Rejection Doesn’t Get Easier

I believed that eventually I would get used to rejection. That I would learn to accept rejection as an inevitable part of the publishing business. I wanted a thick skin and a will to persevere.

But this weekend I realized it’s not happening. Not for me, anyway. Maybe some writers don’t care about rejections, but I can’t ignore them.

My expectation was that receiving more and more rejections would make me tougher and tougher. But instead, I find that years of rejection have worn me down. Instead of getting stronger, I’ve become weak. Instead of growing a thick skin, I’ve become fragile, to the point that one harshly worded rejection leaves me filled with self-doubt.

And that rejection wasn’t even on my book.


Photo © Tom Wang • Fotolia

A potential client rejected me as her editor. My sample edit did not meet her expectations, and my quote was “really too high.”

So I started questioning myself. Maybe I’m not good enough. Maybe at my skill level I have no business charging those rates. Maybe I should quit and go back to secretarial work.

Does anyone even hire secretaries anymore?

These kinds of doubts are what keep me from self-publishing. What if all those gatekeepers who’ve rejected my book are right? What if my writing really is “not distinctive enough”? I might self-publish only to tank.

Maybe the gatekeepers are saving me from myself.

Of course, we all get multiple rejections, large or small, every day. If it’s not the bank teller who puts up the “window closed” sign just when you get to the front of the line, it’s the cool kids after church or around the water cooler who exclude you from their conversation, or the neighbor or relative who severs contact with you for no apparent reason.

Some forms of rejection are worse than others, obviously. The estranged relative is a much bigger deal than the teller taking a lunch break. The editor who says your writing “does not meet our needs at this time” is less a concern that the agent who tells you to “give up” on the book of your heart and “try something else.”

But they all compound one another.

Faced with rejection … again … you can only set it aside, focus on your purpose and what’s within your control, and keep going.

I have heard repeatedly that perseverance is the key to success. That doesn’t make it any easier.

But it’s being difficult doesn’t make it any less necessary.

Press ahead.


About Kristen Stieffel

Kristen Stieffel is a writer and freelance editor specializing in speculative fiction. She's a member of the Editorial Freelancers Association, Christian Editor Connection, and American Christian Fiction Writers.

7 comments on “Rejection Doesn’t Get Easier

  1. So self-publish, kick the trilogy out the door, and work on the next thing. You’ll never get stronger by staying in one place forever. If you read The Passive Voice blog, publishers are circling the wagons and signing fewer and fewer authors. They want sure-fire sellers, not midlist. The midlist is being squeezed out of existence. If the book has flaws, let the READERS be the judge. They’re the only ones who matter anyway. And if it DOES have problems, take what you learned from that and apply it to the next book. And the next.

  2. +1 for self-publishing. Let readers decide whether your book is worth reading, not anyone standing between you and them, and potentially, you and your dream. You have a voice, and you have an audience. Allow them to find each other.

    There are lots of helpful resources to help along the way. You can do it!

  3. What Kessie and Dane said! Kristen, jump in and get your feet wet! It may take a little while to figure out the ropes with self publishing, and especially with the marketing, but there are great people in indie publishing who are more than willing to help you figure that out!

    You probably already know some of them, but if you want introductions to more, just say the word! I’d be happy to show you around!

    And hey–look at this platform you’re already building here! (I know you’re getting good traffic via this blog!) I know traditionally published authors who would be thrilled to have as good of a platform…

  4. I’ve garnered enough rejections since the early 80s to wallpaper a room in lovely pastel forms. I knew from the beginning there was a major right place/right time factor, so I didn’t take the rejections as a reflection on my writing ability. The surprising thing was the number of handwritten notes from editors giving me tips on improving or telling me why the piece wasn’t a good fit for their publication.

    Back then, self-publishing (and vanity or subsidy publishing) carried the stigma that a writer wasn’t good enough to compete in the “real” publishing world. The boom in both self-pubbing and indie/niche publishing has slowly changed that. It has a down side in that, yes, a lot of poor quality writing can be published quickly.
    But a lot of works exceeding the quality big houses produce are also out there.

    For a reader, it simply takes more time & effort to find the self-pubbed jewels.
    For a writer, it (not so simply) takes more time & effort to market the work and develop a loyal following.
    When you know that you know that you know you’ve done a good job, but the right place/right time options others offer are shrinking, it’s time to give yourself your own right place/right time.

    You can do it! 🙂

  5. Kristen, I appreciate your transparency. You’ve gotten great feedback.

    Have you considered small press? I’m with an indie publisher, and although I have to do all the promo stuff (just like the major writers are having to do nowadays,) it’s nice to be part of a team. It’s also nice that there’s no money out of my pocket to publish, which if you self-pub, will be on your dime. Either way, make certain your book/writing is as polished as can be. Make sure the cover grabs the eye. Surround yourself with a support team. The craft of writing is a marathon and we all need someone in our corner cheering us on. Wishing you the best.

    • Yep, the publisher that had my book under contract for two years was a small press. I’d like to find another publisher like that only … y’know, one that would actually be able to fulfill the terms of the contract. 😉

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