a Roundtable Discussion led by Kathy Halsey
Back in 2019 I was commiserating with writing friend, Beth Gallagher about "rejection." As it turned out, she had been having a similar conversation with another author, a friend who happened to be a best-seller. Beth remembers complaining that she “might not be meant to write.” Her friend said that his first book had been rejected 47 times before it was published, and was now being made into a movie. He encouraged her to wallow only after the 100th rejection.
As we talked, the kernel of an idea began to form. Why not create a group to support each other as we aim to reach 100 rejections? So that’s what we did in January 2019. I announced it on the GROG and invited folks to join.
Now we have 64 members who support and motivate each other. We invited a few of them over to the GROG blog share thoughts about aiming high for rejections. Hanging out at the blog with me today are Beth, Dedra Davis, Patti Richards, and fellow GROGger, Sue Heavenrich.
Kathy: Welcome and thanks for joining us today. My reaction to 100 rejections was, why not? Beth and I wanted accountability and I like doing things in a BIG way. What was your reaction to the idea of 100 rejections being a good thing?
Beth: One of the things I realized was how subjective this business is, and that it truly is a numbers game. And that I needed to get my nose back to the grindstone.
Dedra: I have two words that keep me going—Fail Forward. Sending out 100 queries and, most likely, receiving 100 rejections fall into my theme of failing forward. I’ve sent 90 this year; and I’ve been collecting rejections for over two years now.
Sue: I thought the idea was brilliant. I could not wait to flip my perspective on the submissions game, and going for rejections would definitely do that. Even though it sounds crazy, I get it: the more you submit, the more chance there is of someone saying YES.
Kathy: By making an outrageous goal, somehow subbing felt less serious to me and gave me freedom not to take the process so solemnly. How did having a goal of 100 rejections change the way you submit?
Beth: Having 100 rejections first made me imagine get enough of them to decoupage an entire wall of my studio. Like Kathy, that goal gave me the freedom to keep on trying without feeling like I’m failing.
Dedra: It’s a challenge I give myself; it keeps me researching and sending queries out throughout the year. I like a challenge. I feel like the ball is in my court when I query and hit send. Then, of course, it’s up to the agent.
Sue: Having this challenge spurred me to become more organized. I drew a 10-by-10 grid at the back of my desk calendar and numbered each square. Each time I submitted, I checked off a box. What a feeling of accomplishment! Each check represented a potential rejection! By the end of 2019, I’d gathered more than 90 rejections and four “Yesses” – assignments for articles.
Kathy: The real test is whether aiming for those rejections helped us succeed. For me, I did succeed by accepting every opportunity for a “yes” in 2019. My successes include a #PBChat 2109 mentorship, an opportunity to work for Storyteller Academy, and doing author studies for ReFoReMo. (No “yes” yet, but I feel it’s coming.) What about everyone else?
Beth: Since it IS a numbers game, the aim of getting 100 rejections ensures my odds of achieving either that number or publication! As for success, it’s achieving the goals I set for myself. If we don’t have confidence in our own work, how can we expect others to? I’m thrilled that so many writers both published and nonpublished have joined our merry band FB group! It’s so nice to have a place to vent, chat, share opportunities, and meet new friends.
Dedra: To me, success is having an agent and a book deal – and a career of ongoing book deals. I haven’t succeeded yet. YET! But I will, and the 100 rejections keep the challenge and me moving forward and failing forward. What I really want is kids holding my book. saying, “Read it again!" To that end, I’m participating in Julie Hedlund’s 12 X 12 Picture Book Challenge. So far, I have twenty manuscripts from this year: I’m constantly revising and writing new stories. One day, when the time is right, I’ll have plenty of manuscripts to offer an agent.
Patti: Absolutely! I've actually lost track of how many rejections I've had since joining this group, even though I have an Excel spreadsheet filled with them. I'm pretty sure I've hit the 100 mark or am close to it! Having this goal has kept me moving forward in the face of some pretty disappointing rejections since we formed the group. "Moving forward" is now how I define success, and it's all due to having something to shoot for besides those coveted contracts! Since this group began, I've sold 3 picture books! MRS. NOAH (Little Lamb Books) releases on October 5th! And I’m still submitting – let those “declinations” roll in!
Sue: Aiming for rejection put less pressure on me to get a “yes” – and without that pressure the fear of “failure” disappeared. Sending out 5 subs a week gave me a rhythm for submitting. It gave me tons of practice writing query letters. It gave me a tremendous feeling of accomplishment that I’d gotten 90-ish subs out the door. To me, success is all about showing up. Being willing to do the work. And having faith in my stories. One of those potential rejections, a nonfiction book proposal, now has a title and is slated for release in 2022.
Kathy: I gain momentum and inspiration from being in this group of strong, talented, resilient writers. You can join us at 100 Rejections Are a Good Thing. Start racking up the trail of “nos” that lead to “yes.” You can do it!