Literary Success: How to Handle Rejection

Let’s be honest. Rejection hurts. We pour our whole souls into a piece of writing, sweat over every word and phrase and clause and sentence and paragraph. Then we submit our story to an editor or agent. Weeks later, we receive a response: Thank you for considering us, but we cannot accept your story at this time because it does not meet our current needs. Ouch!

When we receive such responses, are we tempted to toss our hard work into the trash? Or delete it from our computer files? Or both? Don’t do it. Many of history’s greatest writers got them.

A Few Famous Writers and Their Rejections

  • John Grisham: His first book, A Time to Kill, was rejected 25 times before it found a home at Wynwood Press.
  • Madeline L’Engle: Her classic work, A Wrinkle in Time, won a Newbury Medal, Sequoyah Book Award, and Lewis Carroll Shelf Award, but publication didn’t come easily. After 26 rejections, Farrar, Strauss & Giroux published it.
  • Irving Stone’s bestseller, Lust for Life, suffered 16 rejections.
  • William Golding’s Lord of the Flies was rejected 20 times.
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

True, poor writing is one reason for rejections. Poor grammar, spelling errors, weak content and subject matter all lead to them. However, don’t take rejection personally. As we’ve seen from the brief list above, even the best written novels and stories get rejected. Editors and agents have other reasons for rejecting a manuscript, and these have nothing to do with the quality of an author’s writing.

Rejections are not a rejection of us. Harper Lee, author of the famous work To Kill a Mockingbird, once told Writer’s Digest magazine: “I would advise anyone who aspires to a writing career that before developing his talent that he would be wise to develop a thick hide.”

Other Reasons for Rejection

  • The publisher just purchased an article or book on the same topic.
  • The book’s subject isn’t marketable.
  • The writer didn’t follow the publisher’s guidelines.
  • The writer didn’t study the periodical publication or book publisher to determine its audience and the sort of things it needs.
  • The editor was sick, tired, or in a bad mood and thus, rejected everything that day.

Dust off your laptop, put fingers to keyboard, and go at it again and again and again.

3 thoughts on “Literary Success: How to Handle Rejection

  1. Love it!!! So many books and authors have been rejected, but thank God for tenacity!!! I often say, with all the current writing rules, the Bible would not see publication today! So thankful we have each word!! 🙂


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