Coping with rejection as a writer Reply

Rejection is an inevitable part of a writer’s career, but there are several reasons why you shouldn’t let rejection get you down. So instead of returning the rejection slip with the grammar mistakes marked up, keep positive and remember that you’re in very good company…


Video transcript follows below:

A writer’s life, as far as I can discern, for the most part seems to consist of being rejected.  Most of the writers I know spend most of their time lamenting their professional and personal rejections.

But the thing to remember when you’re rejected is that at least we’re in good company.

Lord of the Flies was rejected forty times and dismissed as: ‘an absurd and uninteresting fantasy which was rubbish and dull.’  It’s now sold 25 million copies in English, been translated into every major language, and Golding has been awarded the Nobel Prize for literature.

Zen and the art of Motorcycle Maintenance was rejected 121 times.

John Kennedy Toole received so many rejection letters for that he finally killed himself. His bereaved mother persisted; A Confederacy of Dunces was eventually published and it won the Pulitzer Prize in 1981.

Carrie by Stephen King: rejected forty times, with one publisher pointing out that there was just no way it would sell.  It sold a million copies in its first year and has been selling ever since.

Anne Frank’s Diary!  Anne Frank’s Diary! One publisher said, ‘The girl doesn’t, it seems to me, have a special perception or feeling which would lift that book above the “curiosity” level.’

There have been several experiments done where journalists have submitted celebrated books to publishers and literary agents. The Times did it recently with a V.S. Naipaul book; they typed the opening chapters up, printed them out and sent the manuscript off as though it was the work of an aspiring writer, and of course it was unanimously rejected.

You will probably have to experience a lot of rejection.  One of the difficult things about rejection is that being rejected won’t tell you whether your work is good enough to be published. That’s something you have to decide – and perhaps being part of a good writers’ group can help you figure that out. Maybe it isn’t good enough yet, in which case you keep working on it, or revise the whole project. But maybe it is good enough. Publishers are having it very tough just now, and most publishers genuinely would like to publish a lot of books that they can’t. And of course the squeeze publishers are facing also restricts the number of books that agents can represent.

Either way, don’t ever let rejection get you down. It comes with the territory, and unless you become the next Steven King, rejection is something you’ll have to deal with even after you’ve won prizes and published novels and, as they say, garnered critical acclaim. It’s tough sometimes, but keep your chin up. The difference between published writers and unpublished writers is often that the published writers didn’t give up.

So when you’re rejected, remember that you’re in very good company, and remember what Gordon Lish said: ‘I see the notion of talent as quite irrelevant. I see instead perseverance, application, assiduity, will, will, will, desire, desire, desire.’

Thanks for watching and good luck with your writing.

(The thumbnail image for this video is by Andrea. It is covered by a Creative Commons license, and more of her work can be found here.)

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