On Sucking it Up and Celebrating What Matters

Rejection sucks. 

There is no successful writer in the history of writing that has not suffered rejection on some level.  So if you want to do this.  Not just write, but write for publication?  You need to suck it up and develop a thick skin. Because there is no manuscript that has not been rejected. 

And, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the rejections keep on coming at every stage of the publication journey.

As someone who received plenty of rejections on my path to getting an agent, I can say that those were the easy ones.  Most of them never read more than my query or a few sample pages.  And, I knew that not every agent was going to love my book enough to sign up to read and edit it several times.

But once you have that fabulous agent who loves your book, your hopes get raised just a little bit higher, and the rejections only get tougher.  As you move up the ladder of gatekeepers, the fall is harder.

After you submit to editors, you are going to get rejections.  A lot of agented manuscripts never sell.  The editor rejections are harder than the agent rejections, because in most cases, they actually read all or part of the manuscript.  Your agent spent time targeting editors who seemed interested in the concept, who asked for the book after reading the pitch.  But your book just didn't make them jump up and say "Yes!"  Or worse, your book a) offended them; b) they could not connect with the shallow characters; c) the story dragged; d) - you get the picture.

It doesn't stop there.  Once your manuscript is sold to a publisher, there is lots of opportunity for rejection in house.  Your editor can reject your revision- sending you back to the drawing board to rethink the direction of the book.  This is hard.  Gut-wrenching, in fact. Give me a form rejection any day over a "rejection" by someone who matters to your book and your career. You can't just shoot off a new query.

Even after your book is edited and shiny and beloved by your editor, the marketing people can pass you up for appearances and promotions in favor of "hotter" books.  Barnes and Noble can decline to carry your book in store.  Retailers can shrug their shoulders and just say no to your shiny cover.

But none of those rejections are anything compared to the very public rejection you will get from some readers.  You may get "Kirkused" with a lackluster industry review.  Or dogged by a reader on Twitter who wants to make sure you know exactly how much she hated your story.  I know of one author who gets  emails from a "fan" who does nothing but berate her and tell her what a horrible writer she is. 

Or worse.  What if you realize your dream of publication and no one notices?  For every book with negative buzz and reviews there are books with none.  Unnoticed books that come and go so quietly that no one but those involved in the publication are even aware of them.

And just when you think you've survived every type of rejection possible, you will start all over again with a new book, a new project. 

But there is a bright side.  Thank God, because this post is starting to get depressing!  The bright side is that most rejections are blessings in disguise.

I learned something from every agent rejection on my way to getting an agent.  I got a master class in plotting from my agent after she rejected my first version of the book, and again on character development before we went on submission.  The manuscript came out so much stronger. 

I'm so glad my books weren't acquired by an editor who didn't love my manuscript.  The book would have been dead on arrival.  An unenthusiastic editor won't give a book the attention it needs to be better, or the marketing support it needs to get to readers. 

When my publisher asked me to rethink the focus of the story for Spies, the story was elevated to something so much better than what I could ever have done on my own.  And, let's face it, in the face of potential public rejection, I want to have my best possible book out there.

As for the things that are outside of your control?  The market dictates what books get support and dollars behind them, and what books booksellers rally around.  The solution? Write a better book with a better hook. Timing is a huge part of publication.  If it is not on your side this time, try something new.  Not every book is going to hit.  Did you know Suzanne Collins had a middle grade series before the Hunger Games?  It did fine, but it was not the out-of-the-park homerun that the Hunger Games was. 

And, for every reader that hates your book, chances are, there is one who loves it.  Savor those moments when someone writes a nice review or tells you they loved something about your book.  Because I'm willing to bet you are not writing for fame or sales or money.  I bet you are writing because you love creating characters and stories and worlds, and you want to share them with someone who enjoys them as much as you do.

And if that's true, no rejection in the world is ever going to get you down for long.

If you love what you do, and love what you write, you've already won. 


Thanks for posting this: a great reminder for us all to getsome perspective, and very timely for me as I'm at the nerve shredding stage where my agent is submitting to publishers!

What a wonderful post! I love reading your blog posts, and I can't wait to actually read your work! Just a few weeks away--squeeee...

So true, so true.
There's a deep dent in the wall in the shape of my forehead from rejections. Writing, screenplays, agents, publishers, distributors and studios.

But one must forge ahead.

Excellent post Talia.


Joe,thanks for coming by and good luck!!

Naomi, Thanks! I can't wait to read yours too. I will be awaiting news :)

Craig, you are so right. Forging ahead is the only thing we can do. The writing it all we have control over.

Whoa, I forgot what day it is - SILVER is just around the corner!

Your post comes at a good time for me donning my big girl pants...I think my book will go on submission soon.

Loved this post, Talia! Thanks for making me feel like a winner :).


This post made me realize that I'd better suck it up and get some attitude. You have to believe in yourself and your story when no one else (or only a very few) will. I hadn't even thought about how you can be rejected at each level of the process. Maybe it's all about tenacity in the end--the ability to bend without breaking when those painful but educational rejections come in. I just can't wait to get to the point where I know in my gut that my ms. is as strong as I can make it. Thanks!!


Heather, I think we all struggle with knowing where that point is. Sometimes I think I know exactly where the weakness is, but I just don't know how to fix it. Other times, I just don't know anymore. For me, what works the best is remembering that I loved this story as I was writing it. It's WHY I chose to write it. And as long as I've put in the work and tried my best, then I have to let it go. Tenacity is the only way to get through.

As much as we crave the positive, it's so easy to let positive feedback and milestones slip by, while those setbacks and rejections can really linger. The challenge, I think is to just keep your head down and keep writing, keep improving, and keep putting yourself out there.

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