Look Rejection in the Eye and Keep on Going


by Sabine Berlin

I gave him my heart, and he took and pinched it to death; and flung it back to me.
—Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights

 Magleby’s chocolate cake. Starbucks Italian cream sodas. Sailor Moon. What do these three things have in common? They are my rejection letter comforts.

Let’s face it. No one wants to see the words This just isn’t a good fit for me when they open that email from the agent who has had their query for the last twenty-three days (or twenty-three minutes, as was the case in my fastest rejection). But even your favorite authors have had to deal with rejection. So how do you survive when all you really want to do is climb into bed and never write another word again? Here are some tips to surviving rejection and living to write another day.

1. Reward yourself!

The mere fact that you’re putting yourself out there and sharing your story with the world is a big deal. You should be proud. A rejection means that you took a shot. You actually wrote that query, found that agent, and pressed send. You’re no longer just another soul who wrote a few words and called it a book. You are submitting. You are a writer. So when John Luc doesn’t think your story is right for him, smile and know that you are one step closer to finding who it is right for. And then go get that scoop of your favorite Baskin-Robbins flavor. You deserve it—because tomorrow you have another query to send.

2. Remember that not everyone loved Twilight.

It seems like every writing conference I go to I talk to someone who hates Twilight. Personally, I remember calling seven or eight people the minute I first finished reading it and telling them they had to read that book. This poor book has been raked over the coals, yet it has one of the biggest fan bases ever. The moral of the story? You are never going to please everyone. You don’t want an agent that is only so-so about your book. You want one that loves it like you do. Rejection is just a way to help you find your dream agent.

3. No doesn’t equal bad.

If you are going to survive the submission process, you need to change your mind-set. I have a dear friend who taught me this. When she first started a home business, she decided that instead of looking for the yes, she was going to look for the no. She was going to keep on contacting potential customers until she got twenty who said no. That wasn’t as easy as she thought it would be. She kept on getting yes after yes after yes. Let Murphy’s Law work for you: If you’re looking for a yes, you’re bound to get a no. But if you are looking for a no, well …

4. You’re not alone.

Kathryn Stockett was rejected 60 times before The Help finally found a home. Stockett isn’t alone. Consider Shannon Hale. J. K. Rowling. Stephen King. Some of the best-loved authors in the world got their fair amount of rejections before their novels found a place onto bookstore shelves and into the hearts of millions of readers. Well, they’re not alone, and neither are you. Agents don’t hate you if they reject you. Sure, you may get the occasional letter reminding you that only people who can actually write get published. When that happens, refer to point 1—and while you’re drowning your sorrows in chocolate, remind yourself that even Rudyard Kipling was told that he didn’t know how to use the English language. Then wash the sticky off your hands (or lick it off if you’re really depressed) and get back to submitting. You are not alone!

5. Read your book.

There is a reason you are putting yourself through this waiting game. You wrote a book—one that you love enough to share with the rest of the world. If you ever get to the point where you are ready to hang up your hat, go back and read a favorite scene. Remind yourself why you love this character or hate that villain. Find that one line that makes you laugh every time you think about it. Read that one part that you need almost an entire box of Kleenex just to get through. If you feel like it’s just not worth it, read your book, and then submit it for your characters. They are worth submitting for.

6. Overcome resistance.

Resistance is a major negative force that can hold you back from from fulfilling your dreams. Watch this inspiring video on how author Steven Pressfield overcame resistance, self-sabotage, and self-doubt (and how that’s more important than talent!).

Do This Now

  1. Submit. There is no need to worry about surviving rejection if you don’t take that first big step.
  2. Don’t sit by the mailbox playing the waiting game. Write. Read. Find someone else to whom you can submit.
  3. Get a three-ring binder and keep a copy of each rejection letter. Someday, when you’re famous, you’ll have some great stories to tell. While you’re at it, put a file in front of the binder to keep track of everyone you submit to and how long it took each one to respond.
  4. Lastly, you can stave off some of that rejection by learning what agents and editors are salivating for. Get some hints here.

It’s your turn: How do you survive rejection? Got a favorite treat, a must-watch movie, or some wise words of motivation? Share them with us.

Awesome resources are at your fingertips.


  1. Shari

    Oh, I love everything about this article, but especially #5. You are so right: our characters are worth it. They are always worth it.

  2. angela

    It is always worth it! I love the points from number 3 and 4. The process is completely subjective. Thousands of people will love what you write even if some don’t–it’s just a numbers game. Just like dating. You have to put yourself out there to increase the odds of finding those people you’d actually want to date. The same goes with traditional publishing. You do the best you can to write something worth reading, and then you have to put yourself out there to be found and to find. In the end, it’s much better than sitting at home, biting your nails and wondering if you’ll be able to survive possible rejection. Putting yourself out there gets you closer to your goals and allows you to improve through learning.

  3. Julie Wright

    This quote from Emily Bronte speaks of my entire life on submission. I told myself to just forget the whole thing and move on to self publishing, but I can’t make myself walk away. So here I am still getting rejection letters.
    Great post! Thanks!

    • angela

      I think those words are key. “Can’t make yourself” speaks of the real thing–the love of the craft. If you love anything that much, I say keep at it. And I’ve happened to have read some of your books that made it through the gatekeepers, and am pretty sure you’ll get to smile wistfully at those rejection letters someday and remember when…


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