Thursday, August 19, 2010


Rejections sting no matter where you are in your publishing career. From the multi-published, NY Times bestseller to the yet to be published author, most everyone gets rejections at one time or another.

Writers should not take rejections personal, but they do. It’s unavoidable when they put so much of themselves into their books. Rejections are easier to survive if you think of them as stepping stones along your writing career, or opportunities to help you become a better writer.


  • Pat yourself on the back. If you have a rejection, you’ve taken the brave first step to becoming a published writer.

  • Rejections make you strive to put out your best work all the time and not get lazy.

  • Teach you to slow down in your submission process. We all get excited when we come to THE END of a book. We want to begin sending out all those queries and partials immediately. But rejections will quickly follow with this method. Let the manuscript sit for at least a few days, even better, a few weeks, then revise, revise, revise. Let it sit and revise again.
  • Help you to identify your strengths and areas for improvement. If you’re fortunate to get feedback.
  • Motivate you to develop your craft.

  • Help you to grow a thick skin so future rejections are easier.

  • Help you to understand that rejections are part of the business of writing and publishing.

  • They make you humble.


  • Form letters – Forms letters could mean a few things. Most new writers get them while they’re still developing their craft. Don’t be discouraged. If you’ve finished a novel, you’re way ahead of the curve. Developing your craft takes time. And with each book you write, you will get better. You can also get a form letter if your writing is good but you targeted the wrong publisher, editor, line or agent. Another reason could be if that particular editor or agent simply doesn’t have the time to comment so they use form letters.

  • Letter with comments – I celebrate every time I get these kinds of rejection letters, especially if the comments give specific advice as to what worked and didn’t work for them in the story. I’ve even had an editor or agent recommend that a manuscript could be sent to particular publisher or agent. These are gifts from the professionals. Study these comments carefully and with an open mind to see if they ring true. Whether or not they do, please send a Thank You to that editor or agent. They are extremely busy and for them to take the time to give any feedback means they saw some element of promise. You may be sending a future project to them.
    NOTE: If you don’t agree with the comments or if you feel the comments were rude, don’t argue or send nasty emails back. I’m hearing on the social networks that writers are doing this. Why would you? Vent to your friends, not to professionals you hope to work with in the future. That’s professional suicide. Even if you don’t expect to work with that agent or editor, word gets around.

  • Letter with request to revise and resubmit. This editor or agent definitely sees potential with your project. They may want to see if you can revise and also if you’re receptive to revisions. Many writers mistakenly feel their work is perfect as it is. An editor or agent knows the market and knows what their house wants and what’s selling in today’s market. If you’re not an easy person to work with, there are plenty of talented writers out there who are. Some argue that if an editor requests revisions, they should make an offer. For an established author, that may be true. But for a newbie author, I can understand why they don’t offer a contract. I was asked to revise and resubmit without a contract and the revised manuscript was rejected. Sure I was disappointed, but I found it to be an excellent learning experience and well worth my time. I believe my writing improved, and I developed a contact with a publisher.
    NOTE: Writers who are too rigid about their work and feel their projects are perfect as is, will remain stagnant, continue to make the same mistakes and limit their potential.
  • No response rejections – These are the toughest ones. Some agents are so swamped with queries and submissions that they’ve adopted the ‘no response rejection’. If you don’t hear from them within a certain amount of time, then they aren’t interested. Then there are the no response rejections from editors and agents who have requested your manuscript at conferences or through queries. After a follow up email or snail mail letter, you still don’t get a response from these submissions. Are these rejections? Or are they submissions that have gotten lost? I’d like to think they were set aside as a possible maybe, then forgotten. These are very frustrating, but also part of the business. Usually after a year, I mark REJECTED on my Excel spreadsheet.


  • Read it over carefully for suggestions and comments. They could help you improve your work. Ask writing friends to get their take on the comments. Maybe they see something you don’t. Sometimes we’re too close to our writing and can’t see the same mistakes we continue to make.

  • Send a thank you. That editor or agent took the time to review your work. It might not be right for them, but they took the time to evaluate your material.

  • File it away. You may need it for Tax purposes, but it’s also good to compare comments from other editors and agents. Are they giving you’re the same comments and suggestions? Are you making the same mistakes???

  • Revise the manuscript if necessary and resubmit to new agents or editors. But don’t get stuck revising and revising one manuscript.

  • Begin a new project. Keep writing. New projects will help you hone your skills.

  • Don’t let rejections get you down. Email/call/text a friend, then get back to writing. Persistence will turn those rejections into a SALE.


Amber Skyze said...

Sending the thank you has to be the most difficult task, but I do thank each and every editor for taking their time to read my story. Even if I'm silently cursing them while typing. :0)

pattie said...

Great blog, Kathy. Editors are people too. ;-) Amber, a nice thank-you on a rejection just might brighten his/her day!

J Hali said...

Every author should read this blog. Each point is terrific, and explained so well, Kathy! I always send a thank you--it makes perfect business sense.

Adele Dubois said...

Good advice, Kathy!


Anonymous said...

Thanks for this--I agree wholeheartedly, even writing up a similar column earlier this week at my blog:

The trick for me is to get into a new writing project as I'm soliciting representation on the finished manuscript, because then I stay forward-looking and and less apt to take criticism negatively.

Kathy Kulig said...

Hi Amber, Smart move about the Thank You notes. I had an agent remember me by name at a conference bec. of a note I'd sent.

Thanks Pattie :)

Hi J, Appreciate it. :) Definitely good biz sense.

Hey Adele, Thanks, girl.

Kathy Kulig said...

You're welcome, Transplantp. Thanks for stopping by and I enjoyed your post too. Very true-- rejections are about the writing not the writer. The forward-looking/keep writing is an excellent plan.

Donna Coe-Velleman said...

Great advice. Most I do already. I try to regard rejections as another step toward getting published.