Rejection after Rejection after Rejection
Rejection after Rejection after Rejection

How do you handle that first rejection and then all the others that follow after that?

Sometimes, champagne, chocolate, and a good cry help, but I’d be a blurry-eyed, six-hundred pound alcoholic at that rate.

So what else works?

How do you hold your head up high and send that rejected, maybe revised, manuscript back out there? And how do you get the courage to write another manuscript and another one after that, that may only have the same success as the first?

Perseverance is the key.

Think of a ship’s captain battling the enemy. His motto: Don’t give up the ship.

And we shouldn’t either...not if we feel as he does. Our cause is worthy. Right? Our writing is worthy. Correct? We want to be heard. So we persevere.

Rarely does anyone get published the first time they submit a manuscript. Sure it happens...but rarely. So we have to expect rejection. Write the best we can, perfect our craft, but accept that not all of our work will be lavishly praised by editors, clamoring to get their greedy hands on it.

So if drowning our sorrows with alcohol, chocolate, and tears doesn’t work, what else is there?

Research the market, find another place to send that manuscript and shoot it out there again. In the meantime, get to work on another manuscript, which should have been started after the last one was finished. Polish it up and send it out.

It’s easier to handle a rejection when you still have queries for other manuscripts out there.

What about a support group? Your husband, kids, parents, goldfish don’t understand you? Join a writer’s group or several. I have lots of critique partners and belong to a number of writing groups. When I feel down, I let some of them know. And guess what? They understand. They’ve been there, done that. But what’s best is they remind me of all the other famous authors who got rejected and rejected and rejected, too.

So what was their key to success? Did they quit? Did they give up the ship?

They persevered.

Form letter rejections are the worst. You haven’t any idea why they didn’t like this great story you pitched to them. I found out after the fact one publisher didn’t like espionage stories. Now if I’d found this obscure news before I sent my manuscript, I’d have saved myself a form letter rejection. Form letter rejections make you guess at why your story didn’t fit for them.

Then comes the self-doubting. My writing is so lousy all they can do is send me a form letter rejection. It doesn’t matter that the letter states you’re receiving it because there are so many submissions that’s all they can manage, or heaven forbid, close the door to unagented submissions. You just know your work is unloved.

There’s not a whole lot you can do about form letter rejections except keep them in a file so you don’t pitch the same story to the same editor by mistake and get another one of those form letter rejections. Or gloat over them when you’ve sold that “unsaleable” manuscript.

What about the personalized rejection? Now this is much better. Someone has taken the time to actually read your work and let you know why it doesn’t work for them. You can write the editor and ask if they’d like to see revisions based on their suggestions. They can say no, and thereby you receive another rejection, deepening the wound, or they can say yes and you revise your heart out. Again, you’re faced with the possibility of another rejection. Is it worth it? Sure. What if by some slim chance the revisions work and now in that editor’s eye, your work is saleable? You’ve got a contract.

Again, perseverance is the key.

It’s not to say there are days when the rejections just seem to pile up and take their toll on your sanity. One day I received a request for a full. For three days after that, I received rejections for other manuscripts. But that one request for a full made all the difference in the world to me. I could handle the rejections for a while. But the big blow came when the two fulls I had at one office both came back rejected from an editor who says she liked my writing style. So if I can’t get published by an editor who likes my writing, how can I get published by editors who won’t even bother to look at my writing?


Another editor said I had come so close to writing just what she wanted in two different manuscripts. Tell me what you want and I’ll make it perfect!

One day I received a call from Deb Werksman, Sourcebooks. She wanted to know if my HEART OF THE WOLF sold. No, not yet. Was the world I created unique? My first thought was—ack! She thinks it’s too farfetched. But yes, it is unique. She said she loved the premise and the characters, that she was a good way through the book, but she hadn’t finished reading it. Heart sinking, she hadn’t read the rest of the book. What if she hated it?

She called a couple of days later and loved it, but...

You notice how we have cliff hangers along the way even when we get THE CALL? First, we wait forever to get this call. Then the editor hasn’t finished reading the book so I still don’t know if she’ll like the book enough to want to buy it. Then she loves it... but, now she has to pitch it before a board. Will the board love it as much as Deb does?

Everything is crossed that they do!

A week passed. I thought, nope, they didn’t like it. I’d come sooo close. And then a couple of days later Deb calls. It’s got to be good. Otherwise she’d probably just send an email, right? Yep, she wanted the book. THEY wanted the book. This was THE CALL.

And now, HEART OF THE WOLF will be coming out on April 1, 2008... no April Fool’s!

No matter what, keep writing, revising, and submitting.

Shove those doubts out of the gray matter, think positively, research a different line, but whatever you do, keep sending those great works of art in and one of these days that SASE won’t be returned. You’ll get “The Call” instead.

Terry Spear
Winning the Highlander's Heart, 5 Angels! 5 Beacons! 5 Hearts! 5 Ribbons!
The Vampire...In My Dreams, 5 Angels! 5+ Stars! 4.5 Ribbons!
Heart of the Wolf, Coming April 1, 2008
9 Responses
  1. Fantastic post on rejection, Terry! I can certainly relate. Great advice too. And congratulations to you on receiving THE CALL!!

  2. Thanks, Vonda!!

    I should have mentioned that a lot of authors are at the verge of giving up when they have gotten The Call. One had gone so far as to remove all her stories from her computer. Luckily, she had saved her stories on disks.

    It's okay to "give up" for awhile, to take a break, to gather a second wind, just as long as we go back to it, if this is where are heart belongs! :)

  3. ME, aka Michelle/Eliza Says:


    Excellent post! I just got my first request for a ms, and I don't have my hopes up at all, just waiting for my first rejection letter....

    Congrats on Heart of the Wolf! I can't wait till April. I bet you're excited!

  4. Hi, Michelle! Thanks so much! Yes, I'm walking on air! I just saw where Heart of the Wolf was listed for sale in Germany, too!!! :) Woohoo!

    What is your mss about?

    Mucho wishes for your success and my fingers are crossed for you!!!

    One more author gave up on 11 of her mss because they were all rejected so many times. Then on the 12th mss, she found the editor who loved it and bought it. The story gets even better.

    The editor wanted to see her other mss too. She sold all 11. So even if the first one doesn't sell, hold onto it. Always keep your work. Sometimes the market changes, editors change, and voila! You've got a sale. Or like in her case, multiple sales!!! All in the blink of an eye!


  5. Michelle Says:

    Thats an amazing story Terry! I'll keep up and keep on sending them out! It's my dream so I'll be sure to make it happen whether it's now or 20 years from now :)

    Here's my blurb for Her Captain Returns (I shared some of my Happy Hookers from it, during your class last month)

    Miss Corinne Claymore, never knew what she was getting into with her innocent flirtations with Captain Ryder Montgomery. After scandal ensues, she finds herself not only married to Ryder but abandoned. After being gone for eight years on a secret mission for the Prince Regent, Ryder returns at hearing the news of his brothers death making Ryder the Earl of Stafford. His love and passion for Corinne had not waned, but she has changed much. Ryder must woo her back to him, sooth her fears of being abandoned again all while discovering how his brother died and who may be at fault.

  6. ShawnaMoore Says:

    Hi, Terry!

    I'm with you! We need to exorcise those self-doubt demon, persist and remain positively focused. Our passion for writing must prevail :) Have a fabulous weekend!


  7. I remember the story, Michelle! I love historicals!! And Earls, and when they have to woo back the woman they love! Teaches them to be gone so long!!! :) Good luck, Michelle!!! You'll make it happen!

    Hey, Shawna,
    Have a terrific weekend too! Did Nicole ever tell you about my exercising demons? LOL Okay, hey, it's similar to exorcising. :)

    Wishing everyone cheer during this special time of year!! Terry

  8. Anonymous Says:

    I've always dealt with rejection by taking a good look at the comments (if any) to see how I can strengthen my work. I got over taking rejection personally very early on.

    Oh, and I have worked over 20 years to sell, so it really is never too late!. I have to post as "Anonymous" to have a comment go thru, but I sold La Vida Vampire in a 2-book deal to Berkley this year. Persistence paid, so keep writing!!

    Nancy Haddock

  9. That's so wonderful, Nancy, and a true testimony to never giving up! Thanks so much for sharing!! And all my best on your new books. They sound super! :) Terry

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