5 Ways to Deal With Failure


(Today’s post can be read in its entirety on the Books & Such blog.)

When I first started this job, I was repeatedly surprised at how often it seems to bring a sense of failure. Whether or not I’m actually “failing,” it’s amazing how often I feel like I am.

I don’t sell every project I take on. I get rejection letters from editors all the time. I can’t always meet everyone’s needs as quickly as I want to. I’ve taken on clients that weren’t a good fit and then lost those clients. I’ve made decisions I later realized were the wrong ones.

There are also daily successes, everything from selling a project, to helping a client solve a manuscript problem, to coming away from a contract negotiation feeling like everybody won. But human nature being what it is, I sometimes feel like the failures overshadow the successes.

Awhile back I had a period where I was feeling particularly worn down, so I went searching the Internet for help. Turns out, everyone and their brother has blogged about failure. And every successful person in history has a quote about it, too.

Hmm, wonder what that means? Clearly, everyone feels like they’re failing sometimes. But I needed a way to deal with it. How could all these articles and blog posts help me?

I read article after article and found that most of the wisdom on dealing with failure advises we do things that I was already doing instinctively. Things like:

Click here to read the entire post on the Books & Such blog.

Rachelle Gardner

Literary agent at Gardner Literary. Coffee & wine enthusiast (not at the same time) and dark chocolate connoisseur. I've worked in publishing since 1995 and I love talking about books!


  1. […] 5 Ways to Deal With Failure […]

  2. Ashley on January 2, 2013 at 7:10 PM

    I entered a writing contest earlier this year just for yucks–after an ad flashed at me on Facebook. This was a contest run by a major publisher of “women’s fiction.” I didn’t win, or even make the finals, but a senior editor contacted me and asked to see the whole manuscript. I didn’t think a contract would fall into my lap, but still–I was hoping. Heard back that although they liked a number of things about it, including the strong opening in the chapter I submitted to the contest, there were a number of problems (too long, some plot holes I hadn’t thought about, and it didn’t fit into any of their publishing categories). She gave me a number of suggestions to improve the manuscript, for which I sent back a huge THANK YOU. So, I’m still an unpublished author. And this was my very first interaction with a publisher–I’ve never tried to submit it anywhere or queried an agent. Yes, it was a let down, but I’m taking the free advice, and trying to fix the manuscript with another rewrite. I’m looking at this as an opportunity and a learning experience. Not a failure. If I send my manuscript off to another publisher after revisions, should I mention the interest I received from this other publisher–even though it didn’t work out?

  3. Mira on December 16, 2012 at 4:22 PM

    This is a wonderful post, Rachelle. It came at a good time for me, and was very helpful. Thank you!!

    I continue to believe you have a real gift for prescriptive non-fiction, and not just for authors, but for everyone.

  4. Gabrielle Meyer on December 14, 2012 at 12:37 AM

    Loved this blog today (saw it on the Books & Such blog earlier). It reminded me that all of us, no matter how successful we are, face failures of many kinds. The truly sucessful people are the ones who get back up, dust off their backside, and try again.

  5. Otin on December 13, 2012 at 8:42 PM

    You’d better not pout,
    you’d better not gripe,
    Just sit at your keyboard and continue to type,
    Your manuscript is coming a-round.

    You’re reading it once
    deleting it twice,
    spitting out words that aren’t always nice
    Your manuscript is coming a-round.

    You read it when you’re sleepy
    browse through when you’re awake
    always finding some new flaw
    or a major plot mistake.

    Oh, you’d better have faith
    you’d better not quit,
    ’cause Rachelle Gardner won’t rep amateur ****
    Your manuscript is coming a-round.


  6. joylene on December 13, 2012 at 2:30 PM

    Coming from you, Rachelle, that’s actually comforting. Haha, weird, but to know that you have your down days makes me feel like I’m doing something right. Merry Christmas, and thanks for all you do.

  7. Jo Murphey on December 13, 2012 at 10:48 AM

    Yes, everyone has an opinion on failure, because everyone fails at one time or other in their life. Personally I take the Edison approach to failure: Edison took 201 times to create a working light bulb. When asked about it he aid, “I learned 200 ways not to make a light bulb and 1 way to do it right.” Without failure, you don’t learn. Without failure, you can’t appreciate success.