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I know that Bradbury was rejected about 800 times. I know the famous JK Rowling story. Yet the question is lurking in my mind, becoming stronger and clearer with each rejection: what if?

What if I am really not that good, what if I am simply an acute case of the graphomania disease, and nobody will ever be interested in anything I have to say. What if I am wasting my time, my money, my family's patience on nothing, nothing at all?

I cannot stop writing. I do not seek fame or wealth, I seek an audience. I want my books to be read. Almost each and every beta reader (not personal acquaintance) told me I am good. But how would I really know if I am any good? If I have this right to ask unknown people to spent some hours of their lives with my books?

EDIT: All the answers were very insightful and very helpful. Thank you. I am going to accept @Liquid's answer just because it was the first and it was there when I needed it most.

New contributor
kom is a new contributor to this site. Take care in asking for clarification, commenting, and answering. Check out our Code of Conduct.
  • Welcome to Writing.SE kom. Thanks for jumping in here with a question. Do check out our tour and help center and welcome aboard. – Cyn May 16 at 14:10
  • Got a link? Is any of it online? I'd be willing to read something (not promising a whole novel) and give you honest feedback. I'm just one reader, but I try to be thoughtful about what I like and don't like. Self promotion is frowned on on most SE sites, but in this case, a sample of your writing is pretty relevant to the question. It wouldn't take long to read a chapter and say whether I am interested enough to keep reading, for example. – msouth May 17 at 1:36
  • @kom , as you are new here I just want to make sure you know that you need to "at" me in your reply to this in order for me to get a notification in my inbox. Cheers! – msouth May 17 at 1:54
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    @msouth Unfortunately, I do not write in English yet. I wish I do - it makes many things much easier. But I appreciate the offer all the same. – kom May 17 at 16:01
23

I'll give my two cents, as someone who feels the same struggles.

You'll never get completely over the fear of rejection, or of not being good enough. I say this because even accomplished authors reported the same fear. Brandon Sanderson said, in an episode of the podcast Writing Excuses, something along the likes of "Yes, the last book was a success, but will they like the next one?".

But how would I really know if I am any good?

I'm used - as you are - to get very positive feedbacks about my writing skills. And I asked a lot of people, in a lot of different times of my life, for different pieces. People usually say I'm good. But at the end of the day, it doesn't matter if I don't believe it myself.

The point is that you cannot trust completely external validation. It's nice and gratifying, but it can make you fall into a strange feedback loop, were you keep longing for more and more instant gratification of your skills. Being able to publish a book is not an index of success either, since (arguably) some published authors could have a far better writing style, some plots are flawed, some characters are shallow ... and yet they get published anyway.

My point is that while external validation and publishing achievements are surely important, they'll lose value if you don't believe in your own skills.

I'm not saying that you should be arrogant and think that you are the best writer out there - you probably aren't. But you shouldn't let self-doubt block you from writing either.

Again, it's fine to have moments of doubt, but don't let those dominate your (writing) life.

I cannot stop writing.

Well, if that's true, you're in luck. Chances are you'll be writing anyway, so no need to worry. It's your time, it's up to you how you want to use it.

If I have this right to ask unknown people to spent some hours of their lives with my books?

You can ask. It's in their right to say yes or no. Again, nothing bad with that.

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    Thank you. You have helped more than you know. Those are not new thoughts, but sometimes I need to hear them again. – kom May 16 at 13:26
  • It's the same for me. I'm glad you liked the answer, and welcome to Writing Se. – Liquid May 16 at 13:31
9

Several thoughts to consider:

There is no reason to expect an agent's opinion to be a better assessment of your writing than a beta reader's opinion.

Agents are business people. They pay their mortgages by finding the manuscripts that will sell, and then selling them for the best price they can. The manuscripts that will sell are those that the public is currently interested in.

Within a week of the college admissions scandal breaking, agents were wish listing a book about college admissions scandals. See? It's a market.

A 10% request rate on queries is a good rate.

But I know people who had a zero percent request rate on agent queries and then landed a big independent publisher. So again, agents are just people, and they receive a dozen or more queries each and every day. They have to wade through all of that knowing that reading a full manuscript will take days of their time, at which point another fifty queries will have piled up in their inbox.

As an assessment of your manuscript, agent rejections are almost meaningless in this context.

And, a ten percent rate is a good rate. Five percent might be closer to the average.

If what you want is to build an audience, do it.

Put yourself out there--find your audience and love them. There are a thousand ways to find readers. Websites and social media, of course. Buying ads. Friends and family. Running a blog, promotional deals.

In the end, all you know is that some people will enjoy what you write, and others won't.

This is true for everyone. I've tried to read Steven King--I don't get it. He's a good writer, but he does zip for me. Not a huge fan of HP either.

My favorite authors are niche--I fall into their worlds like they were built just for me. It is a subjective thing, and it'll be true for all of us as writers, too.

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    I will disagree with that; agents have far more exposure to, and knowledge of, how the publishing business works and what publishers want. Their livelihood depends on publishers taking their calls, which they ONLY do because the agent filters out 95% of the dreck (for free) and brings them plausibly publishable works. To me an agent's opinion of my work is far more important than a beta reader's opinion of my work, just like a professional architect's opinion of my house plans would be far more important than that of my chef brother-in-law's opinion. – Amadeus May 16 at 15:24
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    @Amadeus It would depend on the agent, perhaps. I have a suspicion that when the inbox hits 200 or so unread queries, some agents (not all) might choose to reject the whole lot of them unread, fully knowing they might be throwing out a nugget of gold but also knowing they'll have another crack at another 200 in another two weeks. From the writer's end, a rejection feels insanely personal, at first, anyway. As though the agent read the thing and passed judgment (which they might not have done). Beta readers provide feedback. A rejection from an agent indicates nothing. – DPT May 16 at 15:38
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    @Amadeus and... the agents only have a sample of the writing, at least at first. Five, ten pages. Yet, a rejection feels to some us (at first) like they are saying we shouldn't write, and that our book is bad. They didn't read the book. They read a few pages, if that. A beta reader's opinion is more valuable on this basis--they (probably) read the whole thing (and gave feedback!). Your point is valid, though. But you're assuming equal attention from both readers--the beta and the agent. You're also valuing marketability, which is fine, but separate from writing ability. – DPT May 16 at 15:40
  • I don't think marketability IS separable from writing ability, especially if one's goal is to be published and widely read. Marketing is how you gets strangers to read your work. Also, knowing they are going to read only a few pages, a good writer will make those damn good pages. If they cannot, they aren't a good writer. And the reason they do that is because buyers want to do the same; read some stuff and see if they are grabbed by the premise and writing. I personally have no definition of "good writing" (in fiction) that is not also marketable writing. It either works, or doesn't work. – Amadeus May 16 at 16:12
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    @msouth my recent favorite author is Matt Haig who writes a variety of things. He's popular in England, and popular, but not nearly as recognized as some of the others. I usually like social commentary in the books I read. Octavia Butler's "Kindred" was interesting in this regard--she is not niche, but again, not as well-known as, say, Brandon Sanderson. – DPT May 16 at 20:56
7

What if I am really not that good?

Read a few guides on how to write. When you get to the point of thinking, "this one has nothing new", you've read enough. Make succinct notes on the X-not-Y points they make. (You'd be amazed how few there are in whole books on this subject, partly because it takes a lot of text to explain, defend and exemplify a point.) Then read your old, recent and intermediate work with an eye to whether you've done what you're "supposed" to. This will help, but I need to explain why.

Now the "rules" aren't perfect or ironclad (great authors often find contexts they should rightly be circumvented), and at least one book argued they're not rules at all, just "observations". Don't worry about that: reading the same basic ideas in multiple places gets your mental Is dotted and Ts crossed as to the nuances, and for now the aim isn't even to assess your work by the rules anyway. But you'll discover you can self-critique with much more objective insight than you probably expected. It'll give you humility; it'll give you pride from your progress; it'll give you ideas for revision; it'll help you write better first drafts, or at least better second ones, for your next story.

I'm a writer, but I'm also a programmer. Both disciplines have any amount of writing advice, and any number of people who dispute it, and you will form opinions about it all. Seriously, that's a good thing. When you can articulate why what you did makes sense from certain perspectives, and why sometimes you did something different and think you know why it was prudent, it'll give you the feeling of self-empowerment.

But what if you're really not that good? The only meaning of "good" I know in this context is having the effect you meant to. If you're really not that good in that sense, you'll notice when you do the above. But remember: "not that good" really means "not that good yet". The right mindset, one of understanding writing rather than just trying it, doesn't mean you have to "agree" with everyone else; but it'll help you know what personal progress looks like.

What if I am wasting my time my family's patience on nothing?... Almost each and every beta reader (not personal acquaintance) told me I am good. But how would I really know if I am any good?

Do your beta readers include your family? Oh, it doesn't matter. The trick to knowing whether feedback is helpful is whether they've gone into specifics. There are some online guides in how to beta-read well, and how to brief beta readers on what kind of feedback you need. "This was good" is useless. Ideally feedback on a novel should be a few thousand words, most of it critical, but with some examples given of what worked well too.

I cannot stop writing.

Good. That's arguably the only good reason to write. All aims to achieve specific things by writing have the downside that their odds are too poor to make them good reasons. (That doesn't make the aims themselves bad, though.)

If I have this right to ask unknown people to spend some hours of their lives with my books?

Have you tried trading critiquing duties with other writers? Mutual beta readers, or "critique partners", are a wonderful thing. All the feedback you receive is not only earned, but from a fellow writer's perspective (which theoretically makes it more insightful - I've certainly found it gets more detailed); you get that "we're all in this together" feeling all writers deserve; seeing someone else's writing, and thinking about how their thought processes compare to yours, can help you rethink what you're up to; and you get to read a free book.

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    A lot of good advice in here. – Liquid May 16 at 19:25
6

I can't say I cope well with rejection.

That said, I query in small batches, so I can revise my query (and sample pages) as I go, if rejected.

I have books and online resources for how to write query letters (and how to write books), I will revisit them and double-check to see if I have missed anything, made mistakes, left anything out or can think of anyway to revise what I have and make it better. That's harder for first pages, I probably go through thirty edits of my opening scene, or first 30 pages if it is short.

On top of that, I try to keep some detachment. It is one book. I can write another. If I am going to be a professional author, I will have to write one a year. If this one doesn't sell, hopefully I have learned enough writing it to make the next one sell.

I expect rejection letters. I expect it to hurt if my book flops. But in the end, I write because I love to write and if I can't turn it into a business, then so what?

People everywhere have hobbies they don't monetize. My brother in law builds and flies big remote controlled aircraft, he spends thousands of dollars on it every year. He has no intention of ever quitting his job to do it full time. People play penny poker, my wife volunteers at her church and the animal shelter for free, my nephew goes to play pool every week. None of them are doing it with the intent of going pro or getting rich.

I saw Stephen King in a live interview on TV many years ago; the interviewer asked him what advice he had for people that want to write. His response was, "So write!"

But he went on to say, he thinks most people don't want to write, they want to have written, they want the money, and being interviewed on TV and talked about in the book review section. But he didn't think that kind of success was possible for people that didn't love writing for its own sake without any promise of reward, because it took years of writing without any other reward in order to get good enough to sell something.

So if you want to be a writer, write for the love of writing. Submit and collect your rejections. They only mean you are not good enough yet. Read other books analytically to see how they do it, emulate them, read books on writing, try to follow them, and keep writing, and keep submitting, and try to learn from what you have done before. Even if you never sell a thing, at least you entertained yourself doing something you loved doing, just like all those other people with hobbies that make them happy without making them a dime.

That is the mindset I try to adopt. Rejection is bitter medicine. I think of it as medicine. And I remember that isn't the only reason I write; acceptance would be wonderful, but failing to get it does not make my writing a waste of my time. I keep submitting, but put "acceptance" on the back burner in my priorities, and I don't let rejection ruin my fun.

Response to OP:

Google(formatting a literary query letter), there will be about 30 links on the first page, from many different sources, on how to write a good query letter, and also on the proper format. I know it seems like Googling one thing to get another, but it works.

I suggest reading several, because they are not all the same! Some even conflict. Don't worry about that, it means you have options; different agents like to see different things.

In particular, I recall searching for one that doesn't demand a bio for a first-time writer, basically the answer to that question is just leave it out. Don't say anything about your previous writing or lack thereof either way; use the extra line or two for your pitch. Agents know if you had experience that might sway them, you would have included it. The same goes for your profession or other real-world expertise: If it is unrelated to your credibility in writing this story, it won't matter to the agent, so replace that "bio" info with something that might matter.

And be very attentive to details in your query letter. Agents look for an excuse to reject, any weakness. I've read one that says she has put a query aside for somebody saying they "have written a fiction novel". Likewise other misspellings or grammar errors they don't want peppering a book.

Using more than a page or cheating on the margins; verboten. Don't self-deprecate, don't engage in self-puffery (how great you are). Don't play coy, don't try to bribe (offer a bigger commission; people try it) or coerce or threaten (this opportunity will be gone soon, act now!).

This is business; the meat of the query letter is basically a description of ACT I, without any spoilers. (I refer to the three act structure; 3AS).

That's the tease in a nutshell; in the 3AS, ACT I sets up the MC's normal world, introduces the "inciting event", it grows into a life-disrupting problem and she has to deal with it: That is what the book is about. And you have to figure out how to describe that in about half a page and make it entertaining, because to the agent this pitch is an example of your writing skill. Plan for about twenty drafts. It doesn't hurt to put two weeks just into writing your half-page pitch in the query letter.

  • Thanks. "I have ... online resources for how to write query letters" - can you recommend some? – kom May 16 at 20:22
  • I edited my answer to talk about the query letter. – Amadeus May 16 at 21:20
4

What I will give as an answer is based on my personal opinion.

I have remarked that you keep asking yourself questions that put you in a negative way and that you can't answer for sure. I often did the same, and I never got a satisfying response to any of them. You put too much expectation upon yourself. I think it's a good thing to question yourself when you get rejected, but it's another to linger on this stage. At worst, it will achieve you depression.

Instead, you should focus your attention on things you can actively answer or do. To cope with rejection, you might want to understand why you got rejected. Ask yourself about the rejection itself. Is it because you were bad at selling your story? Is it because of one stupid detailse? If your beta readers told you they liked the story, why would they be the only one? There is a thousand of reasons one can have to dislike your story, but there is a million to love every part of it. If I were you, I would first ponder all these questions, and if they did not reach a satisfying conclusion I would start digging further.

  • I would try to obtain subjective critics of my writing, a.k.a. what is going wrong from an outside point of view. There is always people who won't like your story. If you're think you can take it well, you should definitely go for it. Think of self-publishing a test story just so you could say for sure what is right or wrong.

  • Perseverate. I would try something else when submitting. A different layout. A different strategy. Perhaps even asking the reason of rejection, even if I have very little hope of having a response. Being accepted is often the same as finding the good person.

  • I would compare my story with other, successful, works. Sometimes, I'm just missing a key point. A stupid oversight. Don't think you are bad even if you get rejected. Sometimes it's only a tiny details that makes all the difference. Find it. Don't give up on your passion.

If you want to cope with the rejection, ask yourself the right questions. If you're really not that good, what stops you from getting better?

4

I'm going to focus on one single point: self-doubt. I suffer from self-doubt a lot, so I have come across a strategy to control it.

What if I am really not that good, what if I am simply an acute case of the graphomania disease, and nobody will ever be interested in anything I have to say.

Writing a good book involves several different areas: there's the plot, the characters, the writing style, the rhythm, etc.

You can have a book with a great plot that handles tension brilliantly, but the writing is at the level of a middle school student and the characters are 'meh'. Or you can have a tale with riveting characters that lead the reader to ignore the constant plotholes.

If you're doubting your skills, get your work(s) and analyse it/them area by area. Grade them as terrible - bad - passable - good - excellent. If most of your grades fall on 'good' pat yourself on the shoulder. While 'excellent' is great, it is not important for this exercise. If you identify anything as passable or worse, try to immediately diagnose why.

Do this exercise twice, at least one month apart. Do it first on a day when you feel confident, and the second time on a day when you feel down. Compare the two results. If your 'good' became 'terrible', jot down a note and make it visible: do not trust my gut feelings on bad days - they'd say Da Vinci was mediocre.

Now, whenever you think your work isn't good enough, read the note and tell yourself you're better than what that hateful little voice says.

But perhaps you'll still doubt.

The next step will require a bit of a thicker skin, but it may be just what you need. Find one editor, or agent, or literature teacher. Ask them (or pay them, as it'll be more likely to happen) to analyse your work at a professional level. Ask for a detailed analysis and give them the exact elements you want analysed. For each single one, they must point strengths and weaknesses.

The idea is to have someone who does not know you and who will treat you as a student with an assignment to be graded, but that must then be told exactly was is good and bad with said assignment in order to improve. By giving them the points to analyse, you make sure you don't end up with an impressionist 'good in general'. If the person must focus on detailed aspects (narratorial voice, character dialogue, character development, etc), they'll be more likely to identify the strengths of the text even if they dislike the story in general for personal reasons.

Perhaps they'll tell you you have a fatal weakness that could shatter your self-confidence. It's far more likely that you'll end up with an impartial list of strengths that out-weigh the weaknesses. Moreover, having any eventual weaknesses pointed out, will guide you into improving.

I did this with the two opening chapters of a story. The literature teacher was coldly contundent, but I came out with my confidence incredibly strengthened. The strengths I had identified myself, were the ones she indentified. Same thing for the weaknesses. It proved that my analysis was not inflated by personal bias and I could trust it. It gave strength to my belief that I could not pay any attention to self-doubt on a bad day.

Moreover, the weaknesses pointed out were minor and fixable. Her conclusion was that it was a solid novel opening in every way and that I was likely to find more trouble finding a publishing house due to my inability to sell my work, than from the work itself. She even joked the work might sell itself better if I kept my mouth shut.

So, if self-doubt is dragging you down, consider this approach. You really only have to do it once. When an impartial person who works with fiction confirms that your work is solid, that your assessment was valid and on the spot, that the reasons for rejection lie elsewhere (perhaps you simply chose a genre that isn't trendy... or you're a really bad salesperson), then you'll feel more confident.

As a final word: remember that publishing houses want quick money coming in. If you have an unconventional work - no matter how genius it may be - they'll set you aside as too risky to invest in. It's all in the marketing.

Good luck and stand strong.

4

Here are some thoughts on how to deal with rejection:

  • Rely on your motivation
  • Accept self-doubt and fear and keep writing and submitting
  • Be stubborn
  • Look at rejection from the publisher's point of view
  • Find a long-term balance between writing, family, and friends

A few things first. I can see you've chosen your beta readers well (not friends and family) and if you think their criticism is sincere (usually mixed with some things they didn't like, they thought could be better, etc) you have all external confirmation you need.

You've stated that you can't stop writing, so the solution to your problem—stop writing—is also something I'm not going to suggest. I think most successful authors share that can't-stop-writing-bug. I'm beginning to think it's a requirement...

Motivation

I think motivation is paramount.

If you know why you're writing and that it is important, you have a solid ground to stand on.

You want your books to be read, I'm assuming because you have something you need to say, perhaps something you think is important for people to hear.

In my opinion, that's all the motivation you need!

Accept self-doubt and fear and keep writing and submitting

You're probably always going to feel self-doubt and fear. One might even argue that it sharpens your skills.

When I was younger I used to play theater. All times before I went on stage, except for one, I was extremely nervous. That one time, when I was calm I got on stage, suddenly realizing where I was, and that I had to start acting, and that I was totally unprepared. The first moment was horrifying, and I am pretty sure at least the first act was somewhere between also-ran and discomforting in a bad way...

My nervousness, however painful, had kept me sharp and focused.

Fighting my nervousness by trying to ignore it and distract myself from it, resulted in me not being prepared to go on stage. My "solution" to the problem tripped me up.

What I learned was to get on that stage and act, while being nervous... because guess what?

What goes on inside your head does not have to impact what happens outside of it if you can keep going while it goes on.

In your case that means, having self-doubt and fear that your work isn't going to be good enough while writing and submitting stories for publication.

Self-doubt and fear do not automatically exclude getting published. They aren't even necessarily a bad or dangerous thing.

In fact, as in my case, the remedy for the problem can be more detrimental to your results than the problem itself ever was. Or, that the "problem" can turn out be a tool for making you better.

Instead of fighting or suppressing problematic thoughts and feelings, accept them and know they don't have to mean anything for the quality of your work or your chances at success.

But acceptance goes one step further.

In many more cases than we like we're actually unable to control our thoughts!

Example: I want you to concentrate really hard and do everything you possibly can to not imagine a red firetruck.

There. You imagined a red firetruck!

I told you not to imagine a red firetruck...

Try it again.

Do not imagine a red firetruck!

Your only saving grace is that said firetruck didn't suddenly materialize in the air above your head...

Because things inside our heads can't do that... not without our help!

Be stubborn

Stubbornness, preferably in ridiculous amounts also helps.

After all, Eddison, according to legend, didn't consider himself a failure when he was unable to create a light bulb. He thought of it as finding ways it couldn't be done. Finally, he did succeed, and now we're able to tell stories about it ...

And as you mention, being rejected 800 times and still getting published... we're talking about fanatic levels of stubbornness here!

It all comes back to motivation.

If you know you have something important to say, keep pounding on that door, your head full of doubt and misgivings or not. Don't stop until someone opens!

Look at rejection from the publisher's point of view

I subscribe to a magazine for writers ("Skriva," in Swedish—I think "Writer's Digest" may be a sister publication).

One of the many great things in "Skriva" are interviews with publishers. Several of those interviews cover what they want and why they reject submissions.

There are many reasons why a publisher would reject a piece (wrong genre, or bad quality, to mention two) but one that stuck out was the fact that they get perhaps a hundred times as many submissions than they can ever hope to publish. They just can't afford more than a handful each year, and in the end, it pretty much comes down to the equivalent of a coin toss.

A publisher is, above all else, a for-profit company. A for-profit company has one main goal: to generate profit for its owners.

Everything else is secondary to that. Everything!

Sure, making money off of readers means you have to do stuff readers love, and writers get motivated to write and submit by, but if the economic equation doesn't work out, it's not going to happen.

A well-managed publisher will only help you or support you if they think there is a good chance to make money off of you.

And, even if they are sure they can make a fortune off of you, there are likely a bunch of authors with the exact same promising future. The publisher's time and money force them to choose.

Making money for a publisher depends not just on the quality of what they publish, but also on their chance to sell it and its chance to gain a readership.

Unfortunately, good quality alone doesn't guarantee that the readers will come.

I'm guessing you don't want to be picked up by a publisher on the verge of bankruptcy? ("Skriva" had an article about an author who had that specific experience and I think I take rejection over a bankrupt publisher any day...)

There are many reasons for rejection and far from all of them has anything to do with the quality of your work.

Find a long-term balance between writing, family, and friends

I'd also like to mention your questions about family and friends with regards to everything I've said.

Life is about balance. Many times about mixing opposites...

This is what you may have to do as well. Compromise and decide how to set things up. Perhaps skip TV to get time for your family AND writing. Negotiate solutions where your effort in the home or your time with friends vary depending on your writing. Dropping hobbies (I'm not saying writing is a hobby, but it might help if you replace one or several hobbies with it...) or any other ways to compromise and reorganize to make time for writing.

You should aim for a long-term solution, one your family and friends can live with until you've had your 800 rejections... One that survives the fact that even when you do get published you will in all likelihood still have the same fears and doubts and still work the same hours to get published again... and that this will repeat over and over.

Think of it as building a lifestyle more than anything else...

You will likely have to sacrifice something to become a successful author, but it doesn't have to be your family, friends or health.

A lot of writing can be done with just one less hour in front of the TV in the evening and/or getting out of bed an hour earlier in the morning.

After all, if you are well motivated... if you have something important to say... if you accept that certain thoughts will always want you to doubt that, you have all you need to start making the changes you want.

3

But how would I really know if I am any good?

It doesn't matter. How can I say that?

I cannot stop writing.

So it doesn't matter if you are good or not. You're going to write even if you are horrible. And that's OK. Because...

The only way to get better at writing is to write more. Sure, you can read all sorts of books about writing and such. They may help. But the way that you get better is you write. Get feedback. Rewrite. Repeat.

If you are getting rejected but with positive feedback from your beta readers, then look for more beta readers. Maybe take a class. Or try to find other writers. In the United States, there are writers' groups that read each other's work. And writers will often be more critical because they will see you through the lens of themselves.

If you are having trouble finding writers, consider taking a class. At the very least, the professor is likely to know other writers. And of course it is the professor's job to give you critical feedback.

Don't think about rejection

This may seem difficult. But what I'm really saying is that you should concentrate on other things. Rather than thinking about whether your work will sell, think about how you can present it. Rewrite and revise your query letter so as to give the most accurate depiction of your work.

Try to value the act of sending the query letter. Schedule time to work on query letters. If you meet your goal, reward yourself somehow, possibly with writing. E.g. if you send five query letters (or even one, whatever you think is feasible), allow yourself an hour to write.

Don't think of the query letter as a chance to sell your work. Think of it as a chance to present your work. Because presenting your work is in your control. Selling it is not. So look for ways to take pride in your query letter. Ask your beta readers to read the query letters too. Do the query letters make the beta readers want to read your story? If not, revise them.

Actionable feedback is a good thing. If you get a rejection with actionable feedback, look forward to how you can change your work in response to the feedback. Look at this as an opportunity to write another version of your work.

Criticism is not a reflection upon your worth. Criticism is about the work. Negative feedback is an opportunity to make the work better.

Make time to reread and rewrite older work. Because once you've forgotten it a bit, your own self review will be more dispassionate. You won't be as vested in older work as in your current work. It will be easier for you to see what you don't like about it. And to fix it, either in that work or in future work.

This includes query letters. Reread older ones to see if you can improve them.

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"I cannot stop writing. I do not seek fame or wealth, I seek an audience. I want my books to be read."

Frame challenge: who says you need to deal with traditional publishing, if you don't care about money and you just want people reading your writing? Just start writing a web serial - if you think you can reliably write two or three chapters a week, you could just start posting your fiction online and building an audience that way. Some authors who have done so earn decent amounts of money off of their Patreon accounts, too.

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