Omega Writers

Helpful Resources for Writers: Part 5 | Dealing with Rejection

If you want to write, there is one unfortunate, inescapable reality you will have to learn to live with. Every writer faces it. It’s like the monster under the bed. The ominous shadow hiding around the corner. The nightmare that … you get the picture.

Rejection. It hits all of us. Publishers won’t immediately publish your book. Agents will politely decline your manuscript. Editors and contacts in the freelance world will send you ‘thanks but no thanks’ emails to your pitch. Your friends and family will ask why you haven’t become the next JK Rowling yet, and your answer will be, “Um…”

Rejection always hurts. It can sometimes be demoralizing. But the good news is that rejection doesn’t have to be fatal.

Here are a couple of reasons why you might be rejected, and how you can save yourself from falling into a blubbering mess:

Your writing needs improvement

I recently looked back at my first novel attempt and cringed. At the time, I was so proud. I had worked for months to produce tens of thousands of words that made up an actual story! I sent it everywhere, but nobody wanted it. Publishers ignored me. Agents turned me down. At the time, I was devastated. But later when I looked back, it was easy to see why they had rejected me. The writing was amateurish and unfinished. I’d fallen into the trap of thinking that my work was better than it actually was.

The excitement of ‘I made a thing!’ is not always a good indicator of how publishing-worthy your book is. Sometimes we need to see that our writing is in the baby steps phase. One day we might have an Olympic medal-worthy stride, but that day is not quite today.

Solution: Before you have strangers read your novel, try to be a stranger to your own work. Put aside your manuscript for a month or two so you can come back with fresh eyes. Get some objective readers to give you constructive feedback (your Mum will always love it, which is lovely but not helpful). Sign up for a professional manuscript assessment with an editor. Then, if your manuscript needs improvement, do the work to hone your craft. Sign up for some writing courses if you have to. Keep polishing your performance until the novel is well and truly ready to be seen.

Your writing is in the wrong market

You’re creative. You love putting words with other words to make a story come alive. You’ve honed every paragraph, phrase and word until your manuscript sings. But for some reason, no publishers want it.

One hard fact about publishing is that publishers need to make sales. You may have the perfect High Literary Regency Romance crossover into Car-racing Space Opera, but if there is no market for your book then publishers won’t invest in it.

Solution: Research, research, research. Not just on today’s trends, but on hints of what’s next. It can take years for your novel to end up being published, so yesterday’s Vampire novels may not be tomorrow’s bestsellers. There are tried-and-true trends that always have readers, like Romance. But even within the tried-and-true, some conventions will get you further than others. How will you find those conventions? Research.

Which stories are making the top-selling lists? Where is publishing heading in the future? Is there a place for your story in a niche market somewhere? All these are helpful questions to think about when you’re trying to find a market for your work.

Astute writers who are successful in today’s tough marketplace are usually the ones who have identified their market properly. They’ve written into a space where there are sales to be made. They’ve found the publishers or agents who specialise in their kind of work.

You’re almost there

In a world where millions of books are published each year, how do you stand out? A book that is ‘almost there’ can sometimes fall flat. This is the group that I see most often in self-publishing. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve begun to read an indie novel, only to find that it would have been awesome with just a little more work and a few extra tweaks. A structural edit, or even some typo corrections here and there.

A rejection doesn’t always mean that the work is rubbish. It may just be pretty good instead of mind-blowing. So don’t throw away your book in disgust. And don’t immediately jump into indie publishing either. The marketplace is flooded with ‘almost there’ indie books. If you’re going to self-publish, you still need to make sure your work is the kind of quality that will bring readers back again and again. Self-publish because you want to run the business yourself. Don’t self-publish just because some publisher said “thanks but no’.

Solution: Keep honing and perfecting. Remember that writing is a marathon and not a sprint. Ask for honest feedback and accept it. Work until you’ve got something that really is ready to go. Editors can help you here. They will tell you what isn’t working, and what you can do to improve. Forking out the money to pay for a freelance editor can be a valuable investment.

There’s too much ‘you’ and not enough ‘we’

One lament I see from agents and publishers is the prospective writers who believe they are literally God’s gift to writing. Their sense of entitlement is so high that they virtually strut into their email submissions, explaining how lucky the agent/publisher is to have such a stellar writer approach them. Impervious to improvement, they respond angrily when rejected. Agents and publishers can spot these people from a long way off. And when I say ‘spot’, I mean ‘duck and run for the nearest rejection form letter’.

Solution: Writing is a team sport. Don’t burn your bridges when you’re rejected. Keep open the friendly and helpful lines of communication. Humility is really important. Agents and publishers take time out of their busy work schedules to read your work. So thank them for their time, and recognise that they may know a little more about the publishing world than you do. Humility is a highly underrated virtue, but it’s one that will pay dividends if you want to make writing work for you.

You need a work ethic

Despite what other novels and movies tell us, writing is not simply a process of sitting in a garret somewhere, typing with a view of the ocean. There is a lot of non-writing work involved. You need to be able to follow up leads, chase down stories, market your work, smile and appear in public. Authors need to know their business, too.

Publishers today are seeking writers who can do more than just write a story. They are seeking writers who can work alongside them to promote the product. Team players. Hard workers. If you appear with a reasonable story but a dodgy work ethic, then you may not get the opportunities you are hoping for.

Solution: Build up your writing resume. Provide a professional look, a willingness to learn, and at least a basic knowledge of some ways you’re going to add your efforts to the publishing process. Like a relay race, publishers will hand over that baton more easily to a writer who’s already running.

Feel the burn

The path to publishing is a little like learning to walk. You will fall down. Sometimes it will hurt. So take that moment to curl up in a ball and cry if you have to. Eat a tub of ice cream if you have to. Then get yourself up. Brush yourself off. Take another step back into your work. And another. And another.

One day, you may just find you’re running the race.

Kris Young is the author of The Survival Guides, a series of teen devotional Bible Studies, as well as ‘What If? Dealing with Doubts’ which was shortlisted in the 2015 Australian Christian Book of the Year Awards.  Her current projects include fiction for teens and younger readers. You can find her at  This post was originally published on Kris’s blog here.