The ruthless world of rejection

Most writers dream of being published. Most writers dream of having other people read their stories, novels, poems and articles. That is an understandable and perfectly good dream to have if you are a writer.

The reality is, however, that many people who write do not submit their writing to publishers. Of those that do go that extra step, very few are actually accepted for publication. Publishers send out far more rejection letters than acceptance letters.

Rejection of one’s writing is often based on merit; the work is just not good enough.

Rejection is also based on appropriateness; many writers send the wrong type of material to publishers because they haven’t done their homework. Sending an article about pigs to a magazine about knitting is a sure way to be rejected (unless your article is about how you taught your pig to knit).

Rejection is also based on purely economic grounds; the publisher may consider your wonderful novel not financially viable – they are in the business of making a profit, after all.

Rejection may be based on timing; the magazine may have published a similar article several months prior to your submission.

Coping with rejection

Rejection can be for a wide range of reasons, but no rejection is easy on the feelings. I’ve had my fair share of rejection letters over the years. It is hard not to take it personally. I try to remember that the publisher is rejecting my writing; he or she is not rejecting me as a person. Still – the self esteem can take a battering. I also try to remember that even great and well known writers get rejection letters. My lecturer, Rosanne Hawke at university was sharing recently that one of her novels had been rejected many times. This was despite the fact that it is a great story (she let me read the manuscript), she has had more than a dozen novels already published and she has won numerous awards.


During the last semester we had children’s writer Janeen Brian as a guest speaker. She has a very positive attitude to rejection letters. She calls them ‘returns’ instead. She just takes it as all being in a day’s work; that’s just one publisher she can cross off the list for that particular story, poem or article. Send it off to another publisher.

Another lecturer told the story of a fellow writer he knew when he lived in the USA. This writer received so many rejection letters for his book that he actually managed to publish the book – complete with all the rejection letters! Nice twist.

Keep submitting

The secret is not to get too down about ‘returns’. Keep sending your writing out – eventually you will find someone who will accept your work. And while you are waiting for that wonderful letter saying ‘the cheque is in the mail’ keep writing, and keep sending out your writing.

Good writing.


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