What Should Writers Do With Rejections?

Young man sitting at table and using laptop
Dealing With the Burning of Your Dreams

Because I attend a lot of writers’ group meetings, I frequently meet other people who tell me they’ve also written a book.

It happened again recently. This particular man went on to say he had been disappointed in his search for an agent to represent him.

Obviously trying to go the traditional publishing route, he had queried a respectable agent, who told him his writing was actually quite sound … but he wouldn’t represent the book.

The agent said there wasn’t a large enough market for it.

I got to read his first chapter and it wasn’t bad at all. Being the indie-author advocate that I am, we got into a discussion about self-publishing and I suggested he give it a try. He said he wasn’t sure now about any of it any more … he was reconsidering whether his work was worth publishing at all.

I left feeling very sorry for his disappointed state of mind, because it was all based on that single rejection.

Agents and editors often act as if they can predict the future, but their job is to sell books, not write them. They make judgments, not always about whether the work is good or not, but on whether they think they can sell it.

If they’re not supremely confident in their ability to do that, for whatever reason, they’ll tell you it’s not marketable and send you on your way.

And quite often they’re wrong.

Consider This
One of my favorite books, William Golding’s Lord of the Flies was rejected twenty-one times. One publisher actually called it “absurd and uninteresting fantasy which was rubbish and dull.”

I have to wonder what that publisher said when Golding won the Pulitzer Prize in literature.

J.K. Rowling’s first Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone story was rejected twelve times before being bought by Bloomsbury in London … and then only because the CEOs daughter loved it!

Margaret Mitchell’s classic Gone with the Wind was rejected thirty-eight times before she finally got an acceptance. It became a best seller by the time the first reviews appeared in the newspaper.

A young lady many folks still haven’t heard of, by the name of Amanda Hocking, wrote a whole series of vampire romances that were flatly rejected by publishing houses.

So, the 27-year-old writer published them herself. She sells them online as eBooks, most for 99-cents.

Now, vampire romance is not a genre that interests me but, before you walk away laughing, consider that she sells about 100,000 per month and keeps a significant percentage of the sale price. She’s now a multi-millionaire.

Ray Bradbury, another of my favorite authors, also faced numerous rejections in his career. His sales increased slowly until he finally sold a story entitled “The Lake” that actually made him cry himself when he read it. It was then he realized what so many good writers discover.

He wasn’t writing for others, he was writing for himself.

Even Stephen King, who today could sell virtually anything he writes, once collected rejection letters. He’s quoted as saying he “pounded a nail into the wall” in his room to collect them.

He also went on to say eventually “the nail in my wall would no longer support the weight of the rejections impaled upon it. So I replaced the nail with a spike and went on writing.”

Whether you’re still trying to go the traditional route, or finally planning to immerse yourself in self-publishing, those are comments well worth remembering: Write for yourself.

Impale the rejections on a spike and keep writing.


You can find my books as eBooks or paperback on Amazon, or at Barnes & Noble. You’re also invited to visit my web site, BROKEN GLASS, or like my Book of Face page. You can also follow my shorter ramblings on The Twitter.


Comments posted below will be read, greatly appreciated and perhaps even answered.

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4 Responses to “What Should Writers Do With Rejections?”

  1. Mary Hackstock Says:

    Good post. Just got to reading it…though I am not into VAMPIRE novels. Ha, ha. But enjoyed the post. Love

    Sent from my iSlate


    • Ron Herron Says:

      Not my first choice either, Mary…but a LOT of people enjoy the genre. Hocking was a multi-millionaire by the time she was in her early 20s. I read an article that said someone, somewhere in the world, buys one of her books every seven minutes.

      In March 2011, Hocking also signed her first conventional publishing contract, with St. Martin’s Press, for four books, at a price of two million dollars. The publisher knew a good (read money-making) thing when he saw it … even if he missed it the first time around.


  2. T. W. Dittmer Says:

    Right on. Write on.


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