Monday, June 30, 2008


By N.J. Walters

Rejection! We’ve all been on the receiving end of it. Felt the sharp sting of disappointment, the prick of tears, or the rise of anger. It’s not fun.

But some of us set ourselves up for it. That’s what being a writer is all about. It’s mounds of no thank you’s and form letters, with only the occassional yes thrown into the bunch, if you’re lucky

According to the Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary, to “reject” means to: refuse to accept, consider, submit to, take for some purpose, or use. To cast off. To throw back. To decline.

Sounds simple. Your book does not satisfy our requirements at this time. Why you ask? You sweated blood for it, spend countless days and hours slaving over it. Why doesn’t it fit?

Because it doesn’t.

It’s as simple and as complex as that.

Nearly every writer has been rejected at some point or another in their career. Most of us, many times! My very first book was rejected due to POV (point of view) problems. Like most beginner writers, I had a hard time with this. Why? Because many established writers get away with head-hopping from one character to another within a scene, but most publishers won’t accept this from a new author. Go figure.

Still, the rejection letter and the handwritten note helped me realize what was wrong with the book. If you’re lucky enough to get a handwritten note or a letter that isn’t a standard rejection form—READ IT! This is a professional editor giving you free advice. I reworked that first book at least a dozen times, if not more. But guess what, it finally found a home. It took almost a decade, but I did it.

Rejection is easier when you’re just starting out and haven’t published. No, really. I mean it. Getting rejected once you’ve been published hits you even harder. After all, you’re a professional now and are supposed to know what you’re doing. Right?

At least that’s how it’s been for me. I had a story rejected by one publisher only to rework and tighten it and have it accepted by another. One book almost never saw the light of day because it was rejected the first time around. I was so devestated by this rejection I almost chucked the entire book. Instead, I put it away for a while and finished my current work-in-progress. When I was done, I pulled out the rejected manuscript, looked at the editor’s comments, reworked the book and resubmitted it. This time it was accepted!The book has been out for a while now and it is a fan favorite.

If there is one thing I’ve learned as a writer, it’s that you have to make peace with rejection. It’s a fact of life and it’s not personal.

Rejection is a great teacher. It taught me that I can always rewrite a book, can fix any problem (no matter how large), and can always find a home for my story—even if it takes years and another stack of rejection letters.

While it’s no fun, rejection can be helpful. It’s all in how you look at it.

Emotional~Sensual~Satisfying Reads! (newsletter group)
A Legal Affair—Samhain Publishing—July 15th
Jackson’s Jewel—Ellora’s Cave—July 25th


Jess Dee said...

I wish I could say I was graceful in rejection. But I'm not. It burns. It hurts. And it leaves me feeling utterly miserable and useless.

But I agree with you NJ. If you listen to the words of those rejection letters, you can rewrite the book. And you can sell it! I'm living proof.


Maddy said...

Thanks for the post. I am a complete newbie who is hoping to submit a novel in a few weeks, so this is good stuff for me to know. It makes me feel better to know that even established authors can be rejected. If I am lucky enough to get some comments weith my rejection I will be sure to look at it as a postiive rather than a negative. Thanks!

Nell said...

Rejection always sucks whether you're multi pubbed or just starting out. The thing to remember is they aren't rejecting you - they are rejecting the story. It can be for all kinds of reasons, not quite right for the line, they recently pubbed or bought something similar, they love the story but that genre isn't selling... It doesn't necessarily mean you're a bad writer or that it's a bad story.

Diane Craver said...

Great post, NJ.

I rec'd a rejection letter from a TWRP editor yesterday, but it was a lovely rejection. She likes my voice but my book doesn't have enough romance in it for their lines. I understand and appreciate her asking me to submit something else.

N.J.Walters said...

Rejection always hurts, Jess. A writer puts so much of themselves into their work.

But finally getting a book accepted is golden. :-)

N.J.Walters said...

Hey, Maddy. Good luck with your submission. Rejection is part of the writer's life. Unfortunately, you have to get used to dealing with it.

N.J.Walters said...

That's exactly it, Nell.

N.J.Walters said...

Thanks, Diane. And, I agree, there is such thing as a good rejection letter. Any time you're asked to submit again is a good sign.

Good luck with finding a home for your book.

Shelley Munro said...

Great post, NJ. Rejections are never easy. Some of them hurt worse than others, but perseverence usually wins through. I recently sold a story rejected by two other publishers. Sometimes it's just a matter of timing.

N.J.Walters said...

Timing and perseverance are the keys, Shelley. Congrats on finding a home for your story!

J L said...

I've found that a good antidote for rejection is to get writing on the next book. Put that rejected book aside for now -- it's still too raw. Come back to it later when you're feeling a bit more objective.

It's just a matter of finding the right home for the book, after all...