A couple of weeks ago I had lunch with a colleague and friend who was thinking of going back to a previous agenting career. This person had once been an agent and had the reputation of not being able to take rejection well. When he told me what he planned to do, I said I thought that his choice sounded great but that he had to learn to handle the word “no.” His response was that he simply couldn’t deal with a young, inexperienced person on the publishing side of the business turning down one of his clients’ ideas. All, I could think was, “That’s just too bad.”
Over the last many years since I have been an agent, I have been handed rejection many, many times. When I was starting out, I actually took the turn downs personally, but then, after about six months, I realized that people really weren’t rejecting me, they were passing on the proposals I was presenting. And so, I decided to learn what I could from the rejection and move on. It hasn’t always been easy – I am still disappointed when an editor rejects one of my clients’ proposals – but over the years, I really feel that through rejection, I have become a better agent.
Looking for material on how to handle rejection, I happened upon this blog post. There is, indeed, much here that is instructive not only to those of us who represent writers but also for authors who must steel themselves to handle rejection, for editors who want to buy a project but are turned down by their bosses and colleagues, for publishers who are rejected by accounts and consumers when they go to sell their books, and on and on and on.
I really believe that if we try to benefit from being turned down, and learn from it, we can more easily move forward. And perhaps using what we have learned from a previous rejection will enable us to experience success with the next project we set out to sell or get published.
I would love to hear what your experience has been dealing with “no” and whether you agree or disagree with my take on this.