A few words on rejection

An author friend, Rachel,  is a gifted writer.

Truly, truly gifted.

Every time she sends her new novel to a mainstream traditional publisher, she receives a personal rejection.

But a personal rejection is better than what most authors receive — silence or a form letter — right?

Rachel often hears back that the editor likes the book, but it isn’t a good fit for that publisher. Best wishes selling it elsewhere, though — it will find a home.

While many would view a response of any type as a good sign — and it is — it still leaves Rachel’s book without a publishing home. And rejection is rejection, whether it’s delivered via silence, a form letter that hasn’t been updated since 1983, or a carefully written email.

I understand Rachel’s frustration with the rejection. I can empathize — I’ve had my share of author rejection and disappointment, too. And my most recent conversation with Rachel reminded me of how incredibly hard it is to deal with constant rejection and how often so many of you must be dealing with it, too.

How to deal

So how do you cope with it?

I like what author James Lee Burke has to say:

Every rejection is incremental payment on your dues that in some way will be translated back into your work.”

You learn from it, use what you learn, and move forward.

I asked authors in the Build Book Buzz Facebook group how they handle rejection. Here’s what some of them said:

  • “Does tequila count?” Jennifer Lawler
  • “I used to get very upset with rejection, taking it personal and letting it stop my progress. Now that I’m older and wiser, I just ignore it and move on. Rejection is a part of life. Just accept it gracefully and move on, and forget about it by the time you leave the room.” Richard Lowe
  • “The trick is don’t have just one pitch or submission out there. Have as many as you can. (I usually have a dozen for my short stories and at least 5 for my current book project.) That way when the rejection comes, it doesn’t have as big an impact. And don’t take it personally. If the comments have merit, consider making changes but otherwise, send it back out there!” Nancy Christie
  • “Rejection is proof you are an author. I think of them as badges. Tangible memories of courage fill my file boxes, physical and virtual. The acceptance letters go into frames.” Sally

There’s lots of wisdom here. I’ll add that when it seems appropriate, I ask for constructive feedback that will help me improve my work. Sometimes I get it, sometimes I don’t.

Please add to to the advice from these authors. How do you handle rejection?

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  1. Thank you for this perfectly timed post. I just hit my emotional saturation point on rejection letters for my second book. Now I see I am in very good company with this.

    On my way to the store for some tequila per your advise.

    1. I’m so glad this was so well timed for you, Jill — thanks for that validation. You are in excellent company!


  2. For four years I was part owner/editor of a micro-publishing company. What I learned from being one of the acquiring editors? That when we editors send a rejection to an author that says “just not for us” that’s what we mean. In other words, once you’re writing well, rejections are truly subjective and often mean very little. There were many novels that I rejected for the ONLY reason that they were not to my taste. They were well written and publishable, just not for me, personally. Remembering that and believing it when I get a rejection that says, “this is written well, just not quite a fit for us,” helps the sting, a bit.

  3. When I set out to find a literary agent for my first book, I created a Word document that consisted of a table with 100 rows. I assumed I’d need to send at least that many queries before anyone took the bait. In other words, I planned for rejection.

    I started querying agents about my book, filling up each row as I went with Agent Name, Date Sent, and Notes. When the silence and the rejections came in, they were just something to record in the table. They didn’t slow me down and I didn’t take them to heart, because I saw them as part of the process of getting published.

    I’m happy to report that I didn’t have to send 100 queries before finding a wonderful agent. Once she was on board, it took another six months for her to place it with the right publisher, and she worked hard to do it.

    Finding an agent and/or a publisher is a matter of getting your work in front of the right eyes at the right time. Assuming you’ve written a decent book, it’s nothing more than a numbers game.

    The takeaway? Rejection may simply be a sign that you haven’t gotten your work in front of enough eyes for the right people to find you. Think of rejection as part of the process and stay in constant motion towards your goal.

    1. Thank you, Tina! I think this is exactly the case for my friend: [Rejection may simply be a sign that you haven’t gotten your work in front of enough eyes for the right people to find you. Think of rejection as part of the process and stay in constant motion towards your goal. ]

      She is so tired of being rejected that she doesn’t want to put it in front of more people — and yet, I think that if she did, she’d find just the right home for the manuscript.

      Thanks for sharing your wisdom. I love this story you’ve shared just as I love that your book has enjoyed so much success!


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