Take Rejection Well

There was an article in the Los Angeles Times Friday, September 14th, about a literary agent who
was assaulted by a rejected author.,0,7168502.story

From the article: “This is how the story goes: [Pam van Hylekama] Vlieg was in her car and
an apparent stranger knocked off her side mirror. Then he reached into the car and pushed her forcefully into the steering wheel. One of the two dogs that was with her, a Jack Russell terrier, bit the attacker’s arm and he took off. (The bulldog licked him).”

Now see, I’m against that. One thing is for sure, if you’re going to be an author, you better have thick skin, especially if you start out as an Indie author, in which case your skin should be akin to an elephant’s. You’re going to need it. Rejections are a part of the game so get used to it.

Luckily, I was single for 40 years, so being a bachelor in the 80s, 90s, and double oughts, rejection for me was a common occurrence. Heck, 99% of the girls I asked out rejected me. To quote a line from the funniest movie I ever saw, They Call Me Bruce, “I’m a sex object. Whenever I mention sex, they object.”

Who knew all those years of social faux pas was preparing me to be an author. Heck, agent rejections are completely civil compared to the others. Not once have I gotten a rejection from an agent that read, “Your manuscript is great and shows a lot of promise. However, we are just not that into short, fat, bald authors.”

Take rejections for what they are: encouragements to keep trying. Sometimes it might not even be a reflection of your writing, but more to do with that proverbial decree you will often hear muttered in the industry today—platform. It might even be that good agents are inundated with a ton of submissions and simply cannot work with them all.

But, getting an agent is kind of like me finding an incredible wife. Sure, the odds were not in my favor, but as a ton of my rejection letters have stated—it only takes one.

The moral of this story is quite obvious: Always keep Jack Russell Terriers in your car instead of bulldogs.

Neal Wooten, Publisher/Indie Author/Illustrator/Cartoonist

Managing Editor; Mirror Publishing, Milwaukee, WI,
Author of Reternity,

Posted by on September 17, 2012. Filed under Books,Business,Neal Wooten. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.

49 Responses to Take Rejection Well

  1. Donalisa Helsley

    September 17, 2012 at 4:36 pm

    That was hilarious! I loved it! So true that we must be thick skinned. I unfortunately learned that the hard way through my battle with the library not wanting to see me as an individual author but wanting to lump me into the “self published lump”. I always enjoy your articles.

  2. Connie Amarel

    September 17, 2012 at 4:42 pm

    An author AND a comedian – you can’t beat that! Loved your article – they are always great but this was really special and made me laugh out loud. Yes, we authors have to have thick skins and learn to not take it personally – but to quote Kelly Clarkson, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!” You do good work, Neal – no wait, you do GREAT work!!!

  3. Laura Marlowe

    September 17, 2012 at 4:47 pm

    Thanks for yet another witty, educational and insightful article.

    Yes, it only takes one (the right one). And maybe a dog or two…

  4. A nice bite of reality. Thank you again, oh Neal the Witty. I do love snort laughing.

  5. Jodi Fiore 'Lia-Ria Adventures'

    September 17, 2012 at 4:53 pm

    Great article Neal! As the owner of two terrier dogs myself, I know full well they can be cute and cuddly one minute and then ferocious attack dogs the next. That attack is truly terrible! While a rejection does indeed hurt our feelings, I agree with you 100 percent that it is part of ‘the game’ and gives one an opportunity to edit their writing! I love your ‘Bruce’ analogy too-I always enjoy your wit and style Neal– I am very much looking forward to reading your next piece. :)

  6. Katherine Blanc

    September 17, 2012 at 5:04 pm

    Indeed, the successful author must be akin to that guy in the bar who — upon being rejected by the lady on his left — immediately turns to lady on his right and gives her the same “pitch.”

    Authors (like bar hounds) need to bounce back from “Go away!”, “Get lost!” and especially: “We wish you luck in finding the right agent for your manuscript.”

    Don’t make your dog do your dirty work. Write the BEST manuscript you possibly can, research appropriate agents for your style and genre, then get it out there.

    And I wish you luck in finding the right agent for your manuscript.

  7. Concetta M Payne

    September 17, 2012 at 5:05 pm

    That was very funny, Neal. You are such a gifted man and master of many talents. I totally agree about having thick elephant skin, especially being an Indie author. Believe me there are many times when I become discouraged, but as I’ve stated many times “anything is possible when you believe in it.” So, I persevere, forge forward. Why, because I believe in myself, I believe in my children’s stories and the mere fact that my stories puts smiles on children’s faces, is my reward. As for rejection, I’ve come a long way, but my skin keeps getting thicker. I always look forward to reading your articles. Thanks again for another great read.

  8. Diane E Ahrens

    September 17, 2012 at 5:22 pm

    That was great Neal!! I think we can all appreciate the frustration with rejection letters etc.. But you either buckle down and try, try again…or you end up never publishing anything!! Ultimately, the harder you work for something, the more you appreciate the reward at the end of the tunnel!! Your articles are incredibly insightful and always a joy to read. Thanks!

  9. Saragine Francois

    September 17, 2012 at 5:24 pm

    I did read your article and you are absolutely right! “…if you’re going to be an author, you better have thick skin,..” Having a “thick” skin prepares anyone for rejections and allows us to work harder. Love the article and it was wise!

  10. Jen Wallis

    September 17, 2012 at 6:22 pm

    Yet another great article! Good luck to you! Whichever agent you end up with will be very lucky to have such a talented author to work with!

  11. Tim Balderramos

    September 17, 2012 at 6:23 pm

    Good read, Neal!

  12. Alicia Freitas

    September 17, 2012 at 6:29 pm

    Read your article while I was watching THE VOICE. Hmmmm…Blind auditions= manuscript submissions. My skin is thicker than it was back 8 years ago- but my level of perseverance is also thicker. I know we all want to be that next “Big Name”, but “this climb” is making me who I AM. Rejections don’t change that! I believe in ME :O)

  13. Alicia Freitas

    September 17, 2012 at 6:32 pm

    I enjoy all your articles Neal! Keep them coming!

  14. Rebecca Fronzaglio

    September 17, 2012 at 7:52 pm

    First of all, after reading this article, I bet there’s alot of literary agents on Petfinder looking for the perfect bodyguard. Who sayz bigger is better. Boo to you bulldog. No snausages tonight. You’re so funny Neal. I get a big kick out of your articles. They always make me laugh out loud. You’re articles are great and I’m addicted to them. I’m never disappointed and always learn something new. You’re my Indie hero, and I crown you Neal of Indieopolis. Keep up the great work and please write another book soon. How about Return to Returnity. Anyways, just keep writing because I love it, love your articles, and love your enthusiasum (did I spell that right?) lol. Good Luck in all you do. A Reternity fan forever…..Rebecca

  15. Lisa Sarver

    September 17, 2012 at 8:17 pm

    Neal~ Thanks for the good laugh with the obvious moral of the story. Your article reminds me of a quote from Charles Swindoll’s poem Attitude. “I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me, and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you…we are in charge of our attitudes.” I couldn’t agree with you more – rejections are encouragements to keep trying. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

  16. Vanessa Hancock

    September 17, 2012 at 8:21 pm

    I discussed rejections with a fellow author yesterday. They upset her so much that she stops writing. I’ve encouraged her to see it as the one that misses out on her talent. It’s believing you have something great to share that keeps you getting up and sending it out again. Great work, Neal, and thanks for sharing.

  17. John L Hoh Jr

    September 17, 2012 at 8:57 pm

    Each “no” is one step closer to a “yes”. And I only need one “yes”. I also review books and have had authors threaten legal action and stuff if the review isn’t glowing. I agree, Neal, an author needs thick skin. Could be an issue of timing (my first published book was picked up by the same publisher that rejected it six months earlier; the publisher received another manuscript and my book seemed like an ideal fit for a bundle).

  18. Miriam Pia

    September 17, 2012 at 10:59 pm

    Maybe it is only because of how much time I spent poor as a child or something but I was brought up learning that No is as commonplace as Yes….So, I don’t think it even involves ‘thick skin’. They say sales is a #s game; making submissions is just sales to publishers…and then marketing is sales to customers. When the publisher does a lot of the marketing then it’s “I sold it to them once, then they sold it thousands+ # of times for me.”

  19. Sharon Farmer

    September 17, 2012 at 11:15 pm

    Since childhood all of the good men and women in my life have told/showed me how to grin and bear it. Whenever I (Mom) could get into the dentist at the same time as my kids, the dentist would joke, “Your mom sure has tough teeth”, all the while he was hearing about our busy days and nights. No different now. Good men like Neal keep telling me like it is and encouraging me to not only grin and bear, but to forge on in a smart, considerate manner. Thanks again Neal.

  20. Cathy Cress Eller

    September 18, 2012 at 1:42 am

    Thanks Neal for the giggles and helping “us authors” see that a “No” or rejection just means you try again. Of course, when we submit something we, think it is something the world truly needs to hear. Your candor helps us realize that it is kind of like talking….As a child, my moma used to tell me to “hush” but I just kept right on talking. As far as writing, thanks to your encouragement and guidance, I have four books under my belt with another on the way. Your humor and wit spur me on to never “hush” but keep right on talking by wirting my words. Thanks for the support Neal….Oh, and I have a Treeing Walker Coon Hound….should I train her to tree an agent until he agrees to publish? Thanks Neal, you’re the best!

  21. Ilene Munetz Pachman

    September 18, 2012 at 2:52 am

    Dear Neal ~

    I really enjoyed your article; it made a strong case for the necessity of a writer’s tenacity , all the while making me broadly smile or laugh. Putting rejection into perspective with the important reminder (which all of us in search of an agent need periodically) : “all you need is one” (one “incredible” one) is a healthful booster for frustrated, yet often talented, writers. The idea that rejections are “encouragements to keep trying” is such a wise approach .Thanks for sharing your uplifting article and spurring me on with the smile of support and hopefulness! Best ~ Ilene Munetz Pachman

  22. Sarah Mamika

    September 18, 2012 at 4:16 am

    Great article, Neal. Not only are your articles hilarious and entertaining, they always seem to hit the nail on the head. You make all the “rejected” authors feel like we’re not alone.

  23. Irma Jacobs Tirro Author of The Lonely Snowflake and It's Almost Friday

    September 18, 2012 at 4:41 am

    Neal, your article is a reminder that rejection is not always disastrous, even though we authors often think it is. We need to keep in mind that everyone is not going to like everything we write or think that it is well written, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t any good. Also, thanks for reminding us to keep humor in our lives – it eases the stress and makes us a better person.

  24. Dianna Skidmore

    September 18, 2012 at 4:47 am

    After reading your article, I am so OVER rejections! I this is just what I needed for this moment in my career. Thanks again, Neal, for helping me laugh. (I like to think that no one MAKES me do anything)You deserve the very best agent out there, and put in a good word for the rest of us!

  25. marsha tennant

    September 18, 2012 at 6:06 am

    Neal, I hear Rick Bragg in your article. Your voice is so much like his….never take yourself too seriously.
    This is a reminder to all of us why we write.. or at least should write..for ourselves..
    But we do like to know that others find pleasure in our words. You hit the nail on the head about keeping the balance and tough skin!
    Guess only a good dog and our mamas will always tell us what we want to hear!
    EXCELLENT job. I reread it several times!

  26. “It only takes one.” My mantra over the last two years! It only takes one person, the right person, to take your book into their hands and like it! You have to see it, you have to want it and you have to believe it! Of course, you also have to keep your cool! A great laugh at yourself now and then doesn’t hurt either. I totally get where this rejected attacker was coming from! But can’t relate to the violence. Glad she had her dogs with her, no one deserves that. Made for a really good article though! Just hope it doesn’t take me quite as long to find an agent as it did for Neal to find a wife.

  27. Lonnie McKelvey

    September 18, 2012 at 6:43 am

    Excellent article and very funny. I have a bulldog too-he just slobbers.

  28. corey colombin

    September 18, 2012 at 6:44 am

    Funny, Neal! Another great read! I have to cheer a little for the Terrier, small but feisty beyond his stature. Being only 5′ myself, I like that in a dog, or human,for that matter. Feisty keeps me knocking at the proverbial doors of agents; jumping through hoops and lacing a little hope inbetween the lines, despite the odds. Rhino skin, I call it, but apparently I should be aiming for the fierceness of a terrier, instead. :)

    Corey Colombin
    Author of Confessions of a Coffee Slinger
    and my yet-to-be published latest endeavor
    Author & Illustrator of Eli Ate a Fly, and Poor Me

  29. Leslie Tesch

    September 18, 2012 at 8:40 am

    Very interesting article, as usual. Not everyone is able to see the humor in every sitiuation and to keep so upbeat. Thanks for the encouragement for those of us who often need it.

  30. Barbara

    September 18, 2012 at 10:17 am

    Love your sense of humor along with common sense. I had given up after a few rejections and then I met you. Look at us now… still schlepping our wares, but in print!

  31. Gina Maria Sanfilippo

    September 18, 2012 at 10:44 am

    Neal: I really like what you said about how we should handle rejections, “Take rejections for what they are: encouragements to keep trying.” Very good advice and positive energy to put out there for us new into the business that have not found that one right agent yet. As always, thanks for the support and continued guidance. Gina Sanfilippo

  32. Leslie Balcerak

    September 18, 2012 at 11:19 am

    Neal: Your writing is humorous, fresh and entertaining. If we cannot laugh at rejection and keep trying, where would we be? Thanks for the reminder!

  33. Paula Parente author of "Annie's Amethyst" & "Rosalind's Rose Quartz"

    September 18, 2012 at 11:35 am

    Great article as always, Neal!
    Yes, rejections are part of the game. I liked
    your take on them- “encouragements to keep trying.”
    Cheers to your incredible wife!

  34. Jo Ann Orlandi

    September 18, 2012 at 12:17 pm

    True creative people, whether they are writers, artists, or actors, won’t let rejection deter them. They HAVE to express themselves. Thank goodness for indie publishers / authors, like Neal! Neal- you understand how flawed the entire process is. There is room for ALL of us. Keep up the good work- always look forward to reading what you have to say.

  35. Sandra Fishel Brandon

    September 18, 2012 at 1:52 pm

    Great article, Neal! You gave us truth softened with a bit of humor. As I have discovered – you just have to keep trying to find that one publisher who thinks your book is worth printing. When you finally do, the rejections slip to the background and don’t seem as important.

  36. Bolivar Lopez, The Adventures of Z

    September 18, 2012 at 3:02 pm

    This is funny and true. You submit and submit. Some responses have come on a 4″ X 3″ note card. At times it makes you wonder. It make me wonder if they even read half of what they receive. You always have great advice and tips. I always look forward to your articles.

    Bolivar Lopez
    The Adventures of Z

  37. Daisy Cromwell

    September 18, 2012 at 4:10 pm

    Neal: I loved it. In fact, I am going to send the link to my son who has been looking for a wife for several years now. Maybe it will give him some encouragement. Keep up the good work.

  38. H. D. Hunter

    September 18, 2012 at 5:46 pm

    As always, your writing is delightfully honest with a pleasant coating of humor. Thanks for these words of wisdom!

  39. Beth Carter author of What Do You Want To Be?

    September 18, 2012 at 7:32 pm

    Great article, Neal. You’re speaking for a lot of authors and it’s important to maintain a sense of humor. Loved the moral of the story. Ha! But, good grief. I had not heard about the real agent and attacker. My goodness.

    Keep on keeping on, everyone. I can’t tell you how many rejections my daughter has faced as a dancer and actress over the years, and she is now the female lead in a play in North Hollywood and also performing with magiciians in several exciting venues including New Zealand! It goes to show you that artists in many industries must learn to face rejection, pull themselves up from their bootstraps, and learn from it.

    Also, authors must learn that this is a subjective business and not take it so personally. Of course, early on, I took it personally. It takes time and knowing good people like you who tell the story so well helps.

  40. Beth Carter author of What Do You Want To Be?

    September 18, 2012 at 7:34 pm

    And I do know how to spell “magician.” I’m in a rush (as usual).

  41. Theresa N. Singleton

    September 19, 2012 at 3:57 am

    What a great way to start my day! Thanks for putting a smile on my face, encouragement in my heart, and the spirit to keep up the fight. When I grow up, I want to be a children’s author!!!!

  42. Darcie Mae

    September 19, 2012 at 5:58 am

    Rejection, at first, is like a punch in the nose. But, after a while, you learn to take rejection and the reason for the rejection as a learning tool. And yes, you do have to be very thick skinned, or so easy going you can just laugh it off.
    Darcie Mae

  43. Ashley

    September 19, 2012 at 6:36 am

    Great article!! Stay encouraged, good job!

  44. This is typical of today’s society “taking matters (and the law) into their own hands.” Instead of going postal, this person went “paper.” No one deserves this treatment for doing their job.

    Very good article, Neal. Again you managed to make me laugh even when discussing something so serious.

    Keep up the good work; and don’t worry, I’m sure you’ll find your agent soon!

  45. You’re an inspiration to everyone, Neal. Rejection is a big part of life, but as you stated in a previous article, “when you’re faced with a block in the road, you don’t check into a hotel for the night. You find another way around it.” Never give up!

  46. Jeff Winke

    September 20, 2012 at 9:29 am

    Cleverly expressed and accurately on target. Good job, Neal!

  47. Darlene Winter, author of I Remember Samson

    September 20, 2012 at 5:55 pm

    The clever way you have of dispensing invaluable advice is a true talent. Please keep it up. We need it. Thanks, Neal.

  48. millie richmond

    September 23, 2012 at 6:04 am

    Thanx, Neal, for putting yet another smile on my face with your unique take on a slice of life. And yes, the skin of an elephant may be necessary for writers, but a little anti-wrinkle cream along with it wouldn’t be a bad thing!

  49. Jerry Soffer

    January 10, 2013 at 4:30 am

    Thanks, I needed that. Not only was your article a great help, but the responses offered wisdom of their own (special thanks to Beth Carter).

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