Deal with Rejection – Writing Tip Number Eight

Deal With Rejection. Here is my Writing Tip Number Eight: coping with the dreaded rejection email. And also details of forthcoming festivals and a writing competition.

Writing Tip Number Eight is a painful one:


Anyone finding their way in the creative or entertainment industries has to deal with rejection. And, unless you’re a bankable superstar, you’ll likely continue to get your share of no-thank-you even after you’ve enjoyed a modicum of success. It goes with the territory and creative folks have to deal with it.

But it’s not all bad news. Here’s a little quiz (taken from the website Lit Rejections):

  1. Who was rejected for five years before she landed a publishing deal? Her book sales have since exceeded two billion. Only Shakespeare has sold more.
  2. Who clocked up 12 rejections and was advised to get a day job as there was “no money in children’s books”?
  3. Whose first novel was rejected by 14 agents, but went on to sell 17 million copies and spent 91 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list?
  4. Whose first published novel sold over a million paperback copies in its first year despite him being told: “We are not interested in science fiction which deals with negative utopias. They do not sell.”?

Answers at the bottom of this post.

If you’ve submitted a novel to an agent or publisher, the types of rejection you might receive include:

1. No reply at all. – Annoying but that’s life, and why it’s important to submit to more than one at a time. (Unless submission guidelines strongly discourage this.)

2. A standard thanks but no thanks rejection email. – The number of these can be reduced if you make sure you’re only submitting to agents and publishers who have open submission windows and who take books in your genre. Also make sure your submission and covering letter are in exactly the format requested and without a single typo. Get a friend to read everything through before you hit send. I say more about sending work out in a previous post.

3. A personalised rejection email, addressed to you by name with a kind comment. – It’s likely your submission had merit but wasn’t quite right for that agent/publisher or possibly they’d just taken on a similar book and didn’t need a second. Take this as an encouraging sign and continue to submit your work to others.

4. A rejection email with suggestions of editorial changes you could make. – You’ve hit the jackpot if you get one of these. It’s free advice from an industry expert and implies your work has potential. Give serious consideration to the changes they propose. If you feel they are too radical, get a second opinion from a critique service or from a reliable writing buddy. My advice would be: don’t be too precious about your draft. A leading publisher rejected one of my drafts but took the trouble to provide three pages of editorial notes. I made the major changes they suggested and sent the revised version out again. The Perfect Neighbours was taken on by HarperCollins.

All this rejection business takes a big chunk of time so don’t waste hours refreshing your mailbox in the vain hope of news. Start a new project. Maybe undertake a mix of projects. Submit a couple of short stories to competitions or write a reader’s letter to a magazine. Seeing your name in print on an editor’s page can be the little victory that helps you cope with a bigger rejection.

Writing Competition

It’s great to read the winning stories in Henshaw Press’s quarterly competitions. The top three are always published on the website.  Why not enter their September competition, just launched? Full details, including how to obtain a critique of your entry, are on the website.

Crime Fiction Festivals

Tickets are on sale for the Morecambe and Vice Crime Writing Festival that takes place on 28th and 29th September in Morecambe, Lancashire. The full programme features a variety of crime writers, new as well as established. I’ll be appearing at my first ever panel on the Sunday morning to discuss with some brilliant authors how winning a competition has shaped our careers.

Alternatively, you could visit the inaugural Capital Crime Festival, 26th to 28th September in London. There’s a great line-up of big names talking all things crime fiction. This promises to be an exciting addition to the literature festival calendar.

Quiz Answers

  1. Agatha Christie
  2. J.K. Rowling
  3. Stephenie Meyer (Twilight)
  4. Stephen King (Carrie)


By Rachel Sargeant

Rachel Sargeant is a British author. She writes the Gloucestershire Crime Series, published by Hobeck Books. The first title is Her Deadly Friend, and the second is Her Charming Man. Her titles with HarperCollins are: The Roommates, a psychological thriller set in a university during freshers' week; The Good Teacher, a detective mystery, featuring DC Pippa “Agatha” Adams, and The Perfect Neighbours, a psychological thriller set in Germany. Rachel studied at Aberystwyth University, spent several years living in Germany and now lives in Gloucestershire with her family. She holds a PhD from the University of Birmingham.

Comments (0)

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *