Sunday, October 10, 2010

On Rejection

I’m not going to lie… rejection—well, it SUCKS. And the thought of getting rejected—crazy scary.

So why do we put ourselves out there? Why do we continue to throw ourselves to the fire if we’re only going to get burned?

Because, for most people—it’s the ticket to success.

In my writing experience, I’ve encountered plenty of rejection—the rejection letter, the rejection e-mail. People tell me it’s just part of the process and while I really want to slap them in the face, I realize… they’re right. It’s a growth process. And the process is different for everyone. Some people snag an agent with their first venture, others hit the jackpot with their second, fifth… shoot. I know of someone who wrote over fifteen manuscripts before acquiring a book deal.

Tons of authors get rejected before getting accepted for publication. Stephen King got so many rejection letters that he used to nail them on a spike in his bedroom. One of his rejection letters for Carrie read “We are not interested in science fiction which deals with negative utopias. They do not sell.”


Here’s what someone said about Joseph Heller’s Catch—22: "I haven’t the foggiest idea about what the man is trying to say…Apparently the author intends it to be funny – possibly even satire – but it is really not funny on any intellectual level."

Or take someone’s dismissal of William Golding’s Lord of the Flies:
“an absurd and uninteresting fantasy which was rubbish and dull.”

John Grisham’s first novel, A Time to Kill, was rejected by a dozen publishers and 16 agents before breaking into print and launching a best-selling career.

And... AND... JK Rowling was rejected by, like, everybody. Thank goodness for the Bloomsbury CEO’s eight-year old daughter who begged her father to print the book.

And my all time favorite failure-turned-success story: (See if you know who THIS is)


1831 This guy failed in business.
1832 Ran for state legislature and lost.
1832 Lost his job. He wanted to go to law school but couldn't get in.
1833 Borrowed some money from a friend to begin a business and by the end of the year he was bankrupt. He spent the next 17 years repaying that debt.
1834 Ran for state legislature and won. (SEE—SUCCESS!)
1835 He was engaged to be married and the lady he dreamed of marrying died.
1836 Had a total nervous breakdown and was in bed for six months.
1838 Ran for speaker of the state legislature and lost.
1840 Tried to become and elector, but was defeated.
1842 Admitted to practice law in U.S. District Court.
1843 Ran for Congress and lost.
1846 Ran for Congress again, and won. He went to Washington and did a good job.
1848 Ran for reelection and lost.
1849 Tried to become land officer in his home state and was rejected.
1854 Ran for Senate of the United States and lost.
1856 Sought the Vice-Presidential nomination at his party's national convention and got less than 100 votes.
1860 Elected President of the United States.

Yep -Abraham Lincoln.


One of my facebook friends recently asked this question about rejection:

"Is it okay to be afraid of rejection even when you know it’s inevitable?"

My response: abso-freaking-lutely.

Rejection is a big scary monster. My heart jumps into my throat every time I send out a query. My fingers shake when I submit those requested pages. It’s the anticipation of hoping… just hoping that this is the person who may just want to represent me and realizing at the same time—that they might not. It’s exciting! And it’s frightening.

I’m getting ready to query again and the rejection is inevitable—not because my work is crap or because I don’t believe in myself. It’s just that my work will not resonate with everyone. SO why bother querying those people? Well, because frankly I don’t know who those people are.

I received the best advice from a very established literary agent: QUERY EVERYBODY.

Yeah—do your homework. Find out what kind of projects those agents typically take on, but you never know—there could be someone in the big agenting world who never takes on young adult paranormals—but can’t put down your novel from page one.

Soooo—I’m going to query. And I’m going to experience rejection. Probably a lot of it. Meg Cabot’s Princess Diaries slipped through 17 publishers before being accepted and hitting the presses; Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind: 38

And in the meantime - I'll keep writing. And learning. And growing.

Rejection happens. But I won’t get published if I don’t try. And I’ll try everyone. Because as Stephenie Meyer well knows: it only takes one YES to achieve success.


  1. I reject mine before they go off. It saves on the waiting and you can get on with something else ;) but seriously I don't think you can grow as a writer without a lot of rejections.

  2. Great post. I just received my official first rejection and even though I expected it, it still stung like I walked into a hornet's nest. I know it's only one rejection, but it was received almost eight hours after I sent the submission, like the agent took one glimpse of the first word and said, "Yeah right."


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