It is with a heavy heart that I write this newsletter. I’ve been rejected many times and had to shelve several books in the past, and once again, I’m coping with rejection. (Nope, the rejections don’t stop once you have an agent/book deal/etc!) I’ve just had to shelve a YA contemporary I wrote that is very near and dear to my heart. It’s a book about a Chinese-American figure skater with immigrant parents who defies all the odds as she chases her life’s biggest dream. I am very proud of this book. I cried writing some parts of it because it is so deeply personal. I got some truly overwhelming praise (that I have a hard time believing myself) from my beloved beta readers for this book. Beta readers reassured me that this book would sell, and that it would mean so much to Chinese-American readers, as well as children of immigrants everywhere. (I really, truly couldn’t ask for better beta readers, and please know that if you are one such reader and reading this, I appreciate all your lovely help and support!)
My agent and I went on submission to publishers with it on June 14th, a little over three weeks ago.
On July 9th, we got the last two regretful editor rejections for this book. They loved it, they said, but their acquisitions teams wouldn’t let them buy the book because sports stories are a hard sell.
Yes, dear reader, ALL THAT GLITTERS didn’t sell. A book that my agent, readers, and I believed so hard in, that I wrote hoping to reach the children of immigrants who rarely get to see themselves as heroes, winning gold medals, making history. A book that four editors loved enough to take to acquisitions – but ultimately were turned down by the marketing teams of their publishers, who thought figure skating books just wouldn’t sell.
I am not new to rejection. I have had my writing rejected again and again and again. From losing short story contests, to being turned down for opportunities online writing platforms like Wattpad, to 100+ queries on 3 shelved novels, and now, to my second book out on submission, which didn’t sell. Over these years of facing rejection, I’ve learned to harden myself, to feed on the feedback when it helps me, to always seek to be a better writer and person.
But I am still a writer who throws her whole heart into her writing, and the rejections absolutely sting, especially when they’re this close, especially when they praise my writing, especially when it seems like the only thing the publishers didn’t like was the figure skating part of the story, despite the fact that the story is about so much more than figure skating.
(Can you tell I’m still a little torn up over this?)
So how do I deal with rejection?
When I was fairly certain ALL THAT GLITTERS wouldn’t sell – a little over a week ago, after most of the editor rejections had rolled in – I gave myself one day to be incredibly sad. I’m not ashamed to admit that I cried. I mean, I really truly believed in this book. I put my whole heart and soul into it. I crafted characters and a story and a world, and that took time and energy and emotion and…everything I had.
I gave myself one day to wallow in my sorrow, and then you know what I did? I picked myself back up off the floor, dusted myself off, and immediately worked on my next project for Camp Nanowrimo: a more high concept, YA thriller that, hopefully, will sell when I take it out on sub.
I told myself what I’d told myself for the 3 books I queried that went nowhere: that it was okay that my book went nowhere, because I deserve and expect nothing. I always hope for the best but expect nothing, and it makes it a lot easier to handle rejections when they come.
I told myself that if I want to make it in this business, I have to suck it up and let the rejections fuel me.
I told myself that one day, ALL THAT GLITTERS will find a home, but even if not, it’s okay, because I have more stories to tell, I am more than one book, and I am not a quitter.
This industry is filled with rejection at every corner. Even when you have an agent. Even when you have a book deal. Even when you become a NYT bestselling author, have a film option, etc. Every writer is going to face a lot of rejection. If you want to make it, you have to toughen up and take each rejection in stride.
Publishing is not a meritocracy. Good books don’t land agents or sell all the time, for whatever reason. The market doesn’t want them, they didn’t find the right editor, they’re not high concept enough, etc. If you’re dealing with rejection, pat yourself on the back for writing a damn good book. Let yourself cry for a little bit. And then pick yourself up and try, try again.
Your stories are worth it, you are worth it, and you’ll thank yourself for never giving up one day when you’re an author. It’s a new day, I’ve got a new story to write, I’m going to brew myself some tea, and then I’ll be back to the drawing – or, rather, writing – board.