Monday, April 30, 2018

Rejection and The Big Leagues

I'm feeling a bit under the weather, so this will be a short post (I think. Although once I start typing there's never a guarantee of when I'll shut up.)
I once saw a writer on one of my writing organization loops post about rejection. She came to lament that she had received a rejection on a partial and was so devastated she had cried all day. "I got very little feedback. What am I supposed to do next?" she asked. She went on and on and on about how hard she had worked on that manuscript (for six months), how close she had felt, and how much the rejection stung. She admitted it was her first rejection.
If I could've reached through my computer and shook her, I would have. Rejection is the name of the game, Sunshine! I wanted to yell at the top of my lungs. It happens to writers, published authors, multi-published authors, and agents every other minute in publishing.
What do you do next? You send out more queries, you brush it off, and keep going! One rejection and this writer was ready to throw in the towel! I couldn't believe how naive she was being. I wanted to tell her that not only will you have to send out more queries, and face dozens and dozens of rejections, but most likely you'll have to write something else.
Look, the harsh reality is that expecting your first manuscript to land you an agent or editor is like every baseball player expecting his first hit in the major leagues to be a homerun. Does that happen every once in a while? Of course it does. But not very often.
When I was querying, the rejections piled up like dirt, until I was staring at an enormous hill. To make things worse, most of them were of the close-but-no-cigar variety with lots of feedback. Many were also R&Rs - revise and resubmits. I rewrote my first novel so many times I can now read it to you line by line without glancing at the book.
But when I was facing that mounting pile of rejections, one of my published author friends gave me the best piece of publishing advice I've ever gotten. She said to write something else. And that's what I did, and it landed me my first agent.
I think most writers, unlike this very naive one I mention,  know that you have to send multiple queries out to many, many agents. But I wonder sometimes if new writers know that it may take many, many manuscripts before you make it in the big leagues. Yes, that first one may hit it out of the park, but it may take many, many swings before you're a batting legend. If you accept this going in, you'll be a lot better off. And much more likely to keep your sanity.
I wish the best of luck to any writer who is in the query trenches at this moment. Believe in yourself, but be willing to work hard, improve your craft, and write multiple manuscripts...until you're so good they can't afford to reject you.

Marlo Berliner is the award-winning author of THE GHOST CHRONICLES, her debut book which was released in November 2015 to critical acclaim. The book won the 2016 NJRW Golden Leaf Award for Best First Book, was named FINALIST in the National Indie Excellence Awards for Young Adult Fiction, received the Literary Classics Seal of Approval, was awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion, and was named one of the “best indie YA books we have seen in the past year, from both self-publishers and small presses” by IPPY Magazine. Marlo is represented by Eric Ruben of the Ruben Agency and she writes young adult, women’s fiction, and short stories. Her second book, THE GHOST CHRONICLES 2, was released in October 2017. 

When she's not writing or editing, Marlo loves reading, relaxing at the beach, watching movies, and rooting for the Penn State Nittany Lions. After having spent some wonderful time in Pittsburgh and Houston, she’s now back in her home state of New Jersey where she resides with her husband, two sons, and a rambunctious puppy named Max. 

Sunday, April 29, 2018

The 'Nice' Rejection (Brian Katcher)

LISTER: Why didn't I ask her out? What's the worst she could've said?
RIMMER: She could've said, "No, you're a filthy, stinking, loathsome, disgusting object I wouldn't be seen dead with in a plague pit."

--Red Dwarf

When I was in 7th grade I asked a girl to a dance. She said no. I was so unimpressed with the situation that I didn't bother to ask out anyone else for two more years.

The thing about rejection is, you know it's going to happen. It's an inevitable part of life and dating. And when I could tell a woman was so utterly underwhelmed by me, when she was kind of insulted that I'd assumed I was in her league, well, didn't bother me much.

But it was the almosts that did me in. When I could tell she was considering, but ultimately realized she could do better. Or just wasn't dating at the time. Or had to go to California to film The Hunger Games. The idea that I'd been close was kind of harder to take than knowing I never stood a chance.

I've find that this applies to writing as well. Like all writers, I've had my fair share of rejections. Most were of the form letter variety, where it was passed over after some sub-editor glanced at two pages. Happens to everyone.

But then there are the close calls. Now that I have an agent, I'm having a lot more publishers read my manuscripts. And while I still get curt 'nos', I'm getting a lot more 'almost yeses.'

I really appreciated the chance to see this one. It’s the sort of story and premise that’s exactly what I’m looking for—funny, a diverse cast that felt authentic, and a fresh take on familiar story elements. Brian has a fearlessness to his writing too—a willingness to GO THERE and the sensitivity to pull it off—that I very much look for.

Brian’s writing is so engaging, and I found G to be such a charming and accessible character. 


Funny and poignant and honest, in all the best ways. You are totally right that this is the kind of quirky voice I’m drawn to in contemporary YA.  


I know I should be happy that these incredible editors are so being so flattering...but damn, it's hard to think how close I was.

Oh well. It'll happen. Or not. That's part of life as well. I've got a zillion other ideas, and I will not stop until I force each and every one of them down your collective throats.

And a big fat raspberries to Nancy from 7th grade.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Rejection Tips (on My Decade Birthday) by Dean Gloster

            I write fiction.
            “I thrive on rejection” is an example.
            No one likes rejection. But with writing, like many ventures, when you cast off your canoe of dreams into the rough waters of the commercial world, your only certain companions are rejection and its cousins—unruly criticism and surly indifference. (“Meh.”) Not everyone will love your work. And not all of your work will be entirely lovable.
            I’m now working on two somewhat weird novels. And today, coincidentally, is my birthday, one of those alarming speed limit change-of-decade numbers.

(It might be an even bigger number than the one on this sign.)
            So I’m acutely aware that I don’t have forever to get my stories out into the world. And that when I finish either of those stories, I face the prospect of rejection.
            Which is hard. As someone said, writing a novel is like telling a joke and then waiting two years to find out if it’s funny. Writing is a long unpaid internship, and each novel not under contract is something of a lottery ticket.
            So here is my advice on rejection. It’s couched in terms of what we writers face, but you might find it echo in other places you seek acceptance, achievement, or connection. You know—rejection's hunting grounds.
            First, don’t send your work out too soon. You should make it as good as you can before you hit send, and that includes workshopping it with critique partners, writing classmates, beta readers, and your writers’ group. If you don’t belong to that kind of network, take writing classes and join organizations to find other writers. Maggie Stiefvater even has a Google group to match up critique partners.

            Second, keep getting better as a writer. Rejection isn’t failure. It’s part of the process of getting to acceptance, and your job is to put in the work: That means reading other writers, studying the craft, and—you know—actually writing. It also means listening to feedback. 
            Third, rejection is often temporary. There are more ways than ever for authors to find an audience. As Ray Bradbury said, “You only fail if you stop writing.” You can learn a lot more from setbacks than from success, but the tuition is high, and it’s often paid in rejection.

            There is an element of chance and lucky timing about publishing that you can’t control. But you do have control about some things: Whether you put in the work and whether you keep getting better. Make it hard for them to reject you.
            Some books find an audience, as difficult as that is.
            Some writers find a career.
            And some of us find stories that sing to us, demanding to be told.
            That, friends, is magic. Even more amazing, sometimes that magic—combined with persistence and putting in the work over time—can pay the rent.
            Which is powerful magic indeed.

Dean Gloster has an MFA in writing for children and young adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. He is a former stand-up comedian and a former law clerk at the U.S. Supreme Court. His debut YA novel DESSERT FIRST is out now from Merit Press/Simon Pulse. School Library Journal called it “a sweet, sorrowful, and simply divine debut novel that teens will be sinking their teeth into. This wonderful story…will be a hit with fans of John Green's The Fault in Our Stars and Jesse Andrews's Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.” Dean is on Twitter: @deangloster

Friday, April 27, 2018

No, but ... (Jennifer R. Hubbard)

I have a file called “The ‘Good’ Rejections.”

It was especially helpful to me before I’d had a lot of acceptances. It helped keep me going. It told me that even if I hadn’t reached the end zone, I’d gotten close.

Agents and editors are busy. They see a lot of pitches, a lot of manuscripts. Most of those submissions get turned down with no answer or a form answer. But when editors see something they want to encourage, they take the time to go beyond the form letter and jot an extra note. Such as:

“Thanks—try again?”
“Keep us in mind for future work.”
“We would be glad to see more of your work.”
“I hope you try us again.”
“Came very close.”
"Made the final round."
“Some very strong writing here.”

Yes, sometimes it’s even more frustrating to get this close and still not make it. But mostly, it’s gratifying to know that we’re on the right track, at least. We’re not kidding ourselves—there is something here; it’s just a question of its finding the right home.

When I was feeling especially discouraged, I would leaf through this folder, and the collection of so many different editors responding to so many different stories would reassure me that I did have potential, that more than one person saw it.

There are no guarantees. One literary magazine sent me many encouraging notes in response to many short stories, but ultimately never accepted anything. One of my short stories garnered praise almost everywhere I sent it, but never cleared that final hurdle. On the other hand, several journals that turned me down at least once said yes on other occasions. One story of mine got published more than ten years after I’d written it. Sometimes it takes a while to find a story’s “home.”

Rejection isn’t always a “no.” Sometimes it’s, “No, but ...” or, “Not yet.”

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Rejection Reads (Courtney McKinney-Whitaker)

In a fun case of serendipity, I've heard a lot about rejection this month.

I say fun, because it's not been me getting rejected (though I think I actually got 1 rejection this month and 1 acceptance, both for shorter pieces, not novels, which I will say is a pretty good month) but me encountering really good pieces on rejection.

I thought I would share them here.

At Lithub, travel writer Thomas Swick discusses the long road to publication of a memoir of his time in Poland in the early 1980s in "After Dozens of Rejections, It Only Takes One Acceptance To Make AWriter."

A taste:
"The Poles have a phrase for this phenomenon: pisać do szuflady (to write for the drawer). In Poland the contributing factors were more political than qualitative, while here they’re more financial. “What is the difference between capitalism and communism?” began an old Soviet-era joke, sometimes attributed to John Kenneth Galbraith. “The former is the exploitation of man by man while the latter is the opposite.” I was coming up with a new explanation: Communism bans books for their ideas while capitalism bans them for their (perceived) inability to make money. A situation that turns unpublished writers in the first system into dissidents and heroes and those in the second into poor schmucks."

In "The Rejection Audit: What If Your WritingRejections Are Actually Good News?" book coach Jennie Nash writes about the different types of rejections and how to learn from and move forward from them.

A taste:

"Publishing is a complex, massively big and multi-layered business universe. There is no “they.” There are just people who love books and make a living selling them who are constantly on the lookout for projects they think can attract readers.

Your job as a writer is to write what you are called to write, to master your craft, to understand what readers want, and to learn the rules of the game of how to reach those readers. Part of this work is taking a cold hard look at your rejections."

Have you read any great pieces or books on the fine art of rejection? Share them in the comments!

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

The Worst Kind of Rejection -- Jen Doktorski

So, in preparation for writing this post, I was wandering around the house, half muttering to myself, What can I say about rejection? when my kid hears me pipes up, “You have a lot of experience with that, don’t you?”
Why yes, I do. Thank you for the reminder.
Rejection is part of life. For writers, actors, dancers, singers, artists of any kind really, rejection is part of the job.
After more than a decade of writing books and pursuing my dream of publishing, I’ve had experiences similar to those already discussed here by my fellow YAOTL authors this month. I’ve got a collection of emails and letters from agents and editors who rejected my work. But after initially knocking me down, those rejections ultimately propelled me forward. I grew more determined to find an agent, get a book deal, and publish my first book.
To me, there is a far worse brand of rejection in the publishing business.
When an agent or editor rejects your manuscript, they let you know privately, in an email or letter, without taking to social media to let the world know exactly how much they hated your craptastic book. It’s easier to accept that one editor or agent simply didn’t connect with your work on a particular day. That she or he made a subjective decision based on their tastes, needs, and perhaps caffeine consumption, and decided to pass on your book.
There are lots of gatekeepers to get by in order to have a book traditionally published, and perhaps that lulls you into a false sense of security. This must be good, you think. My critique group liked it, my agent liked it, my editor liked it, an editorial board liked it, the marketing team liked it, my parents liked it. What’s not to like?
Nothing quite prepares you for the scores of reviewers—both amateur and professional—poised at their keyboards ready to answer that silly rhetorical question.
So what? you might say. A review is still only one person’s opinion. Yes, but unlike the agent or editor who rejected your work quietly, the reviewer is not only telling the world they didn’t like your book, they’re trying to persuade others to reject it without ever reading it. “Don’t buy this one!” they may as well be saying when they call your book “Country hokum.” (True story.)
It’s difficult to see years of your life and pieces of your heart summed up in a few cruel words that some reviewer decided passed as clever. It’s discouraging to recognize that some reviews impact your sales.
I have a new YA novel coming out next week. Like many authors, I put everything I had into this book and I should be celebrating its release. But right now, my eyes are covered with my hands and I’m peeking at the world through the thin spaces between my fingers, afraid to read what people said about what I wrote.
Here are the details about my book in case you’re interested. On May 1st you’ll be able to buy it wherever books are sold.

One last summer to escape, to find herself, to figure out what comes next.
Graduation was supposed to be a relief. Except Quinn can't avoid the rumors that plagued her throughout high school or the barrage of well-intentioned questions about her college plans. How is she supposed to know what she wants to do for the next four years, let alone the rest of her life? And why does no one understand that it's hard for her to think about the future―or feel as if she even deserves one―when her best friend is dead?
Spending the summer with her aunt at the Jersey shore may just be the fresh start Quinn so desperately needs. And when she meets Malcolm, a musician with his own haunted past, she starts to believe in second chances. Can Quinn find love while finding herself?

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Making Rejection Work FOR You (Brenda Hiatt)

Life is filled with rejection. It starts in early childhood, when you desperately want that toy or that treat (or that pony) and your parents tell you no. At six, you likely handled rejection with begging, bargaining or tears. When none of that worked (because, really, keeping a pony in the back yard was out of the question no matter how reasonable you tried to make it sound), you eventually moved on to the next thing you couldn’t live without. Over time, you got a little bit better at picking your battles and arguing your cases. 

Then come the brutal teen years, when the boy you so desperately like doesn’t even know you exist, or you don’t get that part in the school play even though it was clearly designed for you. Your childhood strategies of begging or bargaining will only make things worse, and any tears are best shed privately. Instead, you might write out your disappointment in your diary or tell a close girlfriend, either of which may help you figure out where you went wrong—information you can use when the next crush or role or whatever comes along that feels absolutely necessary to your life. 

After so much practice, surely once you’re an adult rejection will no longer be a problem, right?


Out on your own, the rejections get scarier because now they’re more important than ever: being denied a loan, job or promotion you were counting on; a longtime friend cutting you out of his or her life; a spouse leaving what you thought was a happy marriage. Plus all the smaller ones, like your credit card being declined at the cash register when you have a cart full of groceries or being turned down for that part in the church musical. Big or small, you still need strategies to handle rejections.
Some coping strategies are better than others.

Necessary wallowing is allowed, but after that it’s time to get back up, dust yourself off and try again, maybe from a different direction. The goal, the way to make rejection work for you, is to use what you learn from each one to avoid making the same mistakes over and over. For a writer, that means no matter how much a rejection letter or bad review stings, you find something in it you can use to fix the problems in the book or change how you’re targeting agents, editors or readers. 

Because I’ve been in this biz a long time, I’ve had more experience with writing-related rejection than most newer authors can boast. Boast? you may ask. Yep, boast. I truly believe all those years of rejections toughened me into a better writer and a better person. 

Oh, yeah, I’ve been rejected by the best.

 You see, I wrote my first book when traditional publishers were the only game in town. I researched the markets, sent out query letters and started racking up rejection letters. When I finally received a request for the full manuscript from Harlequin’s now-extinct Regency line, I joyfully packaged it up and shipped it off. And waited. And waited. After six full months, my baby finally came back…rejected. 

On my birthday. (True story.) 

Yes, there were tears, and maybe ice cream. But then I carefully reread the rejection letter, focusing on the part where the editor said she’d be happy to look at anything else I had. Because I’d spent all that waiting time writing, I’d just completed a second Regency. I quickly polished it and sent it off, only to wait another six months before I got that book back in the mail. The tears had barely started when I realized the accompanying letter wasn’t a rejection, but a revision request. Needless to say, I made the suggested changes and resubmitted. A few months later instead of a package in the mail, I received a phone call…with an offer! 

The following year, my first-ever novel, a sweet, traditional Regency romance, hit the shelves. 

I went on to sell five more books to that Regency line before it closed, by which time the market had moved on to longer, sexier historical romances. After a year or so of spinning my wheels, I pulled up my big girl panties and started over, drawing on my previous research and experience. After many more rejections, I landed an agent and sold my first historical romance to HarperCollins and their Avon line. Alas, after eight Avon books and a change of editors, sales became flat and my option wasn’t picked up. Rejected again.

Burned out by then on historical romance (I wrote about that last month), I began writing a teen science fiction idea that had been burning a hole in my brain. And guess what? All those years of rejection came in super handy when getting into the head of my teenaged “loser” of a protagonist! 

The result was my Starstruck series. Unable to find a publisher that shared my vision for these books (yes, more rejection), I eventually took advantage of the new publishing paradigm to put these books out myself…and they became my best-received books to date!

My takeaway? Rejection may be inevitable in life, but with perseverance and the right attitude, you can make it work for you and come out stronger and better on the other side. 

Brenda Hiatt is the author of 23 novels of sparkling romantic adventure. Learn more at

Monday, April 23, 2018

Row Your Boat By Christine Gunderson

People who’ve lost a loved one say grief is a process. Rejection is like that, too. When one of those bad news emails lands in my inbox, I work my way through the writer’s stages of grief.

First, I turn to my good friends Godiva, Lindt, and Hershey. I tell my husband and one kind friend. Then I turn to my writing buddies. 

My writing buddies have also been rejected more times than they can count. And they know rejection doesn’t mean I’m a bad writer with a bad book. It means my book wasn’t right for that person at that particular time. 

They need to remind me of this, because after the chocolate wears off, I start to tell myself I was rejected because I’m saddled with a dream I don’t have the talent to make come true.

People tell us dreams are good. You’ve seen the cards and t-shirts. 

Believe in your Dreams!
Dream Big!
Make all your Dreams Come True!

Whatever, Oprah.

Strip away the unicorns and glitter hearts, and you’ll notice that dreams have a dark side, and it’s called rejection. 

Maybe it’s your dream to be a president, or a prime minister. But if you run and lose, you have to live with the knowledge that you’ve been rejected by an entire country.  That’s harsh. 

Like so many of us, I didn’t want this dream. I didn’t ask for it. But there it is inside me anyway, kind of like a flu virus. Or a really bad cold. 

Because our dreams live deep inside us, with their roots entwined around our hearts and minds, we can’t remove them. Cut them out and we excise our passions and ideas. And who wants to live like that? The only thing worse than having a dream is not having a dream.

In the end, dreams are sort of like bad roommates who leave dirty dishes in the sink and don’t pay their rent on time. They’re difficult, but we have to find a way to live with them anyway. 

In my case, that means doing everything in my power to make my dream come true. It means not giving up.

When the chocolate is gone, I go to and remind myself that Gone with the Wind was rejected 38 times. I re-read the inspirational quotes hanging all over my office. 

They range from the profane: 
“Be prepared to fail over and over again. Embrace the suck. Talent is good, but tenacity is better.”

To the divine:
“For I know the plans I have for you. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. 
Plans to give you hope and a future.” 
Jeremiah 29:11

And I remind myself that it takes an average of ten years for a first-time author to be published. The debut novel you see in the bookstore may be the fifth or sixth or seventh manuscript that author wrote. You don’t see those other attempts because they were rejected long before they got anywhere near Barnes and Noble.

I started this adventure about four years ago. So, if I’m average, I only have six years of rejection left!!! But it could take longer. Or I could get an offer tomorrow. I don’t know, and I can’t control it. I can only take classes and constructive criticism, keep growing and learning and most importantly, keep writing.

A wise friend once told me, “God doesn’t row.” She explained that the higher power running the universe steers the boat and controls the direction and the destination of the journey. But I have to row the boat and do the work. Only I can propel my boat forward. 

So that’s what I’m doing now. Pulling the oars. Plugging away. One word in front of the other. Doing what I love because I love it. And because for whatever reason, this is my dream. 


Christine Gunderson is a former television anchor and former House and Senate aide who lives outside of Washington, D.C. with her husband, three children and Star, the Wonder Dog.  When not writing, she’s sailing, playing Star Wars trivia, re-reading Persuasion or unloading the dishwasher. 

Sunday, April 22, 2018

A Fact of Life by Patty Blount

Rejection comes in many forms.

  • a romantic interest is unrequited
  • a job or promotion goes to someone else
  • a family member writes you off
  • friends disappear
  • and yes...a book you pour your soul into doesn't get picked up

One of the best pieces of advice I ever received was when I was a child and my grandmother told me that not everyone is going to like you. Some people will simply despise you for no fault of your own. And others will love you. 

At the time, those words struck me like bullets. I mean who doesn't want to be universally loved? 

But as I got older, proof of her words struck me just as hard... I was not popular in school. I have had people take one look at me and simply not like me on sight. I've had jobs go to others and I've had dear friends fade away with no explanation, including one whose life I saved with a Heimlich maneuver. An entire branch of my family doesn't speak to me. And yes, I've had a book (more than 1) not sell. 

How do you deal? How do you cope? How do you move on? 

For me, the secret is to Act As If. 

I allow myself to feel the sting. And it always stings. 


(Especially that friend I mentioned who almost died.) But then, I force myself to move on. 

In 2015, I finaled in RWA's Rita Award contest with Some Boys. I signed a new 2-book deal and was supposed to write a new family-drama series called Nothing Left. Book 1 was Nothing Left to Burn. Book 2 was Nothing Left to Lose. Book 3 was Nothing Left to Say. 

I happily wrote Burn, a novel about teen volunteer firefighters. It um...well, it crashed and burned. It did so badly, Lose was outright rejected by the publisher, even though I wrote the whole thing. Lose was about teen race car drivers. 

Both of these stories remain among my favorites. 

And poor Say got retitled as The Way It Hurts, my rock and roll release from last summer. 

Before that, I'd pitched and written book 1 in a horror trilogy that my agent said "Nope. Not selling right now. Shelve it." 

Those 3 books are 250,000 words I sweated and lost sleep over. Does it hurt? You bet it hurts. After my pity party, I FORCE myself to start the next project, or hang with the people who DO like and/or love me. I act as if nothing's wrong, that I'm not the Worst Person / Writer/ Friend in the World. 

Oddly enough, it works. I manage to feel better. In fact, it hasn't failed me yet. 

Saturday, April 21, 2018


I started writing full-time in 2001. Seven and a half years, multiple manuscripts (I honestly lost count of how many books I wrote), and more than 1,000 rejection letters later, I sold my first book.

Back in my pre-published days, rejection was awful. I remember keeping track of my requests for full manuscripts on a calendar, getting more and more excited as the days and weeks piled up. (Because if it was taking that long for them to get back then SURELY it must be good, right? They must have been sooo excited about the book, they were right at that moment getting ready to send me a contract, right, right, right?????) And then, I’d get my SASE back (yep, when I first started subbing, it was paper queries sent via snail mail), and with my heart in my tonsils, I’d slowly peel the envelope open, hold my breath, and work up the courage to peek inside.

And it was always a no.

It hurt and at certain markers (usually in the spring, which indicated that yet another year of full-time writing had come to a close), it would send me into something of a tailspin.

Now, not so much.

Don’t get me wrong—it’s not that I love writing any less or dream any less or want to grow my readership any less or see my books on bookstore or library shelves any less or…

You get the point.

It’s that I know for a fact that a “No” is not the end of the road. Ten “No”s are not the end of the road. One thousand “No”s are still not the end of the road.

It also helps that I’ve branched out, and now release work on my own, independently. Sometimes, books don’t fit with traditional publishing. Take ALL ROADS, which I released last fall (not in any way meant to be a pun, considering that “end of the road” business in the previous paragraph). It’s very short (around 20K words), and it features five narrators, one of which is an animal. No traditional publisher would touch that book. But it is quickly becoming one of my most-read independent works, has been the featured book in reading groups, etc.

The point is, what would have once been a drawer manuscript is now out in the world. As authors, we have so many options. Far more than we had when I started in 2001. Don’t fear the “No.” Listen, revise, learn your craft. Never stop improving. Never stop dreaming. If you want to write, write. Period. If you want to publish, publish.

It’s never the end of the road.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

The Rejection Taboo (Alissa Grosso)

We've all heard the stories of now famous books that were initially rejected by publishers. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone was rejected by 12 publishers, Dune was rejected by 20, A Wrinkle in Time by 25 and Gone with the Wind by a whopping 40. These are the feel-good stories that help to boost the morale of aspiring writers dealing with the sting of rejection. But there are a lot more stories of rejection that we don't hear.

It's not only aspiring writers who must face rejection. Because having a book published, winning literary awards or landing on the bestseller lists does not guarantee that the books you write will be accepted by publishers. Publishing is a fickle business. Books get rejected for a host of reasons. Maybe the author's last book didn't sell as many copies as the publisher hoped, maybe the book they are trying to sell has a similar theme to another book the publisher has coming out, maybe the publisher is concerned that the genre or trope of the work is no longer in vogue. Maybe it's too much of a departure from the author's previous work--Madeleine L'Engle had published numerous books before A Wrinkle in Time, but they were all realistic, contemporary titles.

In the publishing world, there is a taboo in talking about rejection or really any bad news. If you follow authors you like on social media, you will likely see them happily crowing about their latest success, but what you're less likely to see is any news about setbacks they are facing in their careers. It's all about public relations and it's tied into the notion that success breeds success. Talking about rejection of an unpublished project is taboo because there's the not-unfounded fear that this could detract from an author's current book sales or even hurt their chances of selling another book to a publisher.

If you follow an author on Twitter or Facebook, and it seems like a long time since they've said anything about a new book coming out, you might assume that they are simply taking a long time to write their next book or maybe that they've gotten too distracted by other things and aren't writing at all. That could be the case, or it could be that they wrote a book or perhaps a few books that have not yet been accepted for publication.

I know this for a fact, because I've been in this position. Talking about books that have been rejected and remain unpublished is simply not something that's done. It's why for years I could provide nothing but vague answers on social media to friends and followers who asked about my next book. The only reason I'm even talking about it now is because that book has finally been published.

Authors have different options for their unpublished books. They can tuck these manuscripts away and try to sell them again at a later date, they can banish them to the dark depths of their filing cabinet never again to see the light of day or they can take it upon themselves to bring those books to the world through non-traditional means. I have chosen this third option for my book Unnamed Roads, and earlier this month I published this rejected book myself.

Here I am proudly showing off a copy of my newly published book.

Publishers don't usually share with authors the reason a book is rejected, so I can't give a definitive answer as to why Unnamed Roads was turned down. I think there might have been a couple of reasons. The first is that my previous two books, published by a small press didn't sell like gangbusters. There wasn't much of a marketing effort by the publisher for either book and sales were slow for both. Publishers are in the business of making money, after all, and so this sales data would have been considered when Unnamed Roads was being pitched to editors.

The second reason might have been the quiet nature of the book. It's contemporary YA fiction, which tends not to be too flashy. It doesn't center on any hot, controversial topics. It's a simple, coming of age story about a teenage girl who goes on a road trip with her somewhat eccentric grandmother and a boy from her class to track down the mother she's never known. It's not shocking or scintillating, but it's a book I've believed in for awhile, which is why I decided to take it upon myself to share it with the world.

It's been nearly six years since my last traditionally published book came out, so what you might be wondering is, is this all I've managed to write in that time? Well, the short answer is no. The longer answer is: I can't tell you any more about that at this time because of publishing taboos and such, but maybe one of these days I can share with you some good news and I can gleefully tell you my own story of publishers that rejected a book that ultimately went on to become an enduring classic. Well, a writer can dream, and all writers should dream.

So, if you are an aspiring writer and frustrated and disheartened by rejections you have received, just know that it happens to pretty much all writers at all stages in their career and that there is always a light at the end of the tunnel.

Alissa Grosso is the author of the books Unnamed Roads, Popular, Ferocity Summer and Shallow Pond. She makes vlogs and podcasts about her Awkward Author life. Find out more and get a free book at

Saturday, April 14, 2018

#PERSEVERE (by Nancy Ohlin)

I was watching Rachel Maddow’s show on MSNBC the other night, as I do pretty much every weeknight these days.  I didn’t used to be such a news junkie, but such are the times. 

It happened to be a very bad news day in what has been a year-plus of bad news days.  At some point during her commentary, after describing the drama and the chaos and the axes (and skies) about to fall, Maddow looked squarely at the camera and addressed her viewers with what may have been tears in her eyes and an expression of exquisite determination. 

She said:

“Drink more water than usual.  Eat your Wheaties, take your vitamins, get some good sleep, talk to your friends …”

Okay, so what does this have to do with the subject of rejection?


Rejection is awful.  I probably don’t need to back up that statement.  But I know what it feels like to spend months, years, writing a book through your blood and sweat and tears, a book you really believe in, a book you set aside the rest of your life to finish … only to have it rejected by every single agent and/or editor who reads it.

The best advice I ever received on how to deal with this awfulness is to persevere.  

Here’s how that works:  As soon as you send out a dozen queries to a dozen agents, immediately prepare queries for twelve more agents; that way, when the rejections start coming, you can fill up those dark spaces with new queries, new hope, new possibilities.  Repeat as necessary.

If you’re on submission, then as soon as your agent begins pitching your book to editors, you must begin writing a new book.  Or a new short story.  Or a new magazine article.  Anything to keep moving and creating … once again, it’s all about hope and possibilities.  This is infinitely better and healthier than biting your nails down to the bone and binge-watching Netflix while not hearing from your agent and not hearing from your agent and then finally hearing from your agent that all the editors have passed for various vague and unsatisfying and your-career-as-a-writer-is-over reasons. 

And here’s the most important part of this advice package (which BTW applies to other potential naysayers like readers, reviewers, and book award committees):  Do not set aside the rest of your life.  Drink plenty of water, eat well, take vitamins, sleep, socialize.  Spend quality time with your partners and children and pets.  Read good books.  Get a massage.  Take care of yourself. 

Because the rejections may keep coming, but they don’t have the power to gut you or immobilize you or define you.  You are not the sum of your rejections.  You are you, shining and spectacular as you put one foot in front of the other, tears in your eyes and wearing an expression of exquisite determination … and no agent or editor or other human being can ever take that away from you. 


Nancy Ohlin’s new YA series B*witch, with co-author Paige McKenzie, launches in Fall of 2019 from Disney.  Learn more at