There used to be site called www.rejectioncollection.com where people would post their rejection letters. Sadly, it’s been taken down or the operators failed to pay their bills or some printer’s demon got loose and did its evil work. Regardless, it was sort of morbidly fascinating, and not just because I recognized so many of my rejections among the many posted there. (Usually I would read what I’d written and feel that pleasant burr of recognition of something you’ve put out into the world. Sad, but true.)
What I found most interesting about the site was how very wrong-headed it was. After each reproduced letter, the rejected author would answer a series of questions: How did receiving this rejection make you feel? and What bothered you most about this letter? As though a rejection letter is some sort of assessment of the author herself, and not of the author’s work and how well it matched the editor’s tastes.
It’s not personal. It never is (unless the editor or agent knows you personally and hates you for that smelly thing you did at dinner that time—though even then, it’s likely not personal.) I’ve been doing this for ages, and in an easy ninety-five percent of the cases, the reason for rejection was simply that I didn’t love what I read. Period. And there are so many submissions and so few slots that an editor or agent has to really fall in love with a book in order to best serve it. Life is short and work is long and why fuss about with things you aren’t ass-over-teakettle crazy about?
Rejection letters aren’t about you. They’re about someone not “getting” your work. Feel disappointment, sure, but then square your shoulders, shrug, and think, “Your loss, punk!” and send it out again.