Unfortunately, most authors (and author-illustrators) won’t sell everything they create, and agents definitely won’t sell every project they ever put on submission.
So what do you do with a manuscript that’s been shelved – either because it’s made the query rounds and there were no agent bites, or it went out on submission to editors and there were no publisher bites?
Most of the time, I think the best thing to do is to reframe this manuscript not as something that failed, but something that just wasn’t right at the time. And more important – something that was an important part of your craft journey, even if it didn’t get as far as you hoped.
We learn something from every manuscript we write and revise, and from everything that goes out on submission. Whether it’s a gradual understanding of our craft strengths and weaknesses, or a response about what the current market is looking for.
As writers, we all have those manuscripts in the drawer. But I absolutely believe that we don’t get to that first “yes!” on a project without getting through those no’s – and that those no’s are still valuable as learning and craft-growing experiences.
So, to borrow a page from Marie Kondo – say “thank you” for the experience, and use what you’ve learned on your next work!
(PS – I know some of you might be thinking, “But what about self-publishing?” and that’s a valid route depending on what your goals are. But self-publishing is a business decision wherein not everything you write should necessarily be published either, and so I think this advice also applies to weighing that option as a next step.)