Friday, June 28, 2013

What To Do With All Those Rejection Slips: A New Take On Passes

I’m a glass-half-full, always-look-on-the-bright-side-of-life, positive person. But what is it about a simple form rejection letter that turns us into a weepy, rage-y movie monster version of ourselves?

I’ve collected a rejection slip (okay, email) or two (dozen) in my day. And to comfort myself, I made grand plans for my rejection notes. I loved Stephen King’s method of skewering them on a nail (later a hook when the nail wasn’t long enough to hold them all) on his wall, and I’ve heard of authors who wallpaper their bathroom with them, but I had something prettier in mind.

Paper bead bracelet

Yup. I was going to send my rejections off to the magical land known as Etsy where some craftsperson would roll those insignificant scraps of paper standing between me and a dream and attach them to a bracelet that I could wear to someday book signings as a giant raised middle finger (er, wrist, in this case) to all those who blocked my path. I was going to print out another stack to bring to school visits to say, “See kids? See? This is what it takes to get published these days.”

I have had a change of heart. I'm sure it has a little something to do with having a book deal, but I don't think that's entirely it. The more I’m exposed to the inner workings of publishing, the more I’ve come to realize this one tiny nugget of truth:

It’s. Not. Personal.

No one hated me. I actually don’t think anyone hated my writing either (though there was one agent who hated my MC and told me so without mincing words). It just wasn’t there yet.  I had some more learning to do and some more work to put into it. And I had to learn to see past the “I’m afraid I didn't connect with…” starts and realize that a number of those rejection letters were not form letters and were actually taking the time to point me in the direction I needed to head. Most weren’t rejections, they were just… passes. “Not yet's” or “not for me's”.

Watching my agent and author friends deal with editor passes has been enlightening. My agent will absolutely commiserate and acknowledge that, “Yes, it stinks this editor didn't fall so hard in love with this that she’ll be naming her firstborn after your MC”. But then she'll shrug (I’m pretty sure I can hear that through the phone line) and say, “Okay, here’s what we’ll do next.” Because she knows what I'm learning: that this is just the way it works. Authors get agent passes, agents get editor passes, editors get publisher passes, and somehow in the midst of all that a few books get printed.

So I have a new bracelet plan. (I really, really want that bracelet). My paper beads will include a pass email or even two, because that was a big part of my journey and it was character building. But it will also include the email my agent sent me asking if we could schedule “The Call”. It will include squeely “I love this revision!” notes from my critique partners and conference registration forms and the first page of my signed contract on that fancy Simon & Schuster letterhead and my Publisher’s Marketplace announcement and the letter of thanks I got after my first school visit and definitely a printout of this screenshot of this conversation with my editor:

It will be a celebration of the road to publication and I will wear it proudly at signings and pass it around at school visits to show kids and say, “See kids, see? This is how it feels to get published these days and I hope anyone who shares that dream goes for it.”

Okay, but seriously, readers. Please don't give my book a bad review on Goodreads because you do NOT want to know my plans for those!


  1. I think the process of understanding it's not personal goes hand in hand with developing that thick skin as you climb each writing rung...but I still love the bracelet too :)

  2. Hi YAtopia!
    I am trying to reach you via email but I need your actual address because when I click the 'send a message' button on your website, my computer freaks out on me. Would someone mind posting it here? Or send it to, pretty please? I won an MG contest through you last August with Sylvie Frank, and I have exciting news- with many thanks to you!!

  3. It definitely has something to do with getting the book deal...
    ~Just Jill :)