You might be sitting in your tiny cubicle, working on a spreadsheet you don’t care about, in an industry you don’t belong. Your coffee has gotten cold while listening to your boss tell a long boring story about her mother-in-law who hates her (with good reason). Then you might click on your personal email to check in on your actual life and your heart lifts for a moment then falls out of your chest as you read. Three literary agents from three separate agencies have gotten together to reject your latest novel attempt because they thought it would be fun to collectively call you a loser on the same day.
But the thing is, that’s not what they’re doing.
They are rejecting you because they do not love your story.
And, in the same way I would never encourage a loveless marriage, I cannot stress this enough: YOU WANT AN AGENT WHO LOVES YOUR STORY.
It really is a romantic endeavor: The awkward encounter through the query letter, the initial phone call that gives you butterflies, and then finally the sale. None of this would be possible if the relationship hadn’t been founded in a genuine love for your work.
An agent might think you are a good writer. They might see the market appeal of your idea. They might even connect with your story on a personal level. But if they do not love it, the chances of finding a publisher who will are not good. That is why rejection is a necessary (albeit painful) thing. It demands humility, but it also guides you down the path to revision if the work you’ve created needs more time to develop so someone can truly love it.
The hardest lesson to learn from the query process was that there were only two things I could control: the writing and my attitude. My writing grew stronger the moment I stopped looking at every rejection as a slap in the face. My attitude became more positive because I realized that nothing was going to stop me from writing. I was able to keep moving forward because I used every rejection as an opportunity for growth, which sounds like a fortune cookie, but I promise it’s true.
Drink your coffee. Smile and nod at your idiot boss. Write on your lunch break. And do not give up. For me, the patience eventually paid off and I am grateful for every NO I received because it ultimately led to the YES that changed my life.
JULIA WALTON received her MFA in creative writing from Chapman University. When she’s not reading or baking cookies, she’s indulging in her profound love of Swedish Fish, mechanical pencils, and hobbit-sized breakfasts. Julia lives in Huntington Beach, California, with her husband and daughter. Follow her on Twitter at @Jwaltonwrites.
Her debut novel Words on Bathroom Walls is now available for pre-order on amazon.