When I began writing for children, I was an eager author. I started with one picture book and then focused on that manuscript far longer than I should have. I was, like many new authors, convinced that my story idea was fabulous. Spoiler alert: it wasn’t. That picture book was nowhere near fabulous, nor did it have any sort of marketability. But I was a brand-new author and, to be honest, I really didn’t know any better. So, I did what many new authors do, and I submitted that magical first manuscript to everyone. Literally, everyone. *face palm*
The thing is, as much as I look back now and cringe at the thought of some of the manuscripts I once sent out, sending those stories out was a necessary step in learning. Through rejection, I learned so much more about crafting stories, about the literary industry and about myself as a writer. Rejection hurts, but it can also help. Truthfully, I’m grateful now for my mountain of rejections. How big is that mountain you ask? Let me share some of my stats with you:
Years focused on writing:
I joined the Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI) in 2011 (eight years ago). Though I'd toyed for decades with writing, joining the SCBWI was when I truly started to focus on writing and pursuing that path.
I began to query agents in 2012 (far too soon) and sent out a whopping eighty-seven queries from 2012-2014. All of those rejections probably should have warned me that I wasn’t quite ready. However, I clearly also wasn’t ready to listen. Things changed in 2015, when I began to hone in on craft and less on producing a ton of work just to throw noodles at the wall to see if anything stuck. Between 2015-2016 I only sent out fifteen queries. My query rate also lessened as I paid more thoughtful attention to which agents I really wanted to work with. In 2015, I began to receive feedback and requests.
In 2017, I finally signed with an agent. Funny thing to note here is that the agent I signed with was not one I queried! We actually met through an online contest and have since parted ways. I’m now signed with a second agent, who I met at a conference. So, after all of those years of querying, both of the agents I signed with were a result of something other than a query! Still, when I look back, I don’t think I would be the writer I am today if I hadn’t been rejected so many times. All of those rejections challenged me to write more, to learn more, to strive to be better.
Maybe your stats are a lot like mine or maybe not. Either way, rejection is part of the process of writing no matter where you are in your career. I recently heard students talking during a school visit about “the power of yet” and I fell in love with that concept. Instead of hearing “no” in a rejection, turn it into “not yet”. Rejections don’t mean that you are a bad writer or that your stories will not be published, it just means not yet or not with that agent.
Keep on writing on.
About the author:
Sophia Gholz is a children's book author, the managing owner of RateYourStory.org, and a board director at KidLiteracy, Inc., a nonprofit organization. As an author, Sophia enjoys writing nonfiction and fiction picture books, early chapter books, and middle-grade fiction. As an editor, Sophia has critiqued across genres from board books to adult fiction. Sophia is an active member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and a two-time Florida SCBWI Rising Kite Award winner. In addition, Sophia holds a degree in Business Management, she has worked as a professional copywriter and, in the past, written and edited for television. Sophia's debut picture book, The Boy Who Grew a Forest, will be released March 15th, 2019. For more, visit: www.sophiagholz.com.