By JCrawford Writing Tips 1 Comment on Rejection

This post is unplanned. I’m writing to you, or for you, to bring up a topic that is near and dear to our hearts as writers: rejection.

I was “declined” by two literary agencies yesterday within the space of fifteen minutes. I’d only just started querying again, after more than a year of doing other things (like publishing my work in electronic format), and I was instantly reminded of why I’d stopped doing it in the first place. It hurts.

People who like my work, really like it. Why wouldn’t literary agents like it? Why do I get rejected? It doesn’t make sense to me. It probably doesn’t to you, if you’re in a similar position.

Here’s what I’ve learned, and need to remind myself about, that I’m going to share with you:

  1. Readers are not literary agents. They look at things from a different perspective. For example: the likelihood they can sell your book to publishers. I write zombie fiction, and that market is flooded. Automatic difficulty! What audience is hot right now? Young adult, and “soccer mom”.
  2. Rejection isn’t personal, towards the AUTHOR. As an author, I want it to be personal, because if it is my fault my work isn’t selling, I can do something about it. Unfortunately, it isn’t within my control past the point I query someone.
  3. Rejection is a personal decision made by the agent about the agent. Anyone worked in sales or retail? Can you sell something you don’t believe in, or don’t actively LIKE, effectively? Probably not. The same is true for literary agents. Your work may be incredible, from an objective POV, but if it doesn’t sing in the agent’s heart… poof. They know what they can sell, and what they can’t. Experience has taught them.
  4. Rejection, or being declined by an agent does not mean you suck. Your readers will tell you if you do. Is that what you hear from them?
  5. The only way to get an agent is to research firms, clients, and who represents whom. Objectively, I need an agent like whomever represents Jim Butcher, Mario Acevedo, A Lee Martinez, or Richard Kadrey. Why? Those authors write with a voice like mine, and have quirky (read: bent) heroes, and their work tends to cross genres… or I need an agent who is new and wants to build clients like those.
  6. The only way to get an agent is to persistently write query letters, no matter how much the rejections hurt. Neither you nor I are running a sprint to get to our shared goal. This is a fuc**ng marathon. Endurance and bloody-mindedness are the only things that will get us where we want to be.
  7. If the hurt is more painful than never reaching your goal, you will stop when it hurts. You might not start again. You may never reach the goal. Think about it.
  8. Life lesson from the “Princess Bride”: Life is pain, your highness.
  9. Life lesson from Buddha: suffering is optional.

I wish you whatever you need to get past the pain and move forward. I hope I helped a little bit.


Best wishes,


James Crawford



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One comment
  • Joe Humphreys
    Posted on July 20, 2012 at 5:33 pm

    Writing is all about rejection, whatever stage you’re at. You have to have the stubborness and persistence of a bulldog. And once you do get an agent, it only means you then start to get rejections from publishers as well.

    That’s not meant as a downer at all: EVERY writer gets rejections: a YA author I know landed a two book deal last year, and his second novel is out soon, but stuff he’s submitting now is getting rejected left, right and centre.

    So yes, keep at it and don’t take rejections personally. In many cases, it could well be because an agent/publisher doesn’t think it’ll make money, more than anything. The nature of the rejection (is it a automated form rejection, or a constructive, positive one?) can be informative too.

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