Rejection hurts no matter who or what you do, but if you’re going to be a writer you’d better develop some thick skin. While there are circumstances of instant acceptance and overnight fame, it’s rare. Writers get rejected a LOT.
First it starts with the manuscript. Writers send their book babies on submission to agents and get a lot of “not right for me” form rejections. If they’re lucky enough to land an agent, eventually the manuscript will go on submission to publishers. And sorry folks, that’s not an instant deal just because they have an agent. Publishers reject agents too. And even after a publisher picks up a novel, the fans can reject the story. For example, The Great Gatsby didn’t become famous until soldiers of World War II wrote home about the story, of which the government had sent to them to have something to read.
Writing is a lot of belief in the story and that it deserves to be told. They hold onto the dream that one day an agent and publisher will agree. They don’t let rejections allow them to quit. After all, giving up is the sure way to not succeed.
But all those rejections keep piling up! And from the dark corners of a writer’s mind, they hear “you’re a fraud” and “stop already”. So I offer encouragement. Not everyone succeeded their first try. Heck, many famous authors took years to get published. Here are a few to inspire writers to keep pushing forward.
- John Grisham: A Time to Kill was rejected by 16 publishers.
- James Patterson: Rejected by more than a dozen publishers.
- J.K. Rowling: Harry Potter was rejected by 12 publishing houses.
- William Faulkner: Sanctuary was said couldn’t be published.
- Nicholas Sparks: The Notebook was turned down by 24 literary agencies.
- Louisa May Alcott: The author of Little Women had been told to stick to teaching.
- Margaret Mitchell: Gone With The Wind faced 38 rejections.
- Frank Herbert: After 20 rejections, Dune was finally published.
- Jack Canfield & Mark Victor Hansen: Chicken Soup for the Soul had 134 rejections.
- Kathryn Stockett: The Help author got rejected at least 61 times.
And sometimes it just takes years!
- Alex Haley: After writing daily for EIGHT years, the Roots author found success.
- Gertrude Stein: Submitted poems for TWENTY-TWO years before one got pubbed.
- Elizabeth Jolly: Wrote about 30 years before her first publication.
So, as you can see, successful writing takes perseverance. And while there are success stories of writers who self publish, that’s a story for another day. For now, I hope this is enough encouragement for writers today!
Blogger and writer of MG/YA fiction.