Rejection: all part of the business

I received two rejections for two different picture book manuscripts last week. And just yesterday, I received a third! Three in two weeks, a new record!

Has that ever happened to you? If so, what did you do?

Me, I deleted the messages and sent the manuscripts off to other publishers!

Oh, and I started working on a brand-new manuscript, which has been taking up a significant portion of my free time, which is why I wasn’t able to post anything last Tuesday.

Accept it and move on!

Everyone has a different way of dealing with rejections, for manuscripts, voicework, or otherwise. Some folks – usually those new to writing – take a rejection notice to heart and anguish over it, deciding right then and there that it was foolish to ever consider sending something out and they swear they’ll never do that again.

Those poor souls never get published because they quit.

On the other hand, some folks save every rejection letter they’ve ever received, and joke about plastering their living rooms or bedrooms with them once they hit it big. These folks may also never get published – but at least they’ve got the right attitude. You can’t get a deal if you’re not in the game.

Still others, like Yours Truly, discard rejection letters as soon as they show up.

Early on in my career I had considered holding onto them as a sort of badge of honour…but I quickly decided I didn’t want any kind of negative energy around! Occasionally, I’ll get a very positive rejection – an editor or agent who can’t use what I sent them, but are encouraging nonetheless – and those I’ll hang onto for reference.

But if it’s a form rejection, sorry, not interested, doesn’t fit, not quite what we’re looking for, blah blah…it’s in the circular file!

Oh, and another rejection, of sorts

My baby!I also learned from one of my voiceover clients that one of their clients (for whom I voice monthly radio commercials) wants to go in a different direction – i.e., wants to use a voice other than mine.

Again, this goes with the territory. It’s not that they didn’t like my voice, didn’t like me, didn’t like the quality of work I was doing….they just wanted something different. So I don’t wring my hands over it; I simply continue on, doing what I’ve been doing.

The term, “You win some, you lose some” was created specifically for writers and actors.

Full disclosure: I have no idea if that preceding statement is true, but it seems to make sense, so I’m sticking with it.

Honestly, I’ve been rejected by women for reasons a lot worse than “I’d like to try something different.” (Although, now that I think about it, I actually have been rejected by a number of women for that very reason…but I digress…)

But that’s the reason most of us in these businesses get rejected: the people we’re dealing with simply want something different. Not necessarily something better – although that certainly could be the case – just something differentAnd all a person in my position can do is say, “Ok, best wishes!” and then move on.

In my case, I’m moving on by wrapping up a new children’s poetry collection, starting a new picture book manuscript, and jotting down ideas for three other books I haven’t gotten to yet. I’ve also been in touch with a potential new voiceover client, so we’ll see what happens there!

What is your attitude about rejection?

How do you deal with it? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments. We all feel differently about it and deal with it in very personal ways, so perhaps your nugget of wisdom might help someone who is struggling.

I look forward to reading your opinions! Right now, though, I have another cover letter I need to write…


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12 thoughts on “Rejection: all part of the business

  1. Carl H. Cushman

    Hi Matt. Thanks for your sharing article. Excellent attitudes and reaching out to a commonality of experience. A question that also might make a subject for a future column: I’ve thought that it gets easier for you, in terms of rejections and other non-understandings, now that you have several wonderful acceptances including picture books. They lift you up, helping tide you over rejections.
    That true? Does it get easier / less pissy when you’re further along in the business?

    For me, I stayed away from sending stuff out for a long time, knowing I was sensitive, etc. From working a lot with the public, I’m less sensitive; so fine with sending stuff out. (I still much prefer creating). For each of us, as writers and actors, it is though a binding predicament: We need to be sensitive to life to articulate, and express creatively. Yet, somehow, we also need to be insensitive to non-understanding rejections.
    I do find that “What’d you know, I survived, wasn’t that big a deal,” is a good thing to say to myself.


    1. Thanks for your comments, Carl…I think attitude depends on the individual and less on experience level – but that’s just me. I’ve been acting, voice-acting, and writing for almost forever, so I’ve been getting rejected almost forever (gosh, it sounds terrible when I say it like that!)…so I think I’ve developed a thick skin. Working for 3 different telemarketing companies when I was younger also helped develop that thick skin!

      I wouldn’t say that the disappointment of rejection gets easier as one gains experience, but I would say that one grows to accept it – and, indeed, EXPECT it. I don’t mean to be pessimistic and automatically assume you’re going to be rejected when you send a voice audition or manuscript out…but realistically, the actual odds are that my audition or manuscript WILL be rejected. After several years of living this reality, one gets used to it, but I don’t think I’ll ever like it!


  2. This is a great topic, and an important topic!

    As a vo actor, my job is to audition. It’s a pleasant, unexpected gift if I book the job. I audition for anywhere from 2-20 things a day. I never hit the booth expecting to book it. My goal since the day I got into this business was to be able to enjoy the thrill of being at the mic. I get a high at the mic, be it an audition in my home studio or a job at Disney.

    Statistically, I am rejected everyday. But I don’t view it as rejection. In fact, I don’t see anything at all beyond the fun of the audition! If I am indeed fortunate enough to get that call from my agent that I booked something, I literally need to go back into my records to refresh my memory. Once it’s been submitted, it’s forgotten.

    Those who hold onto their auditions emotionally are doomed. There will be a desperation in the read. The mic hears everything, including the subtext of insecurity. If you audition to please, and please can mean everything from impressing your agent to working too hard to impress the buyer, you lose the organic spontaneity needed in the performance.

    This also means you cannot go into VO for the money! My generation never did! Now don’t get me wrong. If you are blessed to get to the point you are making a living at this, you must put on your businessman hat as well. It’s called show “business.”

    But all in good time. My generation had survival jobs. Tons of em! Day jobs, night jobs, often both in the same 24 hour period. You paid your bills with your survival jobs, which allowed you the luxury to pursue professional VO professionally. This way you didn’t rely on vo to pay your bills. And, rarely if ever did this generation of vo professionals take low ball offers, which brought and kept a level of standards to the vo industry.

    Cut to today. The e-world of vo has opened the business up to anyone and everyone with a computer. This industry was literally handed to them on a silver modem. They know not the standards of my generation. They saw opportunity. And, that opportunity was not to get a high at the mic. It was to make money at vo. The result: there’s someone out there who will take any offer for every job. And due to this trend of doing this for the money, rejection stings more. They need the money to pay the bills. This is not a generation statistically of actors getting into vo. This is a generation of people looking to make money at vo. Rejection is not just an emotional feeling. It’s money that isn’t being brought in to pay the bills. This is a generation where an actor’s survival job(s) is a foreign language. We all have to pay our bills. Take out the pressure of doing so with vo and your reaction to rejection will be less harsh.

    Also, keep this in mind. If your audition was outstanding, yet you still didn’t get the part, you weren’t rejected. They just picked someone else. There are many reasons why a great read doesn’t get hired. Perhaps they went with someone they used before whom they know is reliable. Maybe they hired you recently and wanted someone new. Maybe they went celebrity, or with a family member to give em a break. Etc. Bottom line: today’s audition is an insurance policy for another audition or job. If you are brilliant, they will remember you! If there’s desperation in your read because you are trying to please too hard, that ain’t gonna be brilliant! Gotta get out of your head and out of your own way! Act for the love of it, not for the financial return. Ironically, your odds for that return will be much higher!


    1. Thank you so much, Bob, for taking the time to stop by and read my post – and for such a well thought-out comment! I cannot add to anything you said, as you nailed it; everything you state here is true. I particularly like your suggestion that if one takes the pressure off, their reaction to rejection will be less harsh…good advice!

      I often joke with people that I am one of those folks who is not motivated by money – I am in the businesses I’m in, VO and children’s writing, because I love them and they bring me an inner satisfaction and joy that money doesn’t. True, sometimes I wish I WAS motivated by money, because I might have fewer financial hardships and a little bit easier life…but as you stated earlier, I do this for the thrill of the mic (or the pen!). Best wishes for continued success, Bob – if I ever get out to LA, I hope we’ll have the opportunity to meet!

      (For anyone not involved in voiceovers, Bob Bergen is one of the busiest and most respected voice actors in the U.S., voicing thousands of projects for companies like Warner Bros., Disney, LucasArts, and about a million more. Find out more about him at


  3. Laura Shovan

    I’ll never forget my husband’s college roommate, who papered the wall by his bed with rejection letters from employers he’d interviewed with.

    I’ve cried my share of tears over rejections — especially when they were for books. Rejections from literary journals I’m more thick skinned about. For a while, I started tracking my submissions and found (NO SURPRISE), the more work I submitted, the more I was getting published.

    I love your positive attitude. We have to keep on writing — that’s the only path to success and to improving our work.


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