The One Romance Novel Trope Every Author Deals With Behind The Scenes: Constant Rejection


The One Romance Novel Trope Every Author Deals With Behind The Scenes: Constant Rejection

First time RU poster Michael Alvear shows us how to deal with rejection – by comparing them to romance tropes! Read on!

The damsel in distress isn’t just a tried and true trope in a romance novel, it’s also the most accurate description of its authors.  In publishing the heroine (you, the author) rarely gets her man and when she does he turns out to be ne’er do well who’s as likely to tie her to the railroad tracks as he is to jet her off to Paris.

Whether you’re pre-published, self-published, a midlister or best selling romance novelist, rejection takes many forms—from agents who don’t want to represent you to editors who ask for endless revisions to the mother of all rejections:  Poor sales.

How does a romance novelist who specializes in happy endings contend with her own elusive one in publishing?  According to the Romance Writers of America, about 10,000 Romance novels are published every year.  Only a handful hit the best sellers and then only a handful more actually make any significant amount of money.  In the face of these odds, how do you carry on without being demoralized to the point of despair?

We can look at some romance tropes for the answer.

The Arranged Marriage

This is where the heroine (you, the author) realizes she’s married to an industry she doesn’t love but has to make the best of it.  You start by acknowledging that publishing systematically rejects its most talented authors.  Google “famous authors who’ve been rejected” and you’ll see what I mean.  Look at your bookshelf and I promise that almost every novel in it has a tortured history of rejection.   To fully get my point imagine Verizon rejecting Apple’s Steve Jobs with a letter stating that while they enjoyed the iPhone they don’t see a market for it.  Or Snapchat telling Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s agent that they don’t see a future for him in social media.

The Super Smart Heroine

The author heroine doesn’t just acknowledge that publishing systematically rejects its most talented authors, she applies that to her own efforts.  She thinks, “Wait a minute. If publishing consistently rejects talented authors I admire, then maybe talent isn’t the only thing they’re basing their decisions on.”

Our super smart heroine then asks herself a question I pose in my book:  “Is rejection an indictment of my work?”  Because if it is you have two choices—improve your craft or give up.  But what if it isn’t?  (Hint:  It’s most likely not).  After all, there are many reasons to reject a manuscript—from bad timing (“I love the book but we just published three with a similar concept”), editor reticence (“I adore the manuscript but I don’t think I can sell it to the committee”) to publishing myopia (“Great book but your last one didn’t do well so we’re going to pass.”)

Our super smart heroine deduces that there are so many reasons to reject a book it doesn’t make sense to believe that a rejection is proof that she’s not talented.  She stops saying things like, “If I were any good publishers would be falling all over me.” She stops taking rejection personally.

Our heroine is bold and takes a bet I call “The Writer’s Wager.” It’s simple:  Since it’s impossible to know whether you’re getting rejected because your work is lacking, you bet on the idea that it is worthy because believing otherwise is too limiting given the available evidence.  This empowers our author, putting her in a resilient state of mind, capable of moving past the inevitable rejections that await her.

From Broken Bird To Feminist Hero

You can cross an ocean of despair by simply shifting the way you process rejection.  This is a fundamental concept that “bulletproof” authors master on their way to success.  Without a coping strategy for publishing’s endless rejections your emotional state will always be at the mercy of your arranged-marriage.  There are few HEA’s in publishing but that doesn’t mean you can’t make the adventure worthwhile.


RU Writers, how do you deal with rejection? Margarita’s? Or jumping right back into the pool?

Join us on Wednesday for Pat Haggerty!


Bio: Michael Alvear is the author of The Bulletproof Writer: How To Overcome Constant Rejection To Become An Unstoppable Author (Woodpecker Media January 2017). 

He’s been a frequent contributor to National Public Radio’s All Things Considered and his work has appeared in Newsweek, The Washington Post, Reader’s Digest, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times and The Huffington Post.

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3 Responses to “The One Romance Novel Trope Every Author Deals With Behind The Scenes: Constant Rejection”

  1. My husband calls it “tenacity”, I call it being stubborn, some others might call it “stupidity”. Whatever it is and whatever you call it, I’ve got it and so do most writers I know. You’ve got to or else you’re no longer a writer. Yes, the odds you mention are daunting, and they’re probably true of many genres if not all of them, but still we carry on writing and publishing in the hopes that someday we’ll get some–not a lot, but some–recognition for our years of hard work. I’ve also just got too many damn ideas in my head and characters clambering to have their stories told. What can I do?

  2. I agree, Meredith. You cannot look at your “track record” to carry on. You have to look at your passion. Most writers have a burning need to tell stories and they are neither dampened nor lit by success or failure.

  3. Evening Michael!

    Rejection is a tough one, because I take it to heart. I always try to pick myself up and go at it again, but sometimes, it’s just hard.

    Build a tougher skin, become more stubborn. =) I think both of those would make me more unstoppable!

    Thanks for the post Michael!