For the average writer, one of the things to get used to is the rejection process. There’s no escaping it—everyone gets rejected, both in writing and in life. And no one says you have to like it.
That said, writers are a sensitive lot, people who spend a lot of time alone, churning emotional plots into cohesive scenes, an exhausting trial of writing, revising, editing, doubting, adjusting, correcting, self-flagellating, working up the courage to submit this testament to a period of time you will never recover, to a perfect stranger to judge its worthiness for their publication.
And you wait. And you wait—well you should be writing the next thing, not waiting—and then it comes to your inbox, something short, concise.
“Thank you for sending us your story. Unfortunately, it is not what we are looking for at this time.”
Perhaps it will help you to know the company you keep. Everyone suffers rejections. These have been gleaned from a variety of sources.
John Grisham’s first novel was rejected 25 times.
Frank Herbert’s ‘Dune’ was rejected 20 times before being published.
Stephen King received dozens of rejections for ‘Carrie’ before it was published.
James Patterson had his first novel rejected 31 times.
William Golding’s ‘Lord of the Flies’ was rejected 20 times.
Madeline L’Engle’s ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ was rejected 26 times.
J.K. Rowling’s ‘Harry Potter’ was rejected 12 times.
Joseph Heller’s ‘Catch-22” was rejected 22 times.
Agatha Christie was rejected for 5 years.
Louis L’Amour was rejected 200 times.
‘The Da Vinci Code’ was rejected as “badly written.”
‘Anne of Green Gables’ was rejected by 5 publishers.
‘The Tale of Peter Rabbit’ by Beatrix Potter was rejected so many times she decided to self-publish it.
Margaret Mitchell’s ‘Gone With the Wind’ was rejected 38 times.
Stephenie Meyers’ ‘Twilight’ was rejected 14 times.
‘The Princess Diaries’ was rejected for 3 years.
‘The Time Traveler’s Wife’ was rejected 25 times.
‘Life of Pi’ was rejected by 5 publishers.
‘The Notebook’ by Nicholas Sparks was rejected 24 times.
Alex Haley received 200 rejections for ‘Roots’.
Natasha Deen over 400 rejections. See our interview with her in this issue.
I hope you have reached the same conclusion: You’re not worth anything if you haven’t experienced a rejection.
Also, just because a publisher rejects you does not mean your work is not worthy of publication.
A lesson to learn is to not be setback by the rejection. Have a list of markets and publishers you will submit to in the order of importance to you. As soon as the material is rejected, waste no time mourning your loss; send it to the next one on the list.
Having a thick skin and being determined are two traits that will help you get published, as well as marketing your book after it sells. But we’ll talk about that another time.
Meantime, Spring is here, take a deep breath and get back to work.
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