My novel The Last Damned Vampire was rejected -- albeit kindly -- by the agent who read it. It was an extremely nice rejection (he said he might have taken it 12 years ago when he was hungrier), but nevertheless it was rejected.
Now how to handle this? I'm disappointed, but not devastated. Age and confidence do matter. I know perfectly well that taste matters. I'm probably more annoyed that I have to do more work to pitch it than I am questioning myself. He also provided a comment that I think is a good one, which I may have to tackle. Sigh. Rewriting is fine, and actually I often enjoy it, but having just done a major one where I wound up adding 12,000 words (let alone all the existing ones I changed!), I'm not looking forward to that. i just don't have time and headroom for that right now.
"Right now" is, of course, a critical phrase to use. The great thing about writing is that there is no time limit. Mathematicians and gymnasts peak in their teens. Writers never have to peak at all! There's also a practical point here, which is about attributional style. I think I've posted on this before, and I know it's in the book (Motivate Your Writing!, that is, not LDV), but it's worth restating. How you attribute the causes of failure and success have a lot to do with how you respond to it.
In brief, if you attribute failure as temporary, local, and external, it sustains you a bit better. Salespeople do that, and a writer is nothing but a salesperson at this point in the cycle, I'm afraid. In other words "I sent this book [time-specific to this agent [local] and he [external] rejected it." As opposed to "I'm a terrible writer," which assumes internal attribution, enduring, and crossing situations.
Success, on the other hand, should be more positive: "I am a good writer. I just need to work on this book, or start a new one." I think this one is good enough to keep sending around, but I am also looking at ways to tune up the point that was made. I am doing four things that I think are actually pretty new or at least rare, and certainly not all done together:
1. A vampire book where the vampire is the viewpoint character and the hero
2. A thriller vampire book (as opposed to mystery, romance, or urban fantasy)
3. A "cure" for vampirism as background
4. A very different approach to how vampires govern themselves
It's not surprising that all that's a bit of a challenge! I tend to bite off more than I can chew; but I have made it work before. On my dissertation, even my mentor told me flat out that he didn't think I could pull it all together, but that I had. It was 217 pages, and had scores of variables, but I wanted to tackle it all! That's not a bad thing, as long as you can make it work. If not, then you need to peel some stuff out. I don't think I have to do that; I think I'm at the "tweak until publishable" stage. So I can stay pretty well motivated at this point. Besides, I can see out the next few books already, and they sound fun!