lucky to hear back at all with a simple one-liner: “Sorry, but we’re not interested at this time.”


Literary agents and small publishing presses are truly that busy. And sometimes – perhaps even most of the time – that’s going to be your query letter’s downfall. A simple lack of time.


Or, perhaps, what you were offering wasn’t their particular cup of tea. Or you might need to work harder at presenting your story as their particular cup of tea.


That’s another very possible possibility. In which case, it’s never a bad idea to read over what you wrote and see what you can improve for next time.


For instance, is there a different way you can rephrase certain sentences to make your points pop? Can you shorten up your copy to get right to the good stuff more quickly?


Regardless of whether your evaluation ends up with you concluding, “Yeah, I understand why they passed on me.” or “I genuinely can’t see anything else to change.” just remember that you’re not worthless.


Your manuscript might not be worth publishing at this point. (Been there, tried to submit that.) Or it might just take a while to catch the right publishing person’s attention.


However, you yourself have value above and beyond that.


Sorry if that sounds hokey. But it’s a truth you need to hold onto regardless.


Otherwise, pursing this publishing path isn’t worth it at all, no matter the final outcome.

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