author, creative writing, writing

10 Things to do When Your Novel has Been Rejected by an Agent

Morning all, I hope your week has been full of success and happiness.

I’m querying at the moment, which means I am receiving rejections in interludes, from agents I’ve submitted to. It’s such an odd experience, and I wanted to share some tips of how to handle your novel being rejected.

1. Allow yourself to be sad
Writers are constantly advised to develop a thick skin, and I agree. It’s a tough industry, one where we will come up against rejection, negative feedback and criticism. This doesn’t mean you can’t feel sad though. Allow yourself the negative emotions that come wit a rejection; sadness, disappointment, frustration, worry…go through them, but do not dwell on them for long.
“i give myself a good cry if i need it. but then i concentrate on the good things still in my life. i don't allow myself any more self-pity than that

2. Treat yourself
You should only treat yourself when you’ve had success, right? Wrong! Writing, editing, revising and re-writing a novel is a gruelling task and a huge achievement. Crafting a submission and taking the gut-wrenching plunge into getting your novel out in the world is an achievement too. And every rejection is proof that you’ve reached this stage. So treat yourself. It can be something small. Mine is usually a strong cup of tea and a bar of chocolate. You should also take up the amazing K.M. Allan’s idea of building yourself a rejection survival kit. A great idea, and a great way to keep positive through the tough times.
“i give myself a good cry if i need it. but then i concentrate on the good things still in my life. i don't allow myself any more self-pity than that (1)

3. Revise your submission
Read back over your cover letter and synopsis. You’d be amazed what mistakes come to light when you’ve not looked at it in a while. Fresh eyes spot typos, weak sentences and poor grammar. If you’re being rejected, it’s worth making sure it’s not your submission that’s letting you down.
“i give myself a good cry if i need it. but then i concentrate on the good things still in my life. i don't allow myself any more self-pity than that (2)

4. Revise your story
Keep revising your first three chapters. If you’re not getting offers for full manuscripts then there could be a weakness here. If you are getting full submission, but nothing after that, take a look at the rest of your story. In this case you’ve probably fine-tuned the first three chapters, but need to put some extra revision into the chapters that follow.
“i give myself a good cry if i need it. but then i concentrate on the good things still in my life. i don't allow myself any more self-pity than that (3)

5. Ask for feedback
If an agent requests a full, and then rejects it, it’s okay to ask for feedback. Their input will be vital into how you move forward. (Please note, don’t be offended if they ignore your request, agents are busy people!). I should also stress it’s not common practice to ask an agent for feedback if they reject your first stage submission – if they’ve not offered any, they probably don’t have the time to do so. But you can seek feedback from beta readers, to see if you could improve your work.
let's start fresh!

6. Remember, it’s subjective
You may look back over your submission and your chapters and feel confident there are no changes to be made. That’s fine! Everybody has different preferences, and it’s unlikely your novel was rejected because it was bad. Simply because that one agent didn’t feel strongly enough about it. Another agent might. Don’t be disheartened – the right one is out there for you!
let's start fresh! (1)

7. Try again
Keep sending submissions. That’s the most basic advice I can give. Just keep going. Send more. You never know who is out there, and who is looking for the exact type of story you’ve written. Don’t give up.
Untitled design (4)

8. Keep writing
Work on other projects. Not only is it important to keep the habit of writing, but it gives you new material to work with. If the day comes when you decide your manuscript might not be the one that gets you published, you can try with a new one. Your writing will strengthen and improve over time, so never stop.
untitled design (7)

9. Speak to the writing community
There is an amazing writing community online, from here on wordpress, to Twitter and Instagram and many other social media platforms. Share your feelings and experiences, and see what others have to say. It’s such an uplifting place to be, and you’ll seen be motivated, inspired and ready to tackle the next submission.
Untitled design (10)

10. Look at successful authors’ rejection numbers
There are some famous authors and famous novels out there that were rejected a lot. A quick ‘google’ search can show you the numbers, and it’s encouraging to see that some of the greatest writers of our time struggled to get over that first hurdle into the career. If they can do it, you can too!
let's start fresh! (2)

How do you handle rejection? Pop your thoughts in the comments below,
But until then,
Keep submitting!

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37 thoughts on “10 Things to do When Your Novel has Been Rejected by an Agent”

  1. Excellent post, Meelie. I was going to say 1, 2, and 3 were my favourite tips, but I think they’re all worth following. You hit the nail on the head and have provided the perfect advice for querying writers. Sending good vibes as you continue to query and chase down the “yes” that I’m sure is coming your way.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I think a lot of the decisions are market driven and not necessarily a comment on the quality of someone’s work. That may not help chances of being published, but it certainly doesn’t mean stop writing.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. All such great tips! Especially the reminder that writing is subjective. In the same way that I don’t like some books everyone else seems to love, not all agents will love my book the same way I do. It only takes one yes. 💛

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve been interning for a literary agent for the past couple weeks and one of my main duties is to send rejection letters (a LOT of them). And I’ve learned that 95% of the submissions that agents receive are total crap, so most writers have a bigger chance than they think they do. Additionally, a lot of writers fail to take into consideration how big it is for the agent to take them on as a client!
    Great post and great points!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Alyse. Thanks so much for sharing your experience, that’s so valuable from somebody in your position. I’ve always wondered what % of submissions are unfinished/unedited etc…but agree completely that an agent has to truly love, and believe in your story to consider representation. Enjoy your internship! x


  5. Brilliant list of things to help keep us writers motivated. Keep writing is the best of all, knowing I have two new books to fall back on has allowed me to withdraw my first novel from submission. And my craft has strengthened. Now it’s only a matter of perseverance from here. Thanks for sharing. 😊

    Liked by 1 person

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