In 1969, Swiss American psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross wrote a book that defined five stages of death – Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. I’m sure she thought that her carefully researched text, On Death and Dying, was meant for just that – Death and Dying. Ha! Little did she know that she was really writing about the five stages of query rejection.
Ask any author who ever received the following emails and they will tell you that I am right.
“Your manuscript does not meet our needs at this time.”
“I’ll pass on this one.”
“This is not for me.”
“We just signed another author with something similar so we’ll pass on yours.”
“I must decline participation in this project.”
“It doesn’t fit my list.”
They will also tell you that Elisabeth Kubler-Ross was right, too! See for yourself how authors react when given the thumbs down:
“This cannot be meant for me!”
“They must have mixed up my manuscript with someone else’s.”
“This can’t be – I bet they never ever read my query!”
“Someone just sent me a form reply without bothering to read my submission.”
“What is the matter with those morons? Don’t they know I’m the next Tom Clancy!”
“I’m sick of playing their stupid games. What do these agents want anyhow?”
“My manuscript is a million times better than the stuff they publish. What’s wrong with those people?”
“I hate the whole publishing industry!!!”
“I’ll give all my profits to charity if they would just publish my book.”
“I’ll volunteer to read to juvenile delinquents in lock-up if they would just publish my book.”
“I’ll dust the shelves in their bookstore if they would just publish my book.”
“I’ll tell the world how wonderful they are if they would just publish my book.”
“I give up. I don’t know why I ever bothered.”
“I’m just going to sit and eat another gallon of Rocky Road ice cream.”
“I don’t care if my book ever gets published. I don’t care if aliens invade the earth. Nothing matters anymore.”
“In a million years none of this will matter so what the heck?”
“Hey, there are more agents. I’ll try one of them.”
“So they didn’t like my first book, I’ll write another one.”
“Time to sign up for a writer’s conference at a fabulous destination.”
“I’ll get an independent critique and go from there. Nothing is going to stop me!”
I’d be surprised if authors didn’t go through these stages or even add a few of their own like “Switching Gears.” It would go something like this – “OK fine. I’m now going to paint watercolors. No more writing. Just watercolors.” Or perhaps “Getting Away From it All” which means finding a vacation on the cheap since you spent most of your money on your computer and service provider. (Those email queries don’t come free).
Whatever the case may me, remember you are not alone. Yeah, yeah, everyone tells you that J.K. Rowling wrote Harry Potter on a napkin in some pub and had a hard time finding a publisher. All of us love those “rags to riches” stories. The trick is to get over those five stages of query rejection and move on. It would make Elisabeth Kubler-Ross proud.